Tribute to Din Joe Crowley

February 23rd, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

I was deeply shocked and saddened when Mick Gleeson informed me last Friday 19th that Din Joe Crowley had died suddenly, such an all action wonderful full of life person in many ways he seemed indestructible. Din Joe will always be remembered for that magnificent goal that won the Sam Maguire for Kerry in 1970. But for me he was much more than that. I simply loved meeting him.  I had the great privilege of playing with Din Joe in six Kerry county finals with East Kerry, winning four titles and of course he also stared for his beloved Rathmore club for many years. 

On our world tour of 1970 following the 1969 All Ireland victory and in the year training for that final I got to know him so well. He was exuberant, always cheerful, and full of wonderful hearty laughter and expressed his football knowledge like no one I knew. Din Joe was different, different in such a pleasing delightful way. One of nature's true gentlemen.  A wonderful bright light has been extinguished.

I played with and against Din Joe Crowley. He was one of the strongest and powerful footballers I have ever seen, you can never say of course who was the most powerful of all. He played with Rathmore against my club in the 1967 East Kerry O Donoghue Cup final and on one of his magnificent surging runs toward our goal I attempted to halt his gallop as I raced out to meet him head on. I was playing right wing back. Well he hit me so hard that I nearly finished up in the middle of next week and he continued on to score a superb point. His son Michael later played against Kerry for Limerick in the Munster championship.

The retired Garda loved telling the story how he was called up to the Kerry team. He was standing on the terrace in Killarney watching a Whit Sunday Tournament when he heard his name being called out on the loudspeaker.  "If D.J. Crowley is in the ground will he please come to the Kerry dressing room, Jackie Lyne met me and just said, "Have you your boots with you?" So I fished out a pair of dirty boots from the booth of my car and my Kerry career was under way", and then the great hearty laugh that I will miss so much.

Din Joe Crowley won two All-Ireland medals alongside the great Mick O'Connell in 1969 and 1970 and that magnificent goal against Meath in the 1970 All Ireland final must be recognized as one of the greatest ever scored. Yes it was that great.

The story has been aggrandized beyond all boundary of truth in the intervening decades. But there is no malice here, no attempt to make people believe the falsehoods; just a deferential bow to the appeal of myth. Din Joe in one of our many interviews conducted with him I remarked that the events of Sunday, September 27th, 1970 have evolved considerably down through the years. "It was a pity it was on Breaking Ball at all," he jokes," as we referred to the TV sports program, "because now everyone that saw it knows exactly what happened. I had got round to telling people that I took the kick-out, caught it at midfield, went on a solo run and buried the ball to the net from 25 yards."
Did you know that for that goal of the century Din Jo soloed with his left leg and blasted the ball to the net with his right leg? Rarely see.

What happened was a little more banal, as if scoring a sensational goal four minutes from the end of an All-Ireland final to wrap up the title can ever be categorized as such. Din Joe, on the verge of being substituted, collected a ball before running at the heart of the Meath defense. Two attempted tackles later, he let fly with his right foot and bent the ball beyond Sean McCormack in the Meath goal. It was suggested at the time that Crowley had made a habit of cutting in from the left and finishing with his right against Johnny Culloty and Paud ODonoghue in training, but he admitted to me as I pressed him that, despite many attempts, the first time the move came off was in the All-Ireland final.

The Rathmore man, who was forced to retire because of injury in 1972, was 24 when he won his second medal that day, two years before his playing career was ended. Back in 1968, he lined out at full forward against Down in his first final appearance. While he acknowledges the adeptness of that down team, Din Joe believes that was a match Kerry ought to have won. "Some of the decisions made for that game didn't really benefit the team," he says, careful not to overstate the criticism. "I was at full forward, and to be fair I needed a lot more space than that to turn. You couldn't argue with Down winning, but we definitely could have won it if a few things were done differently It was Jackie Lyne's first year as trainor, no managers back then, he learned a lot that about all of us year.."

 He did not have too long a wait to endure to put the record straight. Twelve months later, the Kingdom were back in the All-Ireland showpiece once more, this time with Crowley at centerfield alongside Mick O'Connell. He enjoyed two successful championship years for Kerry alongside the great Micko, and exudes high praise for the Valentia legend.

He holds Micko in high esteem. "Connell was the perfect example of a footballer," recalls Din Joe. "He had the lot: high fielding, a great kicker from his hands or placed balls, a great reader of the game. And you never saw him lose possession cheaply. He had a great understanding with full back Paud ODonoghue, who took the kick-outs. Usually they were aimed to the wings, and the ball would have gone out of play if Connell wasn't there to catch it. But he demanded very high standards when he played. If he happened to misplace a pass, it was the other man's fault for not being where he was supposed to be!"

The Rathmore great drew the comparison for me between O'Connell in his day and Maurice Fitzgerald in ours. "Maurice really emulated Connell, a bit like Woods and Nicklaus. Fitzgerald is so dedicated to the game - just like Connell was - and has been since he was a child. I remember one Christmas morning; Maurice called round to Jack O'Shea's house to see would he go up to the pitch for a kick about. It was just the type of lad he was; he was always destined to make it to the top."

 I always believed D.J's. fondest memory of all was the home coming following the 1969 win over Offaly. He recalled this wonderful occasion for me.  "The crowd in Rathmore was unbelievable, we all went up on the bridge crossing the line, I was the very first Rathmore footballer to win an All-Ireland. And there was a mighty cheer when Mick o Connell stepped forward to speak. He said he'd like to congratulate D J Crowley the first man from Rathmore to win an All-Ireland, the best mid fielder in Kerry. Then he paused for a few seconds and continued, "After myself", there was an almighty roar from the thousands, one of my great memories".

Din Joe Crowley was man of the match in the 1969 All Ireland win over Offaly; he won two All-Ireland medals, three National league medals and three Munster medals together with his four county championships with East Kerry. In a career that lasted from 1967 to 1971 he played with Kerry 45 times scoring 5-31. One of nature's gentlemen he will be greatly missed by all of us who knew him but of course the loss to his wife, sons and daughters will be the greatest of all. To them we extend our deepest sympathies.

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