Din Joe - The Man from Rathmore

by Weeshie Fogarty

I played with and against Din Joe Crowley. He was one of the strongest and powerful footballers I have seen, you can never say 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 left wing back. Well he his 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.

Din Joe Crowley won two All-Ireland medals alongside the great Mick O'Connell in 1969 and 1970.

The story has been aggrandized beyond all boundary of truth in the intervening three 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 Crowley says himself 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, "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 centaury Din Jo soloed with his left leg and blasted the ball to the net with his right? 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. Crowley, 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 O'Donoghue in training, but Crowley admits 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, Crowley 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."

Kerry, All-Ireland champions, 1970: Tom Prendergast, Pat Griffin, Johnny Culloty, Donie O Sullivan (Capt), Brendan Lynch, Eamonn O Donoghue, Seamus Murphy. Michael o Shea, Mick Gleeson, Mick O Connell, Din Joe Crowley, Liam Higgins, Paud O Donoghue, John O Keeffe, and Mick O Dwyer.

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 Team of the Millennium member.

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 O'Donoghue, 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!"

Crowley draws the comparison 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."

Din Joe believes that ball-winning and, consequently, ball-keeping, is a part of Gaelic football that has fallen by the wayside since his playing days.

"So much ball is lost in the tackle or dropped after being caught these days, it's just unbelievable. When we were playing, we did loads of drills designed to get us to grab the ball in tight to our chests as soon as we caught it. And it worked; there wasn't half the amount of broken play then as there is now. All players, and forwards especially, make such a huge effort to get the ball that it's a shame they don't hold onto it as well as they should. It's a part of the game that should really be worked upon, by managers and trainers everywhere. It would definitely improve a team's performance no end."

Din Joe played in six Kerry county finals with East Kerry, winning four titles and also stared for his club for many years. His son Michael is now one of the Limerick senior team and is a regular scores for Mickey o Sullivan's side.

Din Joe Crowley will always be remembered for that magnificent goal that won the Sam Maguire for Kerry in 1970.

Another Kerry Terrace Talk Legend.

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