John Barry's Tribute to Teddy O Dowd

June 5th, 2011
by John Barry

Tralee in particular and Kerry in general is a much poorer place this week because of the death of Teddy O'Dowd. Through his years of service with The Kerryman, which took him to just about every corner of this county, and through the wonderful dynamism he showed as part of the most successful club team this county has ever known, he was a man who held a very special place in an awful lot of hearts. Mine included.
He was born not too far away from where I lived in Racecourse Road, Tralee, and more than once he told the story of how he saved a penalty in Sweeney's Field on Racecourse Road – and my late father, Jack, rewarded him with sixpence! That was away back in the 1940s and, considering that my father died in 1949, it is a story that I cherish to this day.

Over the years, I reported many a match in which Teddy played and, unfortunately, I and my Austin Stacks team-mates were at the receiving end more than once of a lesson from the great John Mitchels five-in-a-row team of 1959 to 1963 (Teddy was team captain in 1962).
Teddy was quite an incredible player, a massive threat to every defence he ever faced and a man who, for sure, knew no fear. From watching him through his playing years, from working with him in The Kerryman, and from sharing a love of the same things, including greyhound racing and coursing, I came to think of him as the most indestructible man I ever met.
News of his unexpected death last week, therefore, hit home very hard.

There are so many memories that come tripping out of the memory bank. I particularly remember a famous bus trip by staff in The Kerryman to the world title fight in 1995 between Steve Collins and Chris Eubank in Millstreet. We stopped off in a pub in Rathmore afterwards and I can still vividly see Teddy performing a remarkable, and pretty dangerous, party piece that totally encapsulated his personality.
Nobody, of course, knew Teddy O'Dowd better than his great friend and former team-mate, Niall Sheehy, who summed him up thus: "What a hell of a man to have on your side. He had everything, really. Craft. Guts. And, boy, did he know his way to goal. He was just quite extraordinary and I consider myself very fortunate to have been his team-mate and to have known him as a good friend. It's very hard to come to terms with the news of his death."

Three and a half years ago, in November 2007, I was privileged to be in the company of both Niall Sheehy and Teddy O'Dowd, and a couple of other members of the great John Mitchels five-in-a-row team, when South Kerry were attempting to win the county SF championship for the fourth year in succession against Feale Rangers in Austin Stack Park. We were standing right in front of the Mitchels wall at the town end and when Feale Rangers edged out by a point for victory, the hugging and general outpouring of joy was something else to behold. To Niall, to Teddy, to all the other Mitchels men in the company, their five-in-a-row was safe and, as a Tralee man and as a great admirer of Mitchels always, I have to admit that I celebrated with them.

Those guys were so, so proud of that five-in-a-row and, surely, Niall Sheehy, Freddie Lynch, Brian Sheehy, who was the five-in-a-row captain, and all the others who survive will never see another team threaten their memorable achievement.
Yes, the wheel did turn for John Mitchels afterwards, despite another county championship victory in 1966, but hope always springs eternal and one can only imagine the joy that filled every John Mitchels heart when the minor football team from the club won an epic Division 1 county league final against Dr Crokes less than a fortnight ago, on Good Friday. No pub open for Dowdie to celebrate, though, and he would have considered that to be a matter of very poor fixture arrangement.

This was a man whose heart was surely moulded by a green and gold furnace and who lived and breathed Boherbee all his life. Bothar Bui it is in Irish and that's why he gave the name of Yellow Road to his best coursing greyhound. He also gave the name of Yellow Bog to another of his coursing stars.

Yellow Road gave him probably his greatest coursing thrill by beating famous Irish Cup winner, the Dick Ryan-trained Tartan Black, in the semi-final of the 1973 Kingdom Cup at Ballybeggan Park. The pity for him was that Yellow Road lost the final to Rattoo Champ.
Teddy qualified a number of his greyhounds for the National Coursing Meeting in Clonmel, a venue so dear to him, and in recent years he realised his Kingdom Cup dream as joint owner of that outstanding winner, Another Session. The other joint owners of Another Session were Bridget Leen, that great Kerry lady footballer, the late Dee Foran and Teddy's brilliant All-Ireland footballing son, Timmy.

A full life the man had, to be sure, and it would have been outrageous for anybody to suggest that it could have been snuffed out so very abruptly. Truly, a shining light has been extinguished from our midst and, as far as I am concerned, the word indestructible no longer has the same validity.
Farewell, old friend.

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