All-Ireland winner turned pub landlord
NOWADAYS he runs ‘Dowdies’ bar in Boherbee, better known as the Slieve Mish, but to the vast majority of people in his native Tralee Timmy O’Dowd is best known for his exploits as an outstanding Gaelic footballer. He played senior football for John Mitchels when he was scarcely 16 and thereafter his playing career took off in earnest.
But then football had to come naturally to Timmy as his father, Teddy, was himself something of a living legend as a footballer of class and renown, being a member of the famous Mitchels team that won five county championships in a row between 1959 and 1963, captaining the team to victory in the 1962 final against Feale Rangers.
Timmy made his senior debut with Mitchels in 1978. He played Kerry minor in 1980 and 1981, winning an All-Ireland medal in 1980 when Kerry defeated Derry in the final.
He played Under 21 with the county without success but he made his senior intercounty debut against Offaly in a National League tie played in Killorglin in 1983.
Kerry were still the dominant force in the game at that period, having won four-in-a-row from 1978 to 1981.
And it was onto that plateau of the game that the young Boherbee player stepped in 1984. He came on as a sub that year for ‘the great John Egan’ when Kerry beat Dublin in the final. He played at wing forward on the team that again defeated Dublin in the 1985 final, scoring 1-1 in the process.
Then in the 1986 decider against Tyrone, Timmy came on as a sub at half-time in place of Ambrose O’Donovan and Kerry duly went on to complete a hat trick of All-Ireland victories.
“The ’85 final was a nice one to win but the ’86 triumph was an even sweeter one as far as I was concerned,” he said. “We were well behind at half time and then Tyrone got a penalty which Kevin McCabe drove over the bar and we came storming back to win the game.”
“We were beaten by Cork in the replayed Munster final in 1987 and the team as such was more or less finishing up at that time.”
He played in the National League in 1988 but he tore ligaments in his knee while playing with his club the same year, bringing a premature end to his intercounty playing career.
He spent six months in Boston in 1989 and helped the Shannon Blues reach the final of the local championship. On the team with him were two Strand Road players, Ken Savage and Morgan Nix. He went to England the same year and played with Tomas Mac Curtains in the London championship. He spent one year in America.
He went to work in Dublin in 1996 and played football with the Thomas Davis Club and among his teammates was Paul Curran, the prominent Dublin intercounty footballer. He remained there for two years.
It was during this period that he began taking an interest in horse racing and he made the acquaintance of one Bernie Cooke who was a close associate of former Kerry star Jack O’Shea.
In time Timmy was invited to join a syndicate of whom the other four members hailed from counties Kildare, Wicklow, Down and Galway and they purchased a horse which was named Who’d Of Guest. The silks bear the colours of all five counties and the four-year-old was trained by Michael Halford.
“We bought him for small money,” said Timmy. “When I looked at the breeding I made sure we went after him. He’s by Cape Cross out of a mare named Sweet Mint whose sire was Be My Guest.”
“Some of the lads coming into the bar were saying he wouldn’t win a Donkey Derby in Dingle but he has already won three consecutive races this year on the flat and, hopefully, there’s more to come. It’s not unusual for Paddy O’Mahony to drop into the bar and say to me that Bertie Flynn wants to know will the horse win today.”
“It’s all part of the craic when the lads and others like Fred Lynch, John and Noel Dalton come into the bar. Incidentally Bertie is due to go into hospital this week and I’d like to wish him well.”
“I was always interested in horse racing but when I started going down to Kildare my interest in it heightened even further. I love going racing to places like Punchestown, Leopordstown and the Curragh.”
“I worked with two great pals of mine in Leixlip for a time, James Lynch from Tralee and a local man named Rickie Rogers.
Timmy and his brother Robert took over the Slieve Mish bar in November 2003 from Ena and the late Brendan Galvin who ran the popular hostelry for many years.
Brendan was, of course, a renowned Kerry and John Mitchels footballer in his day. Ena and Brendan and their friend Brendan O’ Mahony owned a very good racehorse one time by the name of Dark Swan which won the Guinness Handicap Hurdle at Galway in 1996.
The Galvins also enjoyed great success in the field of greyhounds and that same sporting tradition continues to the present day in the Boherbee hostelry.
Timmy also follows the longtails and he is joint owner of a young sapling along with well-known greyhound owner and breeder Bridget Leen. “I’m hoping to have the same degree of enjoyment and success as we’re having with our horse,” he said.
Timmy and his partner Gean have two daughters, Anna and Kate. Gean is from Kilcullen in Kildare, a town with a great horse racing tradition.
His mother is the former Mary Ryan from Strand Road.
He has been a senior football selector with John Mitchels for the past two years. “I will probably go back and get involved at juvenile level with my old pal John Higgins,” he said.
Timmy likes going abroad on holiday and when he has time off from work in the bar he likes nothing better than a spot of angling on the Laune with his good friend John Lynch.
“It’s a wonderful way to relax,” he said.