Sunday 4 December 2016

Kerry football mourns the passing of Mitchels legend O'Dowd

Owen McCrohan pays tribute to former Kerry footballer Teddy O'Dowd

Published 08/05/2011 | 05:00

An early-morning phone call from the former Kerry goalkeeper Donal (Marcus) O'Neill was a harbinger for what was to come. "Did you hear the news"? What news? "Teddy Dowd died suddenly last night."

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The shock was almost too much to bear because only a few days previously we had spoken at length on the phone when he sounded in top form except for that notoriously bad ankle that had plagued his later years. This was a legacy from his distinguished football career with the famous Tralee John Mitchels team of the 1960s.

Up to a few years ago there had been absolutely no contact between us although I did have a nodding acquaintance with him. Then an article of mine in a local newspaper was mischievously contorted and distorted to drum up hysteria. At best, the writer succeeded in making a mountain out of a molehill. Teddy didn't like it. He sought out my telephone number to assure and reassure me that all of the "old" Mitchels players were 100 per cent in agreement with what I had written.

That incident showed the kind of man he was. His generosity of spirit had taken over when might have kept his head down. He didn't need my endorsement but he liked fair play. Obviously he also appreciated fair comment.

As one of the famed Boherbee outfit that won five successive county championships, 1959-'63, Teddy should have been an integral part of the Kerry senior team during his glittering club career. Instead, he chose to opt out because he couldn't get along with then trainer Dr Eamonn O'Sullivan. However, he did have some experience of the big occasion in Croke Park.

In the 1961 All Ireland semi-final defeat by Down, he played at corner-forward on an all-Tralee full-forward line that included John Dowling and Garry Clifford (all now deceased). He also played in the heartbreaking All-Ireland minor defeat by Dublin in 1954 (3-3 to 1-8) when two late goals by Vinny Bell and Aidan Kavanagh pulled the rug from under a richly-talented Kerry side that could afford to leave Mick O'Dwyer wearing his Sunday best in the dugout. Over the following 13 years he dedicated himself to club football with Mitchels, a brilliant combination that set standards in excellence seldom if ever equalled at home or anywhere else.

Supporters of St Vincent's (Dublin 1950s), the Tuam Stars team of Seán Purcell and Frank Stockwell or, more recently, Crossmaglen Rangers, may disagree but one thing is certain the Tralee kingpins would not have been easily subdued. Driven on by their fanatical and somewhat eccentric camp follower, the inimitable Willie Fitzgerald, who poured scorn on all opposing teams in a high-pitched voice, they were, quite simply, different class.

Family, friends and football meant everything to Teddy O'Dowd and it gave him much pleasure when his son Timmy followed in his footsteps by winning three All-Ireland medals with Kerry in the 1980s.

Teddy was a great bloke and a thorough gentleman. His immense popularity was reflected in the huge crowds that turned out at his removal and funeral to pay their last respects. On a personal note, I'm going to miss that familiar voice on the telephone with the inevitable intro: "This is Dowdie".

I measc laochra Ciarraí i bParthas na nGrás go raibh sé.

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