June 03, 1994
MOSSIE DOWLING ALWAYS GAVE HIS BEST WHEN WEARING THE FAMOUS GREEN OF LIMERICK
The hurlers of Limerick and those of Cork succumbed at the hands of Clare in last year's Munster Senior Hurling Championship. Both teams were fancied to see aside the challenge of Len Gaynor's Bannermen, both failed miserably to do so. This weekend sees the two of them come face to face, each intent on setting the record straight and proving that they are capable of much more than last year's performances would suggest. There's just no getting away from the fact that this is a BIG game for both counties concerned. Whoever comes out second best will be truly in the Championship doldrums - and it will be a long, long Summer. One man who knows all about big games such as this one is former Limerick stalwart Mossie Dowling, who in hurling terms has been there, seen that, done that and won an All-Ireland medal with Limerick when they last went all the way in 1973. Mossie realises that his native county will have their work cut out on Sunday, but feels that if they go out onto the field in the right frame of mind, they could cause an upset. And, let's face it, Munster hurling has been rather prone to such upsets of late.
Like all truly great hurling artists, Mossie Dowling was putting ash to sliothar since he was barely able to walk and he tasted his first competitive fare with local Kilmallock at Under 14 level. Undoubtedly the highlight of Mossie's distinguished playing career arrived in 1973 when he lined out on the forty as Limerick beat Kilkenny on a scoreline of 1-21 to 1-14 to clinch the All-Ireland title for the seventh time. The Kilmallock player was the only man to put the sliothar in the back of Noel Skehan's net that particular day. "That definitely has to be the high point of my career," Dowling reflects. "That year's Munster final was great too because that was where we actually made the breakthrough. It was against Tipperary in Thurles and to beat them at home has to be a highlight." Limerick won that particular dramatic game by one point on a scoreline of 6-7 to 2-18.
Casting his mind back to the 1973 All-Ireland final, Mossie's recollections of the game are crystal clear. "I remember that match as if it was only yesterday. It's hard to believe that that was over twenty years ago at this stage. I can still vividly relive all the moments and remember every bit of the action," recalls the Limerick man who scored his county's only goal and had another goal disallowed. During his career Mossie played in a variety of different positions and acquitted himself equally well in all of them, starting off the 1972/73 League campaign as a half back and in the League final against Wexford lined out at corner forward. The management then decided to keep the versatile Dowling up in the forwards despite the fact that he had spent most of his time prior to that in the rearguard.
Mossie Dowling's Senior inter-county career spanned almost a decade between 1967 and 1976. His debut for the Shannonsiders was against Clare in a League game in '67 and 1968 was his first Championship year. 1973 was without doubt the best twelve months in the former Limerick stalwart's career - a year in which he not only won Munster and All-Ireland medals, played in a League final and also captained his club to a County Championship, but also played in the mother of all National League semi-finals against Tipperary. The first game was played in Kilkenny and finished on a scoreline of 2-11 apiece, while the replay at Birr one week later saw Limerick come out on top by 5-10 to 3-14 after extra time. Unfortunately Limerick were beaten by Wexford in the final.
Limerick's former utility player, who rates Pat Henderson of Kilkenny as one of the most difficult opponents he came up against, feels that hurling has changed significantly since he was a player himself. "The game has changed enormously in the last twenty years and it has slowed down an awful lot. The fellas themselves might be running faster but the ball isn't travelling any faster. In fact, the ball is moving slower. A lot of skills have gone out of the game. Overhead hurling, ground hurling and hurling without actually catching the ball is no longer in evidence as much as it used to be." Limerick haven't since managed to reach the same dizzy heights of 1973 and despite winning the National League in 1992, Mossie is worried that they could be heading in the wrong direction regarding tactics. "Definitely, over the past couple of years they've developed this slowed down style and the attitude seems to be one of keep possession at all costs regardless of the speed of the game. The coaching of the youngsters is another big problem."
Reflecting back on his career, Mossie Dowling selects the most outstanding aspect of his inter-county playing days to be the personal satisfaction derived - not the honours or glory. Hurling in Limerick those days wasn't as socially orientated as it is nowadays. "The one thing I would regret is that in those days we didn't mix with the opposition either before or after the game. The only time we rubbed shoulders with them was during the actual play. In subsequent years any time I have met former players socially we always say that it's a pity we didn't meet after the games more often for a bit of craic," notes the man who represented his county at Minor level in 1964 and at Under 21 level in '67.
The 1973 All-Ireland hurling medalist hurled at club level with Kilmallock for nearly twenty years, starting in 1963 and finishing in 1981. During that time winning four county Championships, victory in 1967 followed by three on the trot between 1973 and '75. The 1973 win was a particularly proud one for Mossie as he captained the club to success. "It was a fantastic honour at the time. I had won an All-Ireland medal and to captain the club to a county Championship put the icing on a great year for me," he reflects. As a player Dowling always believed in giving his all and he took club games every bit as seriously as inter-county matches. A trainer with Kilmallock last year, he rates his local club as definitely amongst the top three in Limerick at present. County stars Dave Clarke and Mike Houlihan are cited as two of the club's best and there are also some talented youngsters coming through.
Mossie was naturally disappointed with Limerick's performance in last year's Championship, but is more optimistic about their chances on Sunday. "They had a poor team last year and weren't prepared well, so I wasn't surprised that they went out. They seem to be better prepared this year though, but they've an unknown quantity and I wouldn't be putting any money on them. Appetite is our main problem and whichever team has the will to win on the day will come out on top. Centrefield is the key area and Cork have good forwards but we have good backs to hold them. I think Limerick are capable of winning it. Cork haven't proved themselves yet so if we go out with the right attitude we might do it," opines the former county star. The Kilmallock club was responsible for forming the first ever Past Players Association in the country which is supportive to the club but still separate. Mossie Dowling was Chairman for the last two years and in 1993 £15,000 was raised for the development of Underage teams, an area in which he feels a lot of work needs to be done at national level.
"The County Boards throughout the country are not looking after the Underage aspect of gaelic games are well as they might. I would say that as a whole that is by far the biggest fall-down in the G.A.A. at the minute. The Association are giving plenty of lip service but there's not enough action. The G.A.A. needs to have a complete rethink on their underage policy because they are light years behind rugby and soccer in that area. Even here in the local club that would be my main priority," points out the Kilmallock man who cares passionately about the game of hurling. How victory over Cork on Sunday would conjure up memories of Limerick's golden era when Mossie Dowling used to dazzle spectators and opposition alike with performances of commitment, skill and sheer class.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
3rd June, 1994
Most Read Stories