Local resident and Home Rule M.P Matt O Shea, Joseph Kelly, and Peter McCormick were the 3 mainstays of the early GAA club in Milltown, McCormick serving as secretary from its foundation on January 8, 1888. RIC records from 1890 show that Milltown Harringtons had 60 members with officers listed as Pat Flood, Peter McCormack, John Tiernan and James Kelly. Nicholas Hannigan attended the 1889 convention.
Milltown were 1892 Senior Football semi-finalists. Local man, Pat “Darkie” Ryan, came on in the second half of the 1928 All Ireland final, which was incidentally the last time Kildare lifted the Sam Maguire. Milltown created one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Kildare Senior Football championship in 1948, when they beat Raheens by 1-4 to 0-6 in their first senior championship match. Christy and John Dowling played on Kildare senior teams at the time.
Milltown were one of the few Junior B teams to win the Jack Higgins cup when they scored a big win over Johnstownbridge in 1967. In fact, the late 60's and early 70's was somewhat of a glory period for Milltown with the club winning the Intermediate Championship in 1972, and remaining a strong Senior team for several years after. This team is regarded as being the strongest ever to play in the Milltown colours and were only beaten in a Quarter Final replay by the eventual county champions, Carbury, in 1974.
Milltown won the Junior Championship in 2008 defeating Robertstown by a single point, and repeated the feat again in 2018, this time with a victory over Rheban. Emmet Mullhall was a member of the Kildare panel on the countys last appearance in an All-Ireland final in 1998. Colin O'Shea, a key player in the current senior Milltown squad, has represented Kildare at minor level and played in the 2009 Leinster final.
For quite a number of years, at some underage grades Milltown, along with Allenwood, Ballyteague & Robertstown, formed part of the highly successful combined Parish of Allen club, Na Fianna. In recent years, however, Milltown have fielded their own underage teams with great success.
Milltown have been affiliated to the GAA since 1888, and have affiliated each year since. This makes us the oldest club still in continuous existence in Co. Kildare.
The Late Christy Dowling
When Christy Dowling was laid to rest in is beloved Milltown on July 1st this year (2000) the chairman of the Kildare Co Board of the GAA, Andrew O’Sullivan, presented his widow Alice with the Kildare number six jersey in memory of Christy’s prowess in that position as one of the county’s greatest footballers. Coincidentally, on the same day the great Bill Delaney of Laois passed away and as the two of them had played on each other many years before they now faced the final referee together.
Trying to say something new about Christy Dowling is no easy task but the stories of his life and times will always bear re-telling, from his first county medal as an under fourteen schoolboy in 1937 through the years of service to club and county till failing sight denied him the pleasure of following the game he loved so well.
He was only four years old when his uncle Darkie Ryan helped Kildare to win an all Ireland final and he was only five when Darkie helped Kildare to repeat the victory in the year 1928 when Squires Gannon brought the Sam Maguire to the short grass county for its first outing. As a child Christy could name and place every member of those teams he could still do so this year.
He joined Milltown club in 1938 when another uncle Joe Ryan was chairman and had an unbroken membership till his death. During his long relationship with Milltown he helped the club to victories and near misses both as a player and mentor at Junior A, B and intermediate levels. He had no success at senior level though he admitted that the club had players of very high calibre over the years. His prowess at club level brought him inevitably to the notice of the county selectors and he played his first match in the white jersey against Wexford in 1945. He served the Lily Whites for many years as a player at junior and senior level and as the successful trainer of the side that won the Home Junior All Ireland in 1970. Milltown was represented on that team by Mick Cullen and Sean Dowling. Christy also served as a senior selector for the county team.
One of his first matches for the club would have been as a sixteen and a half year old in 1940 when at centre half he scored two points against Carbury. He played minor county in 1940 and 1941. In 1944 he starred against Carbury when Milltown won the junior championship. In that game Christy, his brother John, Ned and uncle Darkie Ryan all contributed. In 1946 intermediate final - played in 1947 - Christy with his brothers John, Ned and Joe helped the club to victory over St Patrick’s of Kildare. In 1955 he played with his brother Joe on the team captained by John Connor that brought the junior B championship home at the expense of Athy.
In his heyday Christy was one of that band of great footballers who did not seem to get the rewards they deserved but sportsman that he was, he persevered and never complained about life’s unfairness. In 1946 representing Kildare at number six he held the great Bill Delaney scoreless when Laois denied them victory by the slimmest of margins. In 1956 he starred for his county in the junior team that was beaten in the All Ireland by Monaghan.
At the end of his active playing days Christy’s commitment did not lessen and he trained the Milltown team that won the junior B title and the Jack Higgins Cup in 1967. And it was he who brought the intermediate county trophy back to Milltown in 1972. In his latter years he was a loyal clubman and as president he was totally involved in the club’s affairs. He was always on hand with advice and encouragement and if constructive criticism was merited at half time he gave it freely.
It is hard to imagine that a man so taken up with football could also rear a large family and develop a career in industry. Christy did both. Alice Tiernan was a Cork girl who came to Kildare in 1939. Christy and herself were married in 1947. They settled in Hawkfield in a house built with blocks made by himself and Alice adapted to life in Kildare and has a fund of stories about their life together. One story relates to the 1946 intermediate final which Christy wanted to win so badly that he went to Dublin on the Friday before the match to enlist the aid of a club player who had moved from Kildare. This man Dan O’Connell, a Kerryman, agreed to play only when Christy offered to put him up for the weekend. Alice, a wife of only a few months volunteered to visit her mother for the weekend to solve the accommodation problem! The victory on the Sunday made it all worth while.
Christy joined Irish Ropes in 1943. It was one of the country’s major industries at the time and he served the firm with distinction for forty years, retiring as mill manager of the carpet make up and despatch division. A colleague in the Ropes was Billy Bell who had been on the losing side of the 1937 schools championship. Here too his name is synonymous with anecdotes that are part of the lore of the Ropes. His description of his efforts to train the local work force to lay carpets in Cairo was hilarious.
Between the football, rearing a family and the demands of an important job in Irish Ropes one might be forgiven for believing that Christy’s programme was full. Not so! There was another side to this extraordinary man; His love for and involvement in greyhounds. For many years he was equally well known among the Doggy men and women. He used to say that it was not a hobby in which one could hope to end up rich. He was also an accomplished fiddle player!
Christy is survived by his beloved Alice, his daughters Catherine, Maria and Sheila, by his sons Tadhg, Patrick and Christopher and by his brother John and sisters Bride, Ellen and Phyllis.
Christy Dowling was larger than life. He was a genuine sportsman, a thorough gentleman and a great friend. Despite his ill health and loss of sight his final years were spent with dignity and without complaint.
When he meets with Bill Delaney in the great celestial Croke Park I’m sure they will discuss 1946 and maybe exchange jerseys!
Surely we can say with certainty that his like will not be there again!
Courtesy of the Kildare Nationalist, July 2000
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