Handball in Ballymore Eustace                       


Copy of photo below of Mickey Dowling appearing at P. 54 of the Ballymore-Eustace GAA Centenary Book.




Tom McElligott in his book on handball devoted two sections to Ballymore Eustace players.  Tom is now deceased.  The late Mickey Dowling of Barrack St. was one of the two Ballymore Eustace players to receive a separate section in Tom’s Book.


Mickey’s Main Achievements


From Tom McElligott’s book we learn that Tom was a member of the Ballymore Eustace Club and saw Mickey  play scores of games and no player ever played a 'kill' so perfectly even at a range of over 50 feet from the front wall.


Mickey played hardball as a schoolboy against Carlow in 1929.  Each afternoon he was down at the ball alley with his friend, Jimmy Dolan, and it was with Jimmy that he won the Slater Cup and the All-Ireland doubles title of 1937.


They played a game rather like that of Bell and Doyle of Kells; the man who took the service staying out while his partner moved up to the short line. They understood one another's play so well that rarely was there need to call.  It would seem Mickey and Jimmy started that method of doubles in Ballymore Eustace.


It was in singles that Mickey was at his best.  He took the Irish senior title under Handball Union rules in 1935 after beating J. J. Kelly in the final.  The Weldon Cup was never competed for again.  In 1943 Mickey won the Irish senior hardball title again.  This time he won under the rules of the IAHA.  He beat Austin Clarke in the final.  Mickey holds a record that no one can equal - to have won the senior Irish championships under the two bodies.


Photos in Book - Tom O’Rourke


Tom’s Book opens with a great action photo of Tom O’Rourke who was the top handball player in Ireland in 1984 which was also the year in which the GAA celebrated its Centenary.  To mark the occasion the handball association ran a special competition which Tom O’Rourke duly won.  Tom proceeded onwards to win the World Title and the All-Ireland title in senior softball singles.  Having experienced many setbacks between his first All-Ireland senior softball success in 1979 this was a most welcome change in fortune for Tom.


Bobbie and Bill


P. 20 has a photo of the late Bobbie Grattan chatting to the late Bill Aldridge (Athy) – two great hardball players.  Bill was also a good hardball maker.




Mickey Dowling figures in two photos.  On P. 66 he can be seen at the Garda Depot with Jimmy Dolan and the great John Joe Gilmartin and Andy Cullen (both of Kilkenny).  On P. 73 Mickey can be seen on his own with a Cup.  At the time, there were two cups presented to Irish players – the Canon Cantwell Cup for the Irish Champion and the Weldon Cup for the World Champion.  In his time, Mickey won both. 


Cecil and Pius


Tom O’Rourke again figures in a photo on P. 115.  On the same page there is a photo of Cecil Winder who won senior singles and doubles All-Ireland titles.  In fact, Cecil won three doubles.  Two of these were with his brother Pius (Paul) Winder.  In all Pius won five senior All-Ireland titles – two singles and three doubles.


Golden Jubilee Celebrations


In 1974 the handball association had a special dinner in the Garda Club in Harrington St, Dublin to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the setting up of the association.  A photo of those present is contained in Tom’s Book at P. 110.  The attendance included John Joe Gilmartin, Joe Ryan of Wicklow and a much younger version of yours truly.




Mickey is interred in Hollywood Cemetery along with his parents.  He was born in 1914 and died in 1978.  Over the years, both Mickey and Margaret were great handball supporters.  Mickey’s grave is close to that of the late Fr Kavanagh who was a curate in Hollywood for over three decades until his death in 1936.


Mickey’s Son


Nowadays Mickey’s son and namesake is keeping the Ballymore Eustace flag flying with his handball achievements.


© Matt Purcell

Views: 655

Tags: History of Ireland

Comment by rob mullally on October 25, 2013 at 1:09pm

love this Matt, almost a forgotten sport.

Comment by Matt Purcell on October 25, 2013 at 3:29pm


I have come to the conclusion that the only ones interested in my pieces are those who have an interest in Ballymore Eustace or handball.  In the circumstances, I reckon I'm wasting my time submitting stuff to this website.

That said, I would like to thank you for your favourable comments.


Comment by rob mullally on October 26, 2013 at 12:30am

Matt, Im sure they are being read with keen interest, not everyone comments. 

Comment by Matt Purcell on October 26, 2013 at 4:13am

Hi Rob,

Thanks for your comment.  When I said what I said I based my comment on the number of views a lot of which were my own.

Re your earlier comment in which you said "almost a forgotten sport" no doubt you meant well by handball except it is not true.

When I started playing handball in the fifties there was only a handful of roofed alleys all 60 by 30.  Now all alleys that are used for competitions are roofed and on top of that most clubs have 40 by 20 alleys too (including Ballymore Eustace - now 40 by 20 handball is the most popular form of the game and allows players to dream dreams of international handball that was not possible in my time).

The big thing now is one wall handball which allows bigger numbers to take part and is very popular in America Way back in 1978 I played and enjoyed a lot of one wall handball in a park in New York.



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