Memorial to Timothy 'Ted' Downey to be erected in Glasnevin Cemetery
By John Harrington
Compared to the comprehensive media coverage of the modern era, little was recorded for posterity of the early heroes of the GAA.
Match reports were less indepth than they are now and photographs were few and far between, so the mists of time often cast a shroud over men who shone brightly in their own playing days.
Thankfully, an interest in local and national history by those with a genuine curiosity for the past often gives us a renewed appreciation for the achievements of those trailblazers.
Timothy ‘Ted’ Downey is one such player who will have new lustre to his name thanks to the considerable efforts of his fellow Midleton GAA men, John Fenton and Vincent O’Neill.
Downey was one of the highest profile Gaelic footballers of his day, having the distinction of winning All-Ireland titles with two different counties. Cork (Midleton) in 1890, and Dublin (CJ Kickhams) in 1897.
As part of a research project into that Midleton team of 1890, the first Cork team to win the All-Ireland Football Championship, Fenton and O’Neill traced Downey’s journey from his home town to Dublin and his final resting place in Glasnevin Cemetery where he lies in an unmarked grave.
But not for much longer. Thanks to the interest taken by Fenton and O’Neill and the support and financial financial assistance of Cork GAA, Dublin GAA, Croke Park, Midleton, and Ballymun Kickhams GAA club, a memorial to Downey will be erected over his grave on November 8.
“From our point of view it's a very worthy initiative,” former Cork hurling star, Fenton, told GAA.ie
“There are two types of people - people who are interested in local history and peope who, when you start talking about it, their eyes glaze over.
“If you're interested, it's fascinating. For those of us who are interested it is absolutely fascinating what we have discovered when we began researching that All-Ireland winning Midleton team of 1890, finding out who these lads were and what became of them.
“We were hoping to get a small bit on a few of the lads who were involved in that team but we almost have a book unearthed on it now, to be quite honest.
“We came across the Downey brothers. Three of them played football with Midleton in 1890 and Ted was only 16 and a half.
“We were the first Midleton/Cork team to win an All-Ireland Football title for Cork so in itself it was a very historic achievement for those lads. Their commitment to the club and their team was phenomenal.”
Ted Downey moved to Dublin to work for Arnotts & Co. in their drapery department. Initially he played with Young Irelands GAA club with whom he won a Dublin senior championship in 1896.
By the following year though he had joined CJ Kickhams where he went one better by winning an All-Ireland medal, just like he had with Midleton five years previously.
“He's among the first people to win All-Ireland medals with two different counties in the history of the GAA,” says Fenton.
“If there were All-Stars at the time he would have been a multiple All-Star. By all accounts he was a very gifted footballer.”
Timothy ‘Ted’ Downey’s achievements certainly deserve to be remembered, and they will now thanks to the considerable efforts of Fenton and O’Neill.
A total of 50 guests will attend the unveiling of the memorial on November 8, including GAA President Larry McCarthy and representatives of Cork GAA, Midleton GAA club, and Ballymun Kickhams GAA club.
“There’s no headstone above his grave which is why we’re doing this memorial,” says Fenton.
“He's buried in an unmarked grave. There were two people in the grave already who are not related to him.
“He's also buried alongside his uncle. His uncle was Jeremiah Cronin who was a brother of his mother. Ted was the first of his family into that grave 80 years ago. Then his uncle followed him. Then his first cousin and his first cousin's wife.
“So there are six people in the grave and all the people who are buried in the grave will be named on the new headstone.
“There's another man, William Colbert, who was on that Midleton team as well who is also buried in Glasnevin but has a headstone, and we'll also be laying a wreath on his grave.”
The heroes of the past deserve to be remembered. Thanks to Fenton and O'Neill, their fellow Midleton club-man Timothy 'Ted' Downey will now never be forgotten.