Every sports club in Ireland needs variety in its membership. The superstars and immortals build the brand, but selfless administrators and journeyman athletes keep the wheels turning. No matter what the sport, clubs aren’t homogenous in their make-up. They can’t afford to be.
Mount Sion is a perfect example. The Waterford city GAA club is one of the best-known in the association, with plenty of entrants in hurling’s hall of fame — recent icons such as Ken McGrath and Tony Browne, Waterford’s last All-Ireland-winning captain Frankie Walsh, and current star Austin Gleeson. Yet when Mount Sion said goodbye to one of its favourite sons recently, the loss was no easier to take because the man concerned wasn’t a household name all over Ireland.
Danny Bowe was originally from Costelloe’s Lane in the city but had lived for many years in Larchville; he had long been employed in Waterford Regional Hospital, previously Ardkeen Hospital. Most people knew him through Mount Sion, however, where he had helped out with first aid for senior and juvenile teams for many years.
“He was essential, the role he filled,” says Mount Sion chairman Peter Walsh. “He was totally reliable, was at every game, and you could depend on him 100%. On top of that, he was also very good to follow up on lads who were injured — he’d make sure they were recovering.”
Walsh points to Danny’s day job in the hospital as giving him an inside line to physiotherapists and rehabilitation.
“He was always good like that, looking after fellas from the club. He was very conscious of that, going back to the accident years ago.”
That accident was in 1981, when a minibus crashed in Piltown, Kilkenny, on the way back from a hurling match. Jimmy Costello of Butlerstown and Mount Sion men Tony Forristal and Martin O’Grady were all killed. Forristal was then the Waterford U21 manager and a Mount Sion clubman; in time, the inter-county U14 tournament would be named after him.
Danny Bowe was also on that bus.
“He got a serious stomach injury in the crash,” says Walsh. “But he checked himself out of hospital to attend those funerals. That’s the kind of person he was. He had to be there.”
Danny brought a light touch to his post as a first aid man. Every club — every team — has in its communal memory bank the put-downs and one-liners that last longer than victories and defeats. The first aid man could defuse the tension in a nervous dressing-room instantly with a crack — more than one player was reminded he’d had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus, while another was reminded a couple of times that he was the only player to hold an opponent to 10 points from play.
There were other interests. Anyone who knew him knew that musically, there was only one star in the sky. A clubmate recalls: “Look, for Danny there was Elvis and nobody else. He had all the records, the memorabilia, all of that, but he went further.
“I’d say he went over once a year to Memphis, to Graceland. He was such a big fan that the people over there knew him well — Danny Bowe from Ireland, the Elvis fan.”
Mount Sion has always had strong links to Waterford Institute of Technology. When the college was making its initial efforts to capture the Fitzgibbon Cup, back when it was still Waterford RTC, Danny fell in with the college, helping out behind the scenes.
That was a time when the Fitzgibbon was played off over a single weekend, and at one tournament a WRTC player took, in his own words, a “fair leathering” across the ankle on the Friday. Danny was the man who ferried bags of ice to the player’s house to help rehabilitate the ankle; he missed the Saturday game but was fit to take his place that Sunday in the final.
“That would never have happened if it wasn’t for Danny,” recalled the player, who retained memories of Bowe’s generosity to youngsters a long way from their mothers’ cooking. “He looked after us well. We never left the Bowe house hungry.”
Working in the hospital in Ardkeen, Danny became aware that there was a latent interest in camogie there.
“He helped to set up Ardkeen Camogie Club out there,” says Walsh. “There were obviously a lot of nurses working there, and a lot of them were interested in playing, so the club took off.
“They won numerous county titles in Waterford, they were very successful when they were going well. When the facilities were being refurbished to upgrade it a regional hospital, the camogie club lost the patch of ground they used as a playing field, so Danny asked if they could use our facilities in Mount Sion.
“We said yes, obviously — we didn’t have a camogie club, and we didn’t start one then because Ardkeen became a kind of sister club, and anyone in Mount Sion whose daughter or sister wanted to play camogie fell in with them then.”
Danny’s friends pointed out that Waterford’s success in the All-Ireland intermediate championship last year was a fitting pay-off for the work he and many others did to raise standards in the county.
Danny Bowe passed away on January 10 this year. His funeral mass was in the old Ballybricken church in Waterford. He’s survived by his wife Joan, daughters Una, and Sinead, son Patrick, sisters Betty and Ann, and five grandchildren.
“The link goes on,” added Patrick Walsh. “His son Patrick, or Pappy as we know him, is manager of our junior team. The Bowes still do their bit for Mount Sion.”