Tackling the New York virus drawback, however Dowling’s old flame stays skewed
Michael Dowling has been busy the past few weeks.
The way he relates it isn’t unusual in itself, but the level of activity has increased significantly for the New York-based Knockaderry man in the past month and a half.
“I worked closely with the governor on the coronavirus issue and attended many events with him.
“We have seen more coronavirus patients than anyone else in the region – our hospitals have been pretty full and we also run the Javits Center (in Manhattan) so we’re holistically involved, doing a lot of testing and coming soon.
“So it’s busy, but I like it that way. It is better to be busy than not to be busy. “
The reason Dowling has been seen so often by Governor Andrew Cuomo is because of his day job. Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell, the largest healthcare provider in New York, oversees 73,000 employees, 23 hospitals, 800 outpatient / non-hospital facilities, medical schools, nursing schools, research centers, home care facilities and nursing homes.
“It’s fair to say that the last six weeks have been pretty hectic. It’s getting better, things are getting better, but we’re still pretty busy. “
It is always thrown as a distraction. Dowling speaks warmly of his time with the UCC’s skull in the Fitzgibbon Cup and the friends he made there, such as Dr. Paddy Crowley (“I wish him all the best”).
“I look back on my time at UCC as some of my best years, some of my best times.
“Not only because I was in college and had good friends, but also the experience of training in Mardyke, playing games with the team, traveling to those games on the bus with the boys and winning the Fitzgibbon.
“Those were extremely satisfying and productive times. The slingshot was very important to me, but the only problem I had was that I had to work in New York every summer during the summer vacation so I was never there for the height of the slingshot season because I was here.
“However, my time in college was absolutely fantastic.
“Great people, and I still keep in touch with college. I visit UCC pretty regularly. When they have meetings here, I try to help as much as possible.
“A certain memory? Sometimes the memory fades, but for me all the games have been great. We won the Fitzgibbon, that was great, and winning the 1970 Cork county title was a lot of fun. “
Decades in America haven’t dampened his appetite for the game, although promoting it can be a challenge.
“It is very difficult to explain to the people of America what slingshot is – and what it means to the people. “Sometimes, if you don’t explain it properly, they mistake it for curling. Sometimes I go to clips of the game on my iPhone to show them.
“Years ago it was occasionally seen on one of the sports shows on American television, Wide World of Sport, and some people can still remember it.
“You are intrigued by the fact that when I was playing at least few people wore helmets and when you explain that there is a three foot wooden stick that you can use to hit the ball anywhere, anytime, and that you don’t wear much Protection …
“That is inconceivable for them. You’re in love with the idea that everyone must have helmets, pads and protective gear of all kinds. So when you explain skidding, they look at you like you’ve lost your mind. “
What helps is to give context to the fling, he adds, “It’s hard to get that sense of the importance of representing your hometown, but people respond when I tell them it’s thousands of years old that flinging is part of the country’s heritage – that it is in the DNA of the Irish people.
“The camaraderie, the competitiveness – this whole culture is hard to convey, but it’s remarkable how many people go home after I tell them about it, look them up and tell me how much they enjoyed it i give them you should go to ireland and see a game in real life. “
He came back to see his own county when they won the All-Ireland two years ago.
“I was back for a couple of Limerick games and when the team came over here for the holidays, I met with them and the coaches, the staff in the back room – I had my picture taken with the MacCarthy Cup.
“The game has now of course changed. There is now not that much floor fling and very little overhead play that we specialize in. There is too much possession game going on – holding onto the ball is different from the old days and dropping the ball on the court for the boys to play.
“They are faster today, the Sliotar is lighter and drives further, the base is a bit bigger on most Hurleys, there are a lot more points – and in my opinion too many of them from Frees.
“But everything is developing. We all look back and say “it was better in my day” whether it was or not. I was back at UCC recently and went down to the Mardyke.
“In my day there was a small building we could go into, and now to look at the facilities I think if I had these facilities I would be really good. It’s a different world. “
Even so, some things never change. Some values remain constant.
“When I explain the game, a lot of Americans don’t understand the intensity and the desire – to play a course, to play hard and not get paid,” says Dowling.
“That it is a national sport and that the All-Ireland final is one of the most important days in the country, that it is professional without payment – an amateur sport at the highest level, only without compensation.
“These are difficult ideas to get across to people who are not familiar with slings. When I explain it I am often asked if I have ever been injured and I would tell them, yes, I stitched my forehead and lost a few teeth and the question I am always asked is, ” Why would you play this game? ‘
“And my answer is always the same. You play it because you love it. “