Dowdall, Paddy (1920–68), boxer, was born 16 June 1920 at 23 The Coombe, Dublin city, son of Patrick Dowdall, porter, and Catherine Dowdall (née Kinsella). His mother died when he was an infant, and the children were raised by their father. He was educated locally at Francis St. national school. Encouraged by his father, he began boxing at an early age for the Myra boxing club in the Liberties area of Dublin, winning consecutive Dublin League juvenile golds at 84 lb (38 kg), 91 lb (41.3 kg), 98 lb (44.5 kg), and 105 lb (47.6 kg). His potential attracted the attention of the army boxing club and he was persuaded to enlist in 1937, fighting for the first time in army colours the day after his arrival at the Curragh. In 1938 he won the army junior championship at featherweight and added the army senior featherweight title the following year.
He fought in the junior Irish championships in 1939, which he won easily, but his rapidly improving performances persuaded the Irish selectors to grant him a trial for the Irish senior team for the 1939 European championships. In a surprise result he out-pointed the Irish senior featherweight champion, Peter Glennon, to secure a place on the team, but was not expected to perform well against a very strong international field. The championships, held at the National Stadium, Dublin were to be the highlight of his career. Throughout a tense three days he improved with every fight and put in a stunning display of sustained pressure and skill to overcome the highly rated Pole, Anton Czortek, in the final on 22 April 1939. He was only the second Irish fighter to win a European title, pipped at the post by Jimmy Ingle (qv), who had won the flyweight title earlier that evening.
Later that year he sailed with the seven other European champions to New York to challenge the winners of the Golden Gloves tournament. In one of his finest displays he outclassed the American flyweight Ray Lewis to become the ‘unofficial’ world amateur champion, returning to a hero's welcome in his native Dublin. In the following year's Irish senior championships he dominated the featherweight division to add a first Irish senior title to his international honours. The outbreak of the second world war, however, denied him the opportunity of competing internationally and he was particularly unlucky to miss the chance, when at his peak, of fighting in the 1940 Olympic games which never took place. Hindered by his army duties in wartime (he was promoted to corporal in 1940) and his difficulty in keeping below the featherweight limit, he failed to retain his Irish title in 1941 and moved up to lightweight for the 1942 championship. He won the lightweight title comfortably and retained it the following year. His career after 1943 did not live up to its early promise and he failed to add to his tally of three senior titles. He turned professional in February 1946, knocking out Jimmy Ingle's brother John to become Irish professional lightweight champion later that year, but found it difficult to translate his success as an amateur to the professional sphere.
Regarded as one of Ireland's finest ever boxers, he combined superb natural fitness levels with a disciplined approach to training, which allowed him to outwork almost all of his opponents. A clever tactical boxer, renowned for his ring-craft and elusiveness, he compensated for the lack of a knockout punch by the sheer ferocity of his attacks and his ability to maintain pressure on his opponents over sustained periods.
After leaving the army in the early 1940s he worked for the postal service as a mechanic. He married (4 November 1943) Mary Kearney of Dublin; they lived in Pimlico and later Rathfarnham, and had four children. He died 17 June 1968 after suffering a pulmonary embolism while playing football in the Phoenix Park.