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Thursday 21 August 2014

Angela lashes gala team

Published 01/03/2004 | 00:11

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Angela Downey, widely accepted as the greatest camogie player in the game's 100-year history, boycotted its 'Team of the Century' presentation on Saturday night in protest at the absence of her twin sister Ann from the team.

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ANGELA DOWNEY, widely accepted as the greatest camogie player in the game's 100-year history, boycotted its 'Team of the Century' presentation on Saturday night in protest at the absence of her twin sister Ann from the team.

The legendary Kilkenny woman, who first played for the county seniors when she was only 13, snubbed the gala banquet presentation in the CityWest Hotel, Dublin to register her disgust that her sister Ann was not included.

Her own citation described the St Paul's player as "the greatest player ever to adorn the game" but she nominated a former Kilkenny teammate to pick it up for her.

And yesterday the woman who won 12 senior All-Irelands and six All-Ireland club titles in a 25-year inter-county career, and whose phenomenal skill and swashbuckling attacking style helped put the women's game on the map, admitted she had deliberately stayed away to register the strength of her feelings.

"I don't know whether I did right or wrong and anything I say publicly will seem like sour grapes but a lot of people know why I wasn't there," she said. "I really felt it would have been hypocritical of me to attend and pretend everything was rosy in the garden when it wasn't.

"Ann gave 25 years to camogie, has 12 All-Irelands and actually one more club title than me because I was suspended for one final! I asked around outside of Kilkenny in the past fortnight and lots of people were disappointed by it and said that our two names would have been the first they would have picked."

Mrs Downey-Browne said she was particularly upset because no one in the Camogie Association would reveal who had picked the team, saying only that it was done by one individual but vetted by several others.

"Maybe if I could have discussed their reasons I might have been able to get my head around it but I would not be told who had picked it and eventually I wrote a letter to Croke Park and told them I would not be there," she revealed. "I saw it on television, it looked like a real gala night and it was certainly not a decision I took lightly but had I gone I would have felt like a hypocrite."

The Downeys played before the game went 15 a-side in 1999 and Ann Downey may have suffered from her own versatility as she could have been picked as a half-back, midfielder or even a forward, though midfield, where the late Kay Mills and Antrim's Mairéad McAtamney Magill were chosen, was her likeliest siting.

The 'Team of the Century' is one of the highlights of an extensive programme of centenary celebrations this year and Angela Downey's conspicuous absence from the official team photograph will certainly leave a blot on their archives.

Yet it still did not overshadow a most glittering event which was attended by An Taoiseach. Two of those chosen - Dublin legends Mills (with a record 15 All-Irelands) and Sophie Brack - are deceased. But there was widespread delight amongst their families and the 12 other recipients, not least Eileen Duffy O'Mahoney, the oldest surviving member of the team.

"I can't believe I have been chosen when there were so many great goalkeepers," she said.

Recalling her 10-year spell for the Dubs from 1949, including playing in camogie's first Interpro in Navan in 1954 when the players were paraded around the town beforehand, she revealed that the Dublin women were not actually originally the 'Blues' but the 'Purples'!

"Dublin didn't have a set of tunics when we started, we borrowed them from Scoil Bhríde and they were purple gym frocks but we eventually got our own blue tunics. We were very particular about tying the sash in a certain way and we wore white ankle socks over our black tights," she recalled.

"We trained in the Phoenix Park but my own club (Celtic) had a pitch out in Coolock which was a village then and we used to cycle out there to training, sometimes pulling the lawnmower behind us all the way because we used to cut it ourselves!" she said laughing. "But those were different days, we cycled everywhere and actually got great coverage in the papers. People would recognise you around town and shout over 'well done yesterday, Eileen!'"

Both of Duffy's sisters, Mary and Pauline, played for Dublin as did her daughter Gráinne (O'Mahony, at junior level) and she might have won a ninth All-Ireland had she not married.

She said her era, a golden one for Dublin and Antrim, actually experienced little sexism, but that "it was not considered ladylike to continue playing when you got married" as she did in 1958.

"The modern game is very different from ours," she said. "I don't like this 'shoulder-to-shoulder' stuff. In our day it was much more open and probably friendlier but I'm very impressed by the current Tipperary team, they are really skilful."

One of that Tipp team - Deirdre Hughes - was the only current player selected, though former Cork star Linda Mellerick was another of the modern era included, as was her Glen Rovers and Cork colleague Sandie Fitzgibbon, a legendary former basketball international also.

Liz Neary and Bridie Martin McGarry completed Kilkenny's selected trio, Wexford had Margaret O'Leary Leacy and Mary Sinnott Dinan included but Cork and Dublin both had four.

TEAM OF THE CENTURY (1904-2004)

E Duffy O'Mahoney (Dublin); Liz Neary (Kilkenny), Marie Costine O'Donovan (Cork), Mary Sinnott Dinan (Wexford); Sandie Fitzgibbon (Cork), Bridie Martin McGarry (Kilkenny), Margaret O'Leary Leacy (Wexford), M McAtamney Magill (Antrim), Kathleen Mills (Dublin), Linda Mellerick (Cork), Pat Moloney Lenihan (Cork), Una O'Connor (Dublin), Sophia Brack (Dublin), Deirdre Hughes (Tipperary), Angela Downey Browne (Kil kenny).

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