Thursday 23 January 2020

Downey targets promotion after securing historic Ballyragget position

 

Ann Downey
Ann Downey

Frank Roche

Kilkenny camogie legend Ann Downey has embraced a new managerial challenge - in charge of the Ballyragget men's intermediate hurlers.

Club officials have confirmed her appointment for the 2020 season as they seek an instant rebound in the wake of relegation from the senior grade last October.

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The multi-decorated Downey qualifies as among the first women, if not the first, to take charge of an adult men's club team in a heavyweight GAA county.

But the former Kilkenny camogie boss has taken the development in her stride, pointing to her previous roles with Ballyragget at minor 'B' and U21 'A' level (winning a county title in 2011) as well as a stint training Callan.

"I'm looking forward to it, because there are some great young lads that can hurl here," she explained.

As for her 2020 ambitions, she added: "You would hope to go back up, to be quite honest, that would be the aim."

Downey's credentials are impeccable, having been centrally involved in all 13 of Kilkenny's All-Ireland senior camogie triumphs.

In tandem with her twin sister Angela, Ann won 12 senior medals during her playing career. She went on to manage Kilkenny twice and, at the outset of her second spell, she bridged a 22-year gap by guiding the Cats to their 13th All-Ireland title in 2016.

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Her team suffered a triple-whammy of All-Ireland final losses, by just a point to Cork in 2017 and '18, and more comprehensively by Galway last year.

She subsequently stepped down but, in an interview last October, hinted that her days in management were not over.

"You never say no," she told The42. "I suppose my biggest problem is I'm not able to say no. You never say never. But at the moment, I'm trying to take a break, if that's possible."

Not for long, it has transpired, and Downey has now answered the call of her native Ballyragget.

As recently as October 2017, the St Patrick's club found itself embroiled in off-the-field controversy when lewd photos and video clips from a 21st birthday party - two days after the club had won the Kilkenny intermediate final - were posted on social media and went viral.

The racy juxtaposition of strippers and a cup in the same images, even at a non-GAA event, caused acute embarrassment for the club.

However, there is no mistaking the positive news value of this appointment.

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