Wednesday 22 May 2019

'Disillusioned' cross-country chief Keenan-Buckley quits

Cliona Foley

IRISH athletics was dealt a major blow when one of its most respected figures, Anne Keenan-Buckley, announced her resignation as manager of the international cross-country teams.

Keenan-Buckley told the Irish Independent that she had stepped down "because of my disillusionment with the high performance management and the direction it is taking".

Only a week ago, Athletics Ireland (AI) released a statement denying speculation that she was quitting and insisting she was staying on, but Keenan-Buckley formally resigned yesterday.

The timing of her departure, which comes just six weeks ahead of the European cross-country championships, will cause serious questions to be asked within Athletics Ireland.

And the reason she has given for stepping down will inevitably bring further scrutiny on AI's high performance manager Kevin Ankrom, who came in for criticism after some very poor Irish performances at the London Olympics.

"This wasn't an easy decision for me," said Keenan-Buckley. "I first competed for Ireland when I was 14 and gave 36 years of my life to athletics at international level, before my recent involvement at team management level.

"But I felt I had exhausted every option, and I hope and believe I have taken the right decision in the best interests of all the athletes involved and myself."

The Laois woman has been an important mentor for young Irish cross-country runners over the past decade, and she was formally appointed to manage the Irish cross-country team in 2006.

Her involvement has coincided with some tangible successes, like the European men's U-23 team title two years ago and Fionnuala Britton's individual gold last year.

AI CEO John Foley said last night that she had made an "outstanding contribution" as team manager. Donegal's Teresa McDaid will take over as manager of the Irish team for the European cross-country championships in Budapest on December 9.

Irish Independent

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