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Ann Downey

Ann Downey

SPORTSFILE

Ann Downey

If Ann Downey is viewed from the outside as a woman in a man's world, she just sees herself as a manager trying to get the best from her team.

Her appointment as boss of the Ballyragget intermediate hurlers made headlines across the GAA world, in the same way that anyone taking the road less travelled does. For her part, Downey will get on with the business of restoring her side's senior status, but if a by-product of her appointment is that more women put their name forward to take charge of men's teams, then that's OK too.

"It wasn't something that was new to me," Downey said of her latest role. "I worked with the guys when we won the minor in 2008 and we won the U-21 in 2011. Back then, there wasn't that many female coaches getting involved. Certainly, there has been great interest this year that I have gone back in managing Ballyragget, but I don't really see it any different than managing the girls.

"It's the same skill-set, the same level of commitment, the same professionalism. Certainly I would hope that it opens the door. I know coaches and lady managers that would be far better than I am. I hope that they get their opportunity. And if they're asked, that they will come to the fore."

Downey's credentials for the role were strong. As a player she won 12 camogie All-Irelands with the Cats and from 2016-2019 she guided Kilkenny to four consecutive All-Ireland appearances, winning the 2016 title. That All-Ireland success was the county's first O'Duffy Cup win since 1994, when Downey was captain.

On that basis, handing her the reins was hardly a massive leap of faith by the club, even though she had hoped to get the job almost a decade ago.

"The guys were senior last year - beaten in the relegation play-off by Bennettsbridge. So immediately, when they went down, the management team stepped down," she explained, at the launch of the latest episode of AIB's new series - The Toughest Summer.