Camogie legend Ann Downey has pleaded for more teams and clubs to invite women to get involved in coaching and management, saying the lack of them emerging in such roles continues to be “a cause for concern.”

The Kilkenny great will be an exception again this weekend as a rare female team manager (for SETU Carlow) at the culmination of the Electric Ireland Third Level Camogie Championships.

“I haven’t come across any (other female managers) this year. It’s a big commitment and college coaching is not easy,” Downey said, pointing to the complications of balancing it with players’ studies, exams and the mid-season Christmas break. But she believes the main reason for more women not emerging as senior coaches and managers at all levels of Gaelic games is “because they haven’t been asked.”

Downey said she wouldn’t be in her current role were it not for the close working relationship between the Kilkenny hurling and camogie management during her two stints as the Cats’ senior camogie manager.

“Mick (Dempsey, ex-Kilkenny hurling selector) has been involved with the college and I suppose when Carlow were looking for someone my name popped into his head because we’d worked together.

“Maybe (others) looking for a coach, the first thing they think of is a hurler. I think that’s what’s happening in clubs and colleges. “Great female coach/managers are there. They just need to be asked,” she stressed, pointing to the proliferation of coaching courses now available to upskill ex-players and welcoming the recent return of Fiona O’Driscoll to Cork camogie’s backroom team under new manager Ger Manley. “Fiona coached my club when I was playing with Lisdowney and we got to an All-Ireland with her. That was 20 years ago. Her coaching methods and player-management were brilliant. She’ll certainly be an asset.”

Downey said it was time for more clubs, colleges and counties to “take that leap of faith. “There are probably women in every club in every county who would love to get involved but if you’re not asked, you kind of can’t be seen to be putting yourself forward. If you do and you fail, that’s another kettle of fish. “If you see someone who has been through it all, knows what it takes to win an All-Ireland or knows what it takes to get a club team over the line, I think that they should be asked, whether it’s for a male team or a female team.”

Downey’s SETU Carlow face UCC in the semi-finals of the second-tier Purcell Cup on Saturday when defending Ashbourne Cup champions TU Dublin face DCU in the premier semi-finals which also pit former kingpins UL against UCC. She believes the fact that all the finals are being played indoors at the Connacht Dome will make it a particularly attractive and historic occasion.

“It’s going to be such a proud day for every player, whoever makes it, to play camogie there for the first time. The competition is unreal and to have it in the Dome is just adding to the whole weekend.”

The semi-finals of the Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup are being streamed on TG4’s YouTube channel this evening. The Electric Ireland Third Level Championships in Camogie take place on Saturday and Sunday.

This copy has been provided by Electric Ireland and written by Cliona Foley.


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