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'I thought I was top dog!' | Ann Downey on sibling rivalry with twin Angela

Shane Hannon
Shane Hannon

10:48 20 Aug 2020

Kilkenny camogie legend Ann Downey says there was always a healthy sibling rivalry between herself and her twin sister Angela, often exacerbated by outside comments.

Ann is currently the manager of Ballyragget's men's club side in her native Kilkenny, while she herself took charge of the Cats' camogie team during a successful period, before stepping aside last year.

Downey won 12 All-Ireland medals as a player at inter-county level, and national club medals with St Paul's and Lisdowney, all alongside her twin sister Angela.

Ann told us on OTB AM that one experience was she was younger highlighted the pressure on both girls to perform at the same level as one another.

"My father had a business here in the village, and a man Paddy Conway would see us in the back yard hitting the ball and entertaining ourselves.

"His daughter at the time Mary was very involved with St Paul's, and he had said to her 'There's two young ones above there in the village, you should get them to join St Paul's.'

"We played junior with St Paul's for a long time until we made the senior grade. In 1974 Kilkenny had their first All-Ireland win and clubs mushroomed.

"We would have been only 12 or 13, Angela played her first All-Ireland when she was 15.

"I thought I was top dog at the time to be honest, and I discovered to my horror one day in the shop that I wasn't top dog! A man came into the shop and he asked my father was this 'the good one or the bad one'?

"That was a rude awakening I can tell you, my father brushed that one aside fairly quickly! I suppose in time I realised that Angela had the skill that I hadn't.

"I was a work-horse, I knew where she would be on the pitch, but could I get a goal to win a match? No. Could Angela? Certainly - she had the talent and the speed so we put that one to bed fairly quickly.

"We played with one another then when we went to Castlecomer school, and we had a great year in Callan, we did our last year as boarders.

"It really joined us together, and St Paul's at the time were going well in the club championship as well so it was all camogie, camogie, camogie. It was our lives really.

19 August 2020; Pictured is St Pats Ballyragget Intermediate Hurling Manager and multiple All-Ireland winning former camogie player and manager Ann Downey ahead of Chapter Five of AIB’s The Toughest Summer, a documentary which tells the story of Summer 2020 which saw an unprecedented halt to Gaelic Games. The series is made up of five webisodes as well as a full-length feature documentary to air on RTÉ One on Tuesday, August 25th at 10.10pm. Ann Downey features in the fifth webisode that will be available on AIB’s YouTube channel from 7am on Thursday 20th August at www.youtube.com/aib. For exclusive content and to see why AIB are backing Club and County follow us @AIB_GAA on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"Study was out the door for me anyway, Angela was more interested in the studying than I was, it was a great get-out clause."

Ann says that as is the case with human nature, she remembers the negative comments more vividly than the positive ones.

"I think at the time he [my Dad] was a little bit taken aback and he said 'Ah sure they're both good in their own way'.

"He was more shocked I'd say than I was and at the time he maybe didn't realise I had heard it, but of course the negatives probably always stick with you.

"If someone praises you and tells you you're great, when there's a question mark put over that, it's probably something that sticks in your brain forever.

"You had in the classroom, the old story of 'Why can't you be like your sister, why can't you be as good as your sister?', all these negatives that I suppose people say and don't realise the impact they can have on the child at the time.

"In the academic world I wasn't as bright as Angela, I certainly had no interest in books at the time. I remember at one stage probably having to pay Angela to do a composition for me, so certainly they were justitifed having said that to me!"

Ann Downey was speaking to us ahead of Chapter Five of AIB’s The Toughest Summer, a documentary which tells the story of Summer 2020 which saw an unprecedented halt to Gaelic Games.

The series is made up of five webisodes as well as a full-length feature documentary to air on RTÉ One on Tuesday, August 25th at 10.10pm. Ann Downey features in the fifth webisode that will be available on AIB’s YouTube channel from 7am on Thursday 20th August at www.youtube.com/aib.

For exclusive content and to see why AIB are backing Club and County follow us @AIB_GAA on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Download the brand new OTB Sports App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!

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AIB Angela Downey Ann Downey Camogie GAA Kilkenny Kilkenny Camogie The Toughest Summer

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