No divided loyalty for Down chairman Jack Devaney as Longford travel to Newry for Division Three clash
DOWN chairman Jack Devaney will welcome some familiar faces to Pairc Esler tomorrow night when his adopted county hosts his native Longford in a crucial Division Three clash.
The unbeaten midlanders leapfrogged Down to take second spot in the table in the previous round of fixtures. They beat Leitrim, while Paddy Tally’s side fell short against Cork at Pairc Ui Chaoimh and those results mean that fourth-placed Down must make home advantage count tomorrow night or risk falling off the pace in the promotion race.
Devaney’s loyalty will certainly not be divided: “For me it’s about getting a win and that’s for Down,” he says, but he retains strong links to Longford where his involvement with the GAA began with his local Killoe Robert Emmet’s club.
“My home club are the county champions in Longford, the captain of the team is from Killoe,” the Bredagh clubman explained.
“I still have a lot of close links. I was down at the annual dinner recently and I’d be a relatively regular visitor home. Football was always at the heart of things for my family and my community and I would always feel that my local club and my local area nurtured in me the love for the Association and I’ll always be thankful for that.
“Like a lot of places in rural Ireland, football was God and the GAA was as well. It tied so many things together for us and gave people a very strong sense of belonging and identity. No matter where you move in life, whether it’s from Longford to Down or elsewhere, you’re going to carry that forward.”
Devaney has been involved in Gaelic Games in Down for 15 years since moving north to study at Queen’s University. He was elected chairman of the Down County Board in December and explained that coaching (“maximising the potential that is there”), refereeing (“focussing on recruitment and up-skilling”) and the completion of the Down centre of excellence at Ballykinlar are among his priorities.
“Our approach so far has been sensible,” he says of the Ballykinlar project.
“We haven’t just jumped into it or put a timeframe on it. We know it shouldn’t be the only priority that we have and it shouldn’t leave GAA members in the county with a legacy of debt behind them. We’re taking our time on it but we will probably have a complete picture in terms of when it can happen, what the road forward will be and what the avenues of funding we can explore are within this year.”
Of course he also wants to see Down reclaim their place among Ireland’s elite and said the success of county champions Kilcoo, who won the Ulster Championship last year and went on to reach the All-Ireland final, felt “like a major breakthrough” to him.
“I would love to see a lot of progress for our teams on the field of play in both codes,” he said.
“Anyone coming into a position would love to see that and there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes and we would like to reap the reward of that at some stage. I would still feel that Down is in a strong position overall but we haven’t been challenging for major honours in quite a number of years.
“We know that we have drifted a little bit over the last six-to-eight years and we know that you can no longer assume that success will come or that things will happen for you out of the blue. It takes a lot of work, it requires putting the right people and the right structures in place and that all takes time.
“We’re not going to demand success in the short term but we know that we have a lot of good players in the county. In the short term it’s about getting out of Division Three and moving up the ladder but you have to have a medium-to-long-term view.”