Video: The Downey DNA and birth of a new cycling dynasty

Posted on: January 9th, 2018

Downey Seamus Sean Mark Commonwealth Games

Seamus, Sean and Mark Downey have fashioned a new Irish cycling dynasty down the years. They have five Commonwealth Games selections, an Olympics and a lot of major medals already to their names. And Mark is hoping the best is yet to come as he seeks to add more chapters to the family’s cycling story.


The Downey cycling family; Seamus, Sean and Mark


Growing up around bikes and with an Olympian father, it’s no surprise Sean and Mark Downey took to racing themselves.

However, what their father Seamus perhaps couldn’t foresee was how well his offspring would take to the bike game.

Last week Mark was named in Northern Ireland’s Commonwealth Games team.

He will fly out to the Gold Coast in April eight years after Sean made the journey to India for the first of his two Commonwealth Games appearances.

Seamus competed in the Games for the first time as a fresh-faced youngster in 1982.

Ironically, they were also in Australia – Brisbane the hosts – and Seamus was 21-years-old; the same age as Mark is now.

After the trip to Brisbane Seamus made it to LA for the 1984 Olympic Games.

He was in the mix with some good ones; Martin Earley, Paul Kimmage, Philip Cassidy and Gary Thomson also in the team.

Furthermore, Seamus would compete in his second Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986.


Downey Seamus Sean Mark Commonwealth Games

Dad Seamus with son Mark after he won Rás Dun na nGall in 2013 (Photo: Marian Lamb – Cycling Ulster)


The biggest winner from these Games’ appearances to date is Sean; collecting a team pursuit bronze in 2010.

Sean is a former An Post-Chainreaction rider. He represented Ireland at home and abroad for many years, including at World Championship level.

Mark knows something of medals too. In 2014 he took junior points race silver at the European Championships.

He followed that up with his U23 silver at the Euros in 2016. And he also took a gold medal in the points race at the UCI World Cup in Apeldoorn, Holland, that year.

And then another points race gold and a Madison silver medal followed at the UCI World Cup in Cali, Colombia, last February.

Downey then won his third gold medal in as many UCI World Cups. This time he claimed gold in the Madison with partner Felix English.

And last July he took the third European Championships medal of his career; bronze in the U23 points race.

The Belfast Telegraph has put together this great video interview of the three Downeys at home in Dromore.


“My father had a dairy farm here and I took up cycling to get away from it,” Séamus told the interviewer.

“I always had an interest in bikes, from a mechanical point of view. We had to walk to school and I got a bicycle from a dump and got bits and pieces to finish it myself.

“I went from that to cycling with my cousins and then we fell in with Banbridge Cycling Club and that was the start of it all.”

Sean says all he remembers was growing up around cycling as a kid.

“Dad was always building bikes, selling bikes,” said Sean.

“One day I was watching the Tour de France in the Lance Armstrong days and I asked dad if I could try a race.

“He never forced us to do  anything, we made all the decisions ourselves.”

Furthermore, Gold Coast-bound Mark is hoping he can follow in his father’s footsteps and get to the Olympics.

“I always said I wanted to be an Olympic medallist. It’s ambitious but we’re sports people. We have to be.

“If you stand up there, everybody remembers your name. That’s what’s driving my career.

“I’d love an Olympic medal and I’d love to ride into Paris in a Tour de France as well. To have the Downey dynasty standing there at the finish line would be special.”


Downey Seamus Sean Mark Commonwealth Games

Guaranteed Irish: Seamus Downey in his pomp