success story

25 years at the helm, and Francie Coleman's eyes never leave the prize

Donaghmoyne are contesting their fifth senior All-Ireland title on Sunday.

IT TAKES A good manager to get their side to an All-Ireland final.

It takes an even better manager to win one.

But it takes someone exceptional to keep their side at the top year in, year out.

Donaghmoyne celebrate with the trophy Donaghmoyne were crowned All-Ireland champions in 2015. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Francie Coleman has lead his Donaghmoyne side to seven senior All-Ireland finals, winning four of those. Under his charges, the Monaghan club have been uncontested at county level year after year, and have won ten of the last 12 Ulster titles.

Involved since 1991, Coleman is incredibly modest when praised on his achievements, leaving most of the credit to his management team and to the girls themselves.

“I’ve been involved a long time. Since football started in Monaghan, I’ve been there; carrying the water, the balls and doing a bit. I used to do a bit of coaching and training myself but we have Annmarie Burns, she’s took over the coaching the last couple of years, the training and Noel Marron. He’s a very good coach. They’re two great club people.

“They’re a wonderful bunch of girls. They’re there a long time and seem to be going as well as ever, they’re so keen on training and looking forward to games. They don’t like losing. That’s the motto I think, they don’t like to be beat.

“That keeps them going, they’ll fight ’till the end. They’re just a wonderful bunch, it’s not often you come across a bunch like that. But they’re there and they’re going to be there for another year or two I think.”

25 years at the helm is quite some time though. He surely must get sick of it sometimes? The answer is no though, success makes everything worthwhile.

“It is a long year, and probably for most of the year we don’t have much competition. There’s very little club football in Monaghan, very little opposition in Monaghan, but once we get through that then Ulster starts and you’re kept busy, if you’re lucky enough, for a month or so. It is worthwhile then when you get that far, it makes it all worthwhile.”

And success is something that’s spurring Coleman’s side on once again this year. The drive for five [All-Ireland senior titles] is well and truly alive, and Donaghmoyne are hoping to write their own piece of history by winning back-to-back titles for the first time.

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“I’d love to do back-to-back and I know the girls would love to do it, and as I’ve said before we had the tragedies in the club last year and not that long ago, we’d still like to do it for them,” Coleman told The42 at the media day for the ladies club finals.

“It’d be no greater reward than to do back-to-back. They can count themselves a good club team then when they do back-to-back.”

So far, 2016 is going to plan. Having beaten Tyrone side St Macartans in the Ulster final, Donaghmoyne then edged past Cork and Munster champions Mourneabbey in the All-Ireland semi-final.

“They were a very good team Mourneabbey, and I think our fitness told in the end. It could have went either way the game, but we’re just lucky enough to get the couple of points at the right time.

“Our goalie [Linda Martin] saved us early on for the penalty, and we got maybe a lucky goal as well, but saying that I think we had maybe 70% of the play. It’s just that we couldn’t score, we’d a lot of wides on the day but hopefully that’s out of the system now.

“Our defence was magnificent; our goalie and our defence, our centre field. Saying that, our forwards played well and defended well it’s just the shooting boots weren’t on on the day. The whole team played very well I thought. But our our backs were terrific.

Having held Mourneabbey scoreless from play except for a Bríd O’Sullivan goal, Coleman is hoping for a similar performance against Leinster champions Foxrock-Cabinteely in the final.

“If we can keep out the goals [we can win]. It’s very hard to score goals on our defence and our goalie. If our defence are up, if we can hold the goal-less or to one goal or that, I think our forwards will maybe score enough to win it. But it’s all on the day, ladies football is all on the day and if we had the wee bit of luck I think we’re in with a chance.”

Francie Coleman and Noel Marron Coleman (middle) with Noel Marron. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The Dublin side are no new competition for Donaghmoyne, as they both contested the All-Ireland semi-final last year. Experience stood to Coleman’s troops in the end though as they booked their final spot and went on to be crowned All-Ireland champions.

Despite the fact that it’s their first All-Ireland final appearance, Foxrck-Cabinteely have another year under their belt from the last time the sides met, and a year more experience at the top level, which Coleman is wary of.

“They’re going to be very hard to beat, I know they’re going to be up for it, they’re going to be fit, they’re carrying no passengers. They’ve players from everywhere and I know they’re going to be hungry for it.

“There’s not going to be much in it, I don’t think. If they do beat us, well and good. It’ll take a good team to beat us I think. If they do, good look to them. We’ll do our best.”

“All these [Donaghmoyne] girls, well 12 or 13 of them played in last years’ final. They know what it’s all about and they will give it their best. Whether their best is good enough on the day, time will tell.”

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