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Hoping to become the norm, Wexford camogie turmoil and dealing with All-Ireland club final loss

Wexford hurling coach Mags D’Arcy gives her take on a wide range of topics.

IT MUST BE said that Wexford legend Mags D’Arcy is blazing a trail. But the inter-county hurling coach wants it to be the norm.

Bord Gáis Energy GAA Announcement Mags D'Arcy at a recent Bord Gáis Energy announcement. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

You may have seen a few of the headlines already today: in short, she wants female coaches in the GAA to be a done thing. She doesn’t understand the hype herself.

It’s towards the end of our conversation that her role under Davy Fitzgerald comes up. Her All-Ireland club final loss with St Martin’s and Wexford camogie’s recent turmoil are among the main topics up for discussion before that, but her involvement in the Wexford backroom team must be acknowledged accordingly.

You can almost hear her smile through the phone as she speaks ever so enthusiastically about it, and then she laughs as she refers back to an earlier interview with a different GAA journalist.

Are you sick of people asking you about it, he asked.

“Look to be honest, I’d like it to be normalised, of course,” the four-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper tells The42 

“I do not want headlines but it seems to come with the territory. Hopefully that will change. I go about my job. People talk about, ‘Oh you’re an inspiration, you’re a role model’… if it inspires others, great.

“But my primary objective is to win. I’m very competitive as a player. I don’t look for hype as a player, I block it out and I want to do the same as a coach. I’d like to just get on with my job at hand.

“I’d like it to be a normal situation but I understand that people love to talk. I don’t want headlines but it seems to come with the territory, that’s it.

“Listen, Davy’s no fool. I am confident and professional in my role. He does not entertain substandard work, nor do I. He’s been great to me over the last two years, he’s been a real mentor – as have the rest of the backroom team.”

That’s pretty much that. 

Davy Fitzgerald with his management in the stand D'Arcy and the Wexford hurling backroom team. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

There was plenty more to chat to the 31-year-old about and hear her opinion on. D’Arcy, a two-time All-Star, played her last game for Wexford in the 2017 league. She took a step back, as she puts it. She never officially retired.

Life took over. It happens. She focused on things to further her career, she went back to college to do a Masters in Digital Marketing, she jumped into coaching, concentrated on club camogie, created more time for family, her partner and friends; the list is endless.

“Oh, it’s not up to me,” she says when she’s asked if she’d rule out a return to the inter-county camogie scene completely.

“If I get asked a question, I can only answer the question in that moment in time as to what’s going on with me there and then.

“Maybe the landscape might change further down the line but I’m fully committed to my club and I’m fully committed to my role with Wexford GAA and my involvement there at the moment. That’s taking up enough time!”

“I think it’s the eight senior championship camogie teams that we have, every single one of those has a goalkeeper,” she adds. “I’m not the only goalkeeper in Wexford.

“There should be a focus on developing goalkeepers in every county, just so you’re not reliant on the person that has been there, that carries the mantle the whole time. Another generation will always step up.”

The St Martin’s star still goes to all the matches, she says. She supports the girls no end. A great bunch, she smiles.

Mags D'Arcy D'Arcy in her role as coach with the Wexford hurlers last summer. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“They fight in Wexford spirit and passion which we had [done] for years. They still carry that. It’s now that they hopefully have the structure implemented from the new management team, they’ll hopefully lead the girls to newer pastures. That would be the hope.”

It sure would, particularly after Wexford camogie being in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in 2019. The Leinster county ended a disastrous Division 1 league campaign with relegation to the second tier, but it was off-the-field matters dictated that downfall.

In January, they were unable to field a team against Cork with no manager in place. Martin Carey, brother of Kilkenny legend DJ, had been in charge, but ended his reign prior to the start of the league. 

With Buffers Alley man Barry Kennedy now at the helm, D’Arcy is happy to see some sort of regularity back, and is hoping the Model side can push on now.

“There’s people in power everywhere, be it in any organisation,” she begins, when she’s asked for her take on what had occurred.

“You see it in the FAI,” she says with a giggle for the week that’s in it. “You have it in rugby, the GAA and it’s for the people in power in order to put the right people in place to nurture the talent of the players in any organisation. That’s what our county board is there for in Wexford camogie. It’s their role to do that. 

“They’ve done it, so let’s see where it takes Wexford camogie over the summer. It was sad to see it all unfold but at the same time, it’s great to see it back.

“People are enthusiastic about the future now. You have to remember we have three secondary school camogie teams in Wexford who have achieved great things in Leinster and the All-Ireland in different grades over the last year. Also, the club scene’s very strong. Look, the future’s bright hopefully.”

Mags D’Arcy Taking a puckout in the 2018 All-Ireland club final. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

With the St Martin’s contingent back in harness after their club final loss to Slaughtneil, she feels that that, of course, is a positive but it’s ‘not the be all and end all’. No county can be reliant on one club.

Optimistic, she sees opportunity in the drop to Division 2.

“That’s a challenge in itself to get back up to Division 1. That challenge should be met as an opportunity.

“They should be taking that opportunity in a positive light, and just going, ‘This is something that we can aim for now. This is the next stepping stone for the league next year — to be competitive in that and potentially go for the win. That’s their marker now.

“That’s their next step. Obviously there’s the Leinster championship and [All-Ireland] senior championship coming up. They’ll want to be as competitive as possible, and bring a bit of structure and system to their play — to start enjoying the game again.

“I know it’s all about participation and all that but at the same time, you enjoy winning. That’s where the enjoyment comes from. Hopefully they can bring a bit of that back this summer.”

While she’s had plenty of glory days on the inter-county scene, she’s been no stranger to success of late with her club. 

Senior county champions in 2017 and 2018, St Martin’s lifted their first Leinster crown last November and followed that up with an All-Ireland final appearance. 

Slaughtneil proved too strong at Croke Park as the Derry Girls sealed three-in-a-row in the snow but while it was a bitter pill to swallow, D’Arcy takes great encouragement from the Piercestown-based club’s brilliant voyage.

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Mags D’Arcy and Cliodhna Ni Mhianain Battling for possession during that game. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Listen, it’s been a tremendous journey with the club over the past three years,” she smiles. “We’ve been improving each year. Year in, year on.

“But ultimately yes, of course it was disappointing. The day itself, it’s more so disappointing when your family and your friends and the parish is there, and you feel like you don’t perform to your full potential, as cliché as that sounds. All you want to do is go out and give the best game you have in the best stadium in the country. 

“I know myself individually, kind of reflecting back there was one or two scenarios that happened within the game that maybe gave the opposition a platform. I’ll have to take those learnings on board. I’m around a long time to know that you can’t be making those errors on big days.

“I think about it every day. I’ve thought about the game every day since and I probably will for a long, long time to come.”

She asks: “Was it a missed opportunity? Probably, but at the same we’ll just try to get back there again, obviously.

“All of that doesn’t take away from the fact that Slaughtneil are a superb team. Like come on, they’re incredibly intelligent camogie players. They play for each other, with each other. 

“We were disappointed in our performance but at the same time, Slaughtneil are a fantastic team and we wish them well in their victory.”

They go again, of course. The league is up and running, and an extremely competitive Wexford championship is just around the corner. Each game at a time for this young team – the average age on the team is 21 if you take D’Arcy and her full-back out — and they’ll build onwards and upwards.

Bord Gáis Energy GAA Announcement D'Arcy will be undertaking a mentor role with Bord Gáis Energy training camps this summer. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

A step further come March 2020 perhaps?

That’s how it looks from the outside looking in, she nods. But it’s about much more than that.

“We want to make sure that we’re enjoying ourselves,” she concludes.

“You have to enjoy the journey. When you’re competing and competing and competing, it takes a lot of commitment and a lot of energy and focus.

“You have to be enjoying what you’re doing and that’s the most important thing for us. 

 Bord Gáis Energy recently announced the extension of its sponsorship of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship guaranteeing three more years of unmissable GAA rewards for its customers, including #HurlingToTheCore training camps. In attendance at the launch was Mags D’Arcy of Wexford. For more information, see: bordgaisenergyrewards.ie.

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Emma Duffy

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