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'No gender' in life under Davy Fitz, gains in the GAA and a recent learning trip to Arsenal

Wexford legend Mags D’Arcy is enjoying her ‘internship’ in the Wexford senior hurling backroom team.

“NOT ONLY DO I not have an All-Ireland club medal, but I don’t have an MBE either,” Wexford legend Mags D’Arcy grins to rapturous laughter around the room.

Davy Fitzgerald with his management in the stand Mags D'Arcy amd Davy Fitzs' management team. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The four-time All-Ireland senior inter-county camogie championship winner and Davy Fitzgerald’s hurling coach is under the spotlight at Liberty Insurance’s Women in Sport: The Coaching Effect event, alongside England Netball Coach Tracey Neville MBE and Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes MBE.

D’Arcy, a two-time All-Star winning goalkeeper, is just off the back of a heartbreaking All-Ireland final loss with her club St Martin’s in Croke Park on Sunday, but is in high spirits against the odds.

“My journey isn’t as well developed as the girls in terms of coaching,” she says, 12 months since she confirmed her addition to Fitzpatrick’s backroom team at the same event in 2018.

“I’m a complete rookie at this stage in my career. Over the last 13 to 14 months, I’ve really seen the value of creating an inner circle and surrounding yourself with the right people. I’m very lucky to have a very supportive partner who allows me to follow my passion.

“Creating the right environment is incredibly important to be able to harness those opportunities. To be in the right position in life to be able to take the opportunity once it comes. Maybe I’ve grown up a little bit since last year,” she smirks.

“I do see the value now — when you’re in the thick of things and putting in serious hours — the value of having the right people around you. Your friends and your family, that’s so important for me anyway. It’s environmental. That’s number one. 

“Number two: role models. You don’t see yourself as a role model, you see yourself as someone going in and getting the job done. Step up and deliver what you have to do, look to be challenged at every turn.”

The 31-year-old has experienced absolutely no issues so far as a female coach — she sees herself as just a coach, plain and simple, exactly as her players and the rest of the backroom team do — and she was, in no way, forced to have a thicker skin from the get-go.

Mags D'Arcy In goal with Wexford in 2016. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

She had the confidence, and that was noted.

“My own confidence was backed by a gentleman who gave me an opportunity, and that man’s name is Davy Fitzgerald,” she smiles.

“There was no gender. There was someone who has achieved something and who maybe brings something different. That’s a sign of a strong leader who is willing to look outside the box and not just go to the normal tool kit and bring in the norm.

“I was given an opportunity to come in last year and link in with the head goalkeeping coach. To assist him and to bring new ideas — any ideas. It was a great learning curve for me to be involved. This year I’ve taken a wider, broader stance. I’m involved in outfield collective play as well. I do a lot of face-to-face with the player.”

With Chelsea Women’s Super League manager Hayes to her immediate right, D’Arcy alludes to her set-up, and her players in London. 

“When you’re in the professional side of sport, you have more contact with players,” she continues. “There’s an opportunity to go in from nine to four each day and see the player, talk to the player, get to know the player.

“In GAA circles, you have three to four hours in the evenings. Players are coming in, stressed coming from work with stuff going on in their lives. They’re there to train.

“What has evolved in the game, I think, is getting to know the player outside of the training environment. That will only bring them on in the training environment too.

“I’ve loved every minute of it. I have everything positive to say about my experience. The lads are great. Davy’s a mentor. The other coaches are mentors to me as well. I have a lot to learn still, I put my hands up there.”

Mags D'Arcy Wexford hurling coach Mags D'Arcy. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

While she says she puts them up, D’Arcy is taking that need to learn more into her own hands and using her initiative. 

Valentine’s Day this year was an interesting one, — she again thanks her partner — spent in London, putting in a few valuable hours with the Arsenal Women’s Super League team. 

Their manager, Joe Montemurro, welcomed her in with open arms to watch a training session. ‘This is just going to be everything beyond my expectation,’ D’Arcy thought to herself before watching Irish duo Katie McCabe and Louise Quinn run through their daily routine with their side.

“I was just looking at it going, ‘Isn’t it fantastic to be a player able to just rock in as professionally as you can under a great coaching staff, and to be looked after to the best of their ability.’ Everything they were doing, we do it back here in Ireland in the GAA. 

“There was no differential in terms of what we’re trying to achieve: the game itself, the movement, the positioning of players, tactical work. We do it here but just on a lesser scale in terms of face-to-face time. 

“We talk about gains in the game. Gains in the game in the GAA for me is getting to develop the player off the field so when they come to training, the team has the confidence to develop to a greater height.”

As she touched on earlier, being a role model is a big thing for D’Arcy. 

She tells a story of how in Wexford Park a few weeks ago, she was walking towards the dressing rooms with two of the senior hurlers when she heard a voice. 

Mags, we want your autograph…

It was the father of a young girl, with D’Arcy more than happy to oblige as the two Model men’s stars shuffled on towards their destination, slightly bemused.

Mags Darcy celebrates after the game Celebrating St Martin's All-Ireland semi-final win. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“We do knock a bit of craic out of it — the way the men haven’t achieved anything in a while, the way the women have,” she laughs, before realising she may have stuck her foot in it. 

The rescue attempt.

“Now, the landscape is very much changing.”

Too late.

Wexford camogie, is of course, going through a turbulent time at the minute. They were unable to field a team in an early round of the league and having lost their manager, there’s been plenty of backlash since.

MC Joanne Cantwell stalls her, prying for D’Arcy’s opinion or inside knowledge, but that’s to no avail. 

“We’re here for a specific reason today,” the Wexford coach puts her foot down, before picking up where she was.

“To be honest, I do take my role very seriously. I do want to make sure that I am challenging myself at every turn, that I’m exposing myself to as many people in the industry, and as many teams in as many sports to upskill continuously.

“In this game, once you are the same as everyone else, you’re pretty much a static commodity. You have to be evolving, your thinking has to be evolving. It has helped my general play as a current club player. 

“Sunday didn’t go to the manner we had wished, but that’s a learning curve for me as a player and me as a wannabe coach in years to come.”

After a bit more chat and further questioning of Hayes and Neville, it’s back to D’Arcy for her parting shot.

Mags D’Arcy dries her hurley during a downpour D'Arcy dejected in Croke Park on Sunday. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Cantwell is straight in: does she see herself as the next Wexford camogie or hurling manager?

“I’m still at my learning phase, I’m not getting… you’re trying to take a headline there!” she responds, to more laughter and applause from the audience. “Davy is not under threat by anything.

“I think before you assert yourself in that that position, you have to do your internship as such. That’s what I frame what I’m doing at the moment.

“I couldn’t be in a better environment for it. I feel quite lucky to be in the environment I’m in. For Wexford hurling, it’s three years of a three-year plan. The guys are getting stronger, more conditioned, they’re faster. It’s going to be a very exciting summer for Wexford hopefully.

“We’ve utilised a lot of the panel in the league. We’re at a stage now where we have options off the bench, something every team are aspiring to have after Limerick’s state of play last year. It’s at the point now where we’re ready for silverware.”

Silverware in the league, is that a priority?

“Everything’s a priority, Joanne. Every game is a priority.”

“One game at a time, ok,” Cantwell concludes with a smile and her own warm reception from the crowd.

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Emma Duffy

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