Mags D’Arcy wants female coaches in men’s hurling to be normalised
Making it to semi-finals in 2019 All-Ireland is the focus for Wexford goalkeeping coach
Wexford goalkeeping coach Mags D’Arcy: ‘I’m a winner, I’m really competitive.’ Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
At the end of it all, she’s uncomfortably aware that her gender kind of is a story. Wexford’s Mags D’Arcy, four-time All-Ireland winner and twice goalkeeping All Star, has an extensive coaching CV but her position as a woman working with a men’s team, the county hurlers, sometimes appears to be treated as an anomaly.
“Yeah, there seems to be a bit of an echo in the room, to be honest,” she says. “I’d like for it to be normalised. I don’t want headlines; I really don’t want headlines but it seems to come with the territory.
“I go about my job and look, I’ve been told that it has inspired other girls and other females to get involved, that it’s given them the confidence to get involved. If it does inspire others, that’s great but my primary objective is to be involved and to win games.
“I’m a winner. I’m really competitive; that’s just in my nature. Do I want the conversation to continue? Not really. I’d like it to be normalised.”
She is happier talking about her work as a goalkeeping coach with Wexford, a spot-lit role you’d imagine under a manager David Fitzgerald who was one of the best ‘keepers in what was a golden age in the 1990s and 2000s for the position.
“I’m loving it,” she says. “I’m really enjoying it, the high performance element to the environment. Look, Davy’s no fool. I’m competent at what I do; I’m professional in my role. He doesn’t entertain substandard work nor do I. That’s kind of where it stands. To be honest, he’s been a real mentor for me through it all.”
Over the three years of Fitzgerald’s management, Wexford have achieved a number of things. They’ve stayed in the top division in the league, reaching the knockout stages every season, and made the last six in the All-Ireland series but the need is there to kick on and make the semi-finals.
According to D’Arcy that is the focus in 2019.
“Yeah, there’s definitely another gear we can go to. The boys know that themselves. We’re in year three now, the whole team, management and players. We’re all one family but we’re all bitterly disappointed with how the championship ended last year. That kind of gives us the hunger now to push on and to know that listen, we can get to that stage but we know we can do better as well.
“Look, [in the past three years] the guys have beaten every top team that there is in the country, in the league or championship. They know that they’re well capable of pushing things on, on any given day but for us it’s just about getting that consistency of performance. We know if there’s consistency in our performance, even little things like free count and errors on our own behalf, if we can get those little things tweaked, and again that word consistency comes back into play, if we can get a consistent performance, then guys are well capable of winning whatever honours they want to.”
Last year Wexford made the cut in the new round-robin Leinster championship, coming in third behind Galway and Kilkenny. They hadn’t the ideal schedule, being one of the counties required to play on four successive weeks and arguably it’s not great this time around either with both away matches, against Dublin and Galway up first.
D’Arcy says that this isn’t an issue.
“No, doesn’t bother us. It’s nice to have the break because that wasn’t the case last year but home or away, that doesn’t matter, and the opposition is the opposition, a field is a field, but it is nice to have the break of one week with two games either side.”
And ultimately a job is a job, a coach is a coach who gets judged on performance.
“Yeah, and that’s the way it is. I get on very well with the whole squad, all the lads in different ways. The backroom team is the same, I’m just one of the backroom team, that’s the way it is. Gender is no issue at all. So yeah, that’s it.”