Saturday 22 July 2017

D'Arcy older and wiser after baptism of fire

The young Wexford goalkeeper already has a wealth of experience, writes Marie Crowe

When Mags D'Arcy was just 15 she got the call-up to the Wexford senior camogie team. Without thinking, the goalkeeper jumped at the opportunity.

After a few months of hard training, she got the nod for a championship game against Tipperary in Semple Stadium, her idol Jovita Delaney was in the opposite goal and four-time All-Ireland winner Deirdre Hughes was playing at full-forward. D'Arcy was understandably excited -- it was games like these she had always dreamed about, but it didn't go to plan.

"Seven goals went past me," she says, looking back. "It was awful and after the game we went back to Wexford and into the pub. I stood at the back with my orange juice and The Sunday Game came on, people around me were saying 'who is that Wexford goalkeeper she got destroyed'-- and I was thinking 'what am I after getting myself in for?'"

D'Arcy wonders now if it was madness going into the senior goals at 15. But taking everything into consideration she is glad she did it.

"I'm only 23 now and have two All-Ireland medals and I'm hoping for a third today. Learning from those mistakes and experiences made me the person and player I am."

In 2007, Wexford won their first All-Ireland in 32 years. They had been knocking on the door for a while, suffering a few semi-final losses before eventually taking the title.

In the years leading up to the victory, a crop of young players including D'Arcy had came through the ranks to merge with the experience of áine Codd, Kate Kelly and Aoife O'Connor. In the final they ended Cork's bid for three in a row in front of 33,000 people at Croke Park.

Last year they repeated that feat, beating Galway by two points to add another title to their tally. That time round though there were only 17,000 people watching the final and D'Arcy feels that the game could be promoted better.

"It's very hard to deal with the lack of coverage when you see the build-up to the Kilkenny and Tipperary hurling final last week compared to what we got in the run-up to our game. But the camogie association are not at fault, they can only do so much.

"It's up to the media to come on board and work with the female sports associations in Ireland. And it's not just the Gaelic games, the women's national soccer and hockey teams are doing very well and they don't get the publicity they deserve."

D'Arcy would like to see ladies football and camogie coming together as one association so the two sports can work side by side on promoting their games and improving player welfare.

"If you had two senior finals on in one day, camogie and ladies football, you would definitely get 40-50,000 at it. In order for ladies Gaelic games to try and get to that level, they will have to take that step forward.

"In fairness to the camogie and ladies football associations, they are doing the right things with social media and a lot of work is done at ground level but if we want to try and catch up with the men's games, something will have to be done."

D'Arcy doesn't feel that joining the Gaelic Players' Association is the answer. In fact, she doesn't feel they would benefit at all from coming under their umbrella.

She says Wexford are looked after well, they get tea and sandwiches after training and if they need anything they can ask. But in general she thinks that player welfare is still an issue within camogie.

"There is a player welfare committee in camogie, they work from Croke Park. It was set up last year but as of yet I haven't seen any developments being made. They don't go out of their way to tell us what they are there for and that needs to be looked at."

Last week president of the camogie association Joan O'Flynn spoke out against the Hunky Dory advertisements which appeared in national newspapers. The ads showed scantily-clad models in county colours playing football.

"I think it is disappointing that when there is large-scale coverage like that that it doesn't emphasise the skill and the athleticism of the athlete," says O'Flynn. "It is preferential that it emphasises abilities and skills of the players rather than focusing on anything else."

Although D'Arcy agrees with O'Flynn, she feels that if camogie players were featured in the ads then the match would be sold out today.

"If it was the first week in January people would probably laugh at it but it's bad timing with the finals on. I'd back Joan in what she was saying but at the same time if that was us in the pictures we'd have no problem filling Croke Park."

Today's meeting between the sides is their fourth of the year and a repeat of last year's final.

Galway have made a number of positional switches since last year, moving Therese Maher to centre-back. Her match-up with Una Leacy will be one of the crucial points of the game, while the duel between captain Brenda Hanney and Catherine O'Loughlin is another vital match-up.

Wexford's forwards can be hard held when in full flow and how the Galway defence fares against the talents of Leacy, Katrina Parrock, Kate Kelly and co will decide the destiny of the title.

Galway: S Earner; T Manton, S Cahalan, L Ryan; AM Hayes, T Maher, H Cooney; N Kilkenny, AM Starr; N Coen, M Conroy, A Connolly; T Ruttledge; B Hanney, V Curtin.

Wexford: M D'Arcy; C O'Connor, C O'Loughlin, K Atkinson; N Lambert, M Leacy, A O'Connor; D Codd, J Dwyer; K Kelly, U Leacy, M O'Leary; L Holohan, U Jacob, K Parrock.

Galway v Wexford,

RTE 2, 4.0

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