A third Sigerson title, a first ever Purcell Cup and the All-Ireland Freshers ‘B’ football championship. 2012 was certainly a fruitful year for DCU GAA, but will the next 12 months be as laden with silverware? The College View spoke with the various GAA managers to learn of their aspirations for 2013.
Paul O’Brien (Fitzgibbon hurling)
Considering the bitter opening the Fitzgibbon hurlers had to the academic season, things now seem remarkably positive. Survival in Division 1 of the Higher Education League confirmed, 2013 may well be a year when DCU can start looking to cause an upset or two in third-level hurling.
As a calendar year, 2012 was largely satisfactory for Paul O’Brien. “From a Freshers’ perspective, last year, there were a group of good players who were brought into the senior panel in September,” explained the manager.
O’Brien has been delighted with the last three months and feels that considerable improvements have been made. For 2013, though, his mission is simple; “To get the best out of the team and the individuals on the team”.
The Fitzgibbon Cup will of course be paramount to the senior hurlers in the second semester and O’Brien feels hopeful of getting out of the group. The progression from the early stages would be commendable, but if the DCU senior hurling team manage to bridge the apparent gulf in class between themselves and the so-called “big hurling colleges”, it will certainly be a 2013 to remember.
Tommy Conroy (Intermediate football)
Tommy Conroy feels his players can go as far as they aspire to in the upcoming Championship campaign. Speaking about his desires for the year he said: “I wouldn’t say it’s what my aspirations are, it’s what the players’ aspirations are and what they want to achieve. We’ll facilitate that in whatever way we can and hopefully they’ll develop and improve as the year progresses. It would be nice to see the lads get on well and go quite far.”
A good league run has given his side a good platform to work from, but he will inevitably lose players to the Sigerson squad. “The preparations have been fine, we’ve had a good league run and the players are doing fine. Some of them will continue on into the Sigerson Cup panel and it’s a matter now of re-grouping and seeing what we can do over the next couple of weeks and we’ll see how we’re going. We’re here to help the players improve and go up to play the Sigerson and the O’Byrne Cup which would be great. That’s what we’re here for, the more that go up the better. It’s great to see lads getting involved at that level and everyone is happy to see them progressing.”
Ross Munnelly (Freshers football)
Following their narrow loss to UCD in the league final, the Fresher footballers will be looking to bounce back when their championship commences early in the New Year. Ross Munnelly, however, admits that his team is feeling “down and out” after what was a disappointing performance in the decider.
“It was a game that we could have possibly won if we had applied ourselves a bit better. Collectively, everyone is trying to get over it but we’re already back doing a bit of training before Christmas.
“We’ll be reviewing the squad and holding trials this week. We’ll be picking our championship squad after that.”
Munnelly is optimistic that come January, once the players are finished their exams, they’ll have clear minds ahead of the start of the championship.
“We want the players to represent DCU the best they can, so whether they win something or they don’t, we expect that they represent the university as they would do their counties and their clubs. If you can get that kind of team spirit and respect for representing the university, then the likes of winning matches and competing for championships take care of itself.”
With the draw for the Freshers championship taking place today, Munnelly insisted that he had no preferences as to what college DCU are pitted against.
“From our experience at this level, any team can beat anyone on a given day. We’re not looking for anybody in the draw, whoever comes in the first round we’ll give them the same amount of respect”
Niall English (Freshers hurling)
After mixed results in the league, manager Niall English relishes the challenge of the championship in 2013.
After building a team of multi-talented Freshers, English, along with co-manager David Faherty, now have the challenge of competing with “formidable opposition” and transforming his hard-working and skillful unit into real contenders.
“We are seen as the underdogs in hurling,” he said; “but we look forward to challenging formidable opposition in the championship.”
The task seems daunting but upon evidence of their league campaign, it’s clear the side have the hunger and determination to grab the championship by the scruff of the neck.
Branding the competition as “unique”, English will test his side’s grit and nerve as they face the traditional hurling third level strongholds. With a lack of clinical finishing thus far, this young side will look to galvanise as a unit and provide a sharper and more consistent cutting edge.
To bolster the squad’s ambitions, English has enlisted Seamus Hennessey as hurling coach. Hennessey, an All-Ireland senior medal winner with Tipperary in 2010 and a current member of the Tipperary panel, has the experience which may inspire the team to bring glory back to the Northside. Cormac Ryan, former Dublin Minor goalkeeper and a fresher from last year’s side completes the back room line-up.
Sean Flynn (Camogie)
After an unpleasant few weeks for DCU’s camogie team, assistant manager Sean Flynn is approaching the New Year with caution. Still with DIT to play before the Christmas break, Flynn has pledged to “take every game as it comes”.
DCU were recently beaten in the league semi-final by UL and, within a week, all hopes of qualifying for the Ashbourne Cup had been dashed after losing to NUIG in a play-off. It’s a harsh reality facing the panel after last year’s Purcell triumph and the assistant manager hopes that the issue of automatic Ashbourne qualification will be addressed in 2013. “It’s something that should be looked at,” according to Flynn.
Focusing on the Purcell campaign is another objective set out by Sean Flynn for next year. DCU won the Purcell Cup for the first time in February, comprehensively beating Queen’s University Belfast in the final. However, Flynn is adamant that it won’t be as easy this season but gives his team every chance of back-to-back trophies if concentration is maintained; “The main thing is that we keep our focus”.
Mark Fitzpatrick (Ladies football)
If the DCU ladies football sides have one mantra for 2013, it will be not to rest on their laurels. Both the first and second teams have been in impressive form this season, winning their respective leagues in relatively comfortable fashion.
However, things looked just as promising for ladies football in DCU this time last year, before the wheels came off both teams’ championship campaigns. The first team fell at the semi-final stage of the O’Connor Cup while the second team failed to make the final weekend of their championship.
Coach Mark Fitzpatrick told The College View that winning the two leagues surpassed his pre-season expectations.
“Our aim at the start of the year was to blend in all the new players for both teams and try to be as competitive as we could in our respective leagues. Winning both leagues is a massive achievement and I want to thank my fellow coaches and selectors and most of all the players.”
Fitzpatrick says the aim for 2013 is to make both final weekends but if the likes of Laura McEnaney and Carol Hegarty, for the first team, and Niamh Lister and Claire O’Brien for the second team can continue their impressive form, silverware could be on the horizon for DCU ladies football.
Sam Griffin, Eoin Sheahan, Cian Murray, Cian Roche & Patrick Ward