DCU has a couple of sports where excellence is a given. The GAA and Athletics programs are nationally regarded breeding grounds that provide premium talent to the Irish sporting conveyor belt. But amidst the Sigerson Cups and the Olympic appearances lies another program that has a proud tradition of continuous success. DCU Women’s Basketball team under the guidance of Mark Ingle are as a much a certainty for the year-end finals as Kilkenny are in September.
Fresh of an appearance in last year’s Superleague final, DCU Mercy have opened this campaign with seven victories and one defeat. More impressive than their win-loss record is that the team have achieved this shorn of many of the players that took them to the brink of success last year.
“We have a very new team this year and we are still in the bedding-in stage. We have lost five players from last year, including three internationals, so I have been pleasantly surprised by the start to the season. Our win-loss record is very good,” said Ingle.
The continued success achieved by DCU Mercy means that even when many players depart, like last year, there are many girls eager to take their place. But the winning culture fostered by Ingle isn’t the only factor that girls consider when joining.
“The facilities and the gym put the girls in a great position to succeed. There aren’t many better places to play basketball than in DCU. We have a team that everyone wants to join. If you have Superleague aspirations then DCU is a good place to play,” continued Ingle.
There is a saying pessimists use the world over which is, “no matter how good you are at something, there will always be someone somewhere that is better than you”. Unfortunately for DCU, UL have been just that in recent times, losing twice to them last year including a loss in the Superleague final. If you continue to do something well over a long period, as DCU Mercy have, there will be teams that try to imitate your success, but DCU will be keen to reassert themselves as the country’s elite when they meet before Christmas.
“UL are a good side and they beat us twice last year so we would be keen to put in a good performance when we play them this season. They have really come on a great deal in the last few years; in part due to the fact that they have, for want of a better word, copied the structures that we have put in place in DCU.”
Mark Ingle has had successes at almost every level of basketball there is. But while the view of a successful coach often revolves around complex stickperson diagrams drawn on a small white board, Ingle preaches a simpler philosophy. While he is very much his own coach, he is also a student of what has worked well elsewhere, both at home and abroad.
“Every coach has their own philosophy but mine isn’t rocket science. I believe that if you work hard and work together, you can achieve goals. As a coach, your job is to have strong aspirations to be successful that your team will follow. Every coach has influences. I have paid close attention to work done by former Lakers coach Phil Jackson with the triangle offence and that was something I have used with my teams to great effect in the past.”
While facilities are one reason DCU continue to compete nationally, the underage structures are also of vital importance. You aren’t able to compete strongly one year after losing five starters if you don’t have some talented young players to come in to replace them. The aim of the underage structures Ingle has put in place is to have a number of graduates from the U20 team ready to play Superleague basketball.
“We have a new team but my aspirations are the same every year and that is to win at least one trophy. Due to our changing team we have recruited a few Irish players this year and we also have three players from our successful U20 team. One of our aims in DCU is to bring two players every year from U20 to Superleague level.”
While the DCU Mercy players change annually, Mark Ingle remains a constant. His young side will have a crack at the incumbent champions UL before Christmas. And while that may gain more fanfare, there will probably be a similar level of detail being put into planning strategies for the U20 and U18 teams. And that, you feel, is Mark Ingle’s secret.