Maxwell reflects on successful first year in charge

DCU Ladies' Gaelic football manager Stephen Maxwell. Credit: Sportsfile

Good things come to those who wait. At least that was the case for DCU ladies Gaelic football manager Stephen Maxwell.

After waiting three years to get the call up to manage the college he finally made the cut along with assistant Niamh McEvoy to take the reigns in Glasnevin last year. They have overseen a successful first year in charge with their efforts bringing home a Division One league title as well as making the O’Connor Cup finals weekend in Tralee this past week.

He had just last year brought the Kildare ladies to the final of the All-Ireland Intermediate Cup on top of winning a Lynch Cup title while at Trinity College before making the move to DCU.

Lecturing sports education at Bray Institute of Further Education, he describes teaching as an engaging day-job – but that GAA was always the hobby.

This past week saw his side exit the O’Connor Cup at the semi-final stage, losing to familiar opponents in the form of the University of Limerick by a score of 3-4 to 1-8, with DCU also falling short in last year’s final to UL in a bitterly disappointing defeat.

DCU went into the break 0-6 to 1-2 ahead this time around, but ruefully missed scoring opportunities combined with a strong second half showing from UL ended the evening in defeat.

“To be honest, after the game on Friday everybody was absolutely gutted,” admits the DCU manager.

“We had a great start to the match. After five minutes we were on top. We had three or four wides in the opening five minutes so although we were on top, we didn’t take our chances.

“We were pretty happy going in at half-time being a point up. We had created a lot of chances throughout the game but sadly we just didn’t take them. (In) the first five minutes of the second half UL got their second goal but we were still on top.

“All of the UL kick-outs were under extreme pressure and we were very happy about that. They struggled to get out of their own half in the first half but in the second half they got the first early goal which knocked our confidence a bit. We struggled to get into the game until the last ten minutes and by that stage we were chasing the game, but it was already gone.”

Distraught DCU bodies littered the field following the final whistle along the scenic mountains of Tralee, as its teams continues to try and match the heights which saw the college win three consecutive O’Connor Cup titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Five players will now leave the college without the all elusive O’Connor Cup medal, but manager Maxwell retains that it had still been a successful year for the side.

“It was a long journey this year. We started in the last week of September. There were girls who would have lost the O’Connor Cup final last year who were looking for payback and there were a few girls who were in their last year of college who were looking to win something before they leave. But unfortunately the likes of Bríd O’Sullivan, Carol Hegarty, and Michelle Farrell will be leaving DCU without the O’Connor Cup.

“The aim from the start of the year from the girls’ point of view was to win the O’Connor Cup. One of our targets from the management side was to win the O’Connor Cup but obviously we also wanted to win the league title and take it off UL, which we did.

“That was a major boost because UL had not lost since November 2013 and DCU were the first team to beat them so we knew beating them was a huge psychological barrier to overcome. We then went on to beat UCD in the league final but maybe UL in the championship this year was a step too far.”

Now in the hot-seat he has waited years to call his own, the DCU manager says he is in it for the long haul at the college and explains that preparations for next season had already begun months ago.

“Basically I had been looking to manage the team in DCU for the last three years,” he explains. “There’s a committee within the college and unfortunately last year wasn’t my year but they finally said yes this year.

“Preparations for next season more or less began in September. I’m working with the Dublin minor girls as well which gives us the opportunity to see the Dublin minor ladies who are doing their Leaving Certificates, as well as all the other inter-county minors. We see the good young players coming through and if they want to come to DCU, the opportunity is there.”

His side featured some outstanding highlights throughout the course of the season, becoming the first side to beat the now former O’Connor Cup holders UL in over two years en route to bringing home the Division One league title versus finalists UCD in Belfield. The manager is keen to add to this year’s accomplishments, taking on board DCU’s longing for O’Connor Cup glory to bring home the title this time next year.

“First thing’s first and that would be to retain the league and then maybe go one step further and make the O’Connor Cup final and lift the trophy next year,” he added.

“I don’t do something unless I’m committed 100%. I want to be here (for the) long-term and that was the aim at the very beginning. I made sure everybody understands that but it’s up to the committee to decide. Up until the very last minute I’ll be doing everything I can for the teams.”

Aaron Gallagher

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