An Interview with Louth Ladies Minor Manager Martin Duffy

Louth LGFA are running a series of interviews over the coming weeks with some of their leading figures. This week Louth LGFA PRO Dermot Woods caught up with County Minor manager Martin Duffy who gave his thoughts on a variety of subjects.

Martin Duffy, his daughter Mia and wife Laura after Louth beat Sligo in the 2019 All Ireland U16 Championship final in Cavan

Q1: You played for Sean McDermott’s and St. Mary’s, any major success at club level?

We were beaten in the 1989 Intermediate Championship final with the Sean’s. Won Minor Championship in 1987 with St.Mary’s. Won Senior Championship in 1995 with St. Marys.

Q2: Did you play for Louth?

Played County Minor in 1988, we beat Kilkenny in Drogheda then Meath beat us by a few points in Dowdallshill.

Q3: How did you get into coaching? Is it something that always interested you?

I was asked to help out with Glyde Rangers back in I think 2014 and really enjoyed it. Was it something that interested me? – yes and no. Yes, I wanted to give something back to the game that I love but also as a way of giving back and saying thanks to of all the super coaches that give their time and energt to coach me as a young boy. No – because of my insecurities, Will I be any good? Will the team like me? Can I coach? What do I do? And so many more. It’s ok showing my own daughter how to play in the garden she is not judging me were just playing.

Q4: You had two wonderful years with county U16s, with unprecedented success. Why was the team so successful?

That’s easy – The players. They are like one giant sponge, however hard training was, however intricate it was they soaked it up and came back looking for more. As a manager or coach you know you have something special when the team is pushing you to be better.

Q5: Winning Leinster and All-Ireland titles in 2019, did that exceed your expectations?

No not really, when we got our panel together back in 2018 at our first full training session we said that our main goal was to win the All Ireland and to achieve this we would have to win the Leinster title first. We knew winning Leinster was achievable because we had played most of the teams in previous years. We played teams from Ulster in challenges so knew what we would come up against. For teams from Connacht or Munster more homework would be required, but more importantly we knew what team we had.

Q6: How much were you looking forward to working with much the same panel this year at minor level? How much of a disappointment is that your season may be cancelled?

I was really looking forward to the challenge. We had beaten Kilkenny in our first championship game and morale was high going into the match away to Westmeath but unfortunately that’s when COVID-19 reared its ugly head. It’s a huge disappointment for the girls all the hard work and training done on the wet, cold winter nights. If our season is over it will be the girls that are finished with minor I will feel most sorry for.

Q7: Are you in regular contact with your panel?

Texts were sent to the panel early on to work away as best they could but the longer COVID-19 went on pitches were closed, everything shut down. I’ve sent out a text recently that didn’t make good reading but I’m optimistic and if any light appears from this dark cloud I’ll only be so happy to send out a better one.

Q8: Are there enough young players in Louth to ensure a bright future?

I would like to think so, but we could never have enough players. We as a county need more players, coaches and parents to get involved so we can get Louth to the top tier and then push again to keep us there.

Q9: You have a strong backroom; does each member have a specific role?

I have Gerard Roe, Brian Brady, Patricia Johnson, Deirdre O’Reilly and Orla Briscoe with me.The ladies are known as the ‘Mammies’ they look after the girls. Whatever the girls want or need the ‘Mammies’ get or do. As the manager I know the girls are well looked after so now all the girls have to do is concentrate on their football. Myself and the team are blessed with two of the best coaches about. Gerard and Brian are so very clever and astute with the game. The guys take drills that senior men’s team are doing and then adapt them for us.They engage with the girls, they challenge the girls to be the best that they can be. During games both men are very astute, they are constantly working out the opposition how best we can negate their play as well how best to punish them. I couldn’t speak highly enough of either man and there’s no doubt we wouldn’t have had the success we have had only for Gerard and Brian.

Celebrations at the end of the All Ireland U16 semi-final

Q10: You’ve had a pretty hectic time in the last number of years. How strange is it having all this time on your hands?

It’s a very strange time indeed not only for me but for everyone. My time now is spent getting all the jobs done around the house that were put on a very long finger for this last number of years. Sometimes I think this break will be for the best, I can sit back recharge my batteries watch the DVD of the All Ireland Final. As a family we’ve become even closer. The break will do the girls the world of good and hopefully they’ll come back stronger and hungrier for more success.

Q11: Describe your thoughts/feelings at the end of last year’s All-Ireland final in Cavan.

Firstly as a dad. The wee girl that kicked ball with me in the garden to the teenager who now is an All-Ireland Final winner I couldn’t be any more proud. I was just bursting with pride. When the final whistle blew after hugging her teammates Mia ran over and jumped up on me and we had this huge hug. Those few seconds will never grow old. Find my wife Laura and celebrate with her. As the manager I suppose I was thinking quick hug, thank and congratulate all the players, management and parents. Then I tried to take a step back and watch all the high emotions of everyone and also commiserate with Sligo.

Q12: Would you like to one day manage your county at adult level?

Maybe someday, right now I just want back on the training field.

Q13: Louth normally appoint their county managers in October/November. Is there an argument that this date should be brought forward so an incoming manager could attend underage finals in August or September?

Without a doubt this should be done shortly after the county team is finished their respective championship. Managers have to get the backroom team in place, look at potential players, arrange training programme, organise challenges etc. If you are only getting appointed in October/November you are playing catch up which can’t be done and which is very unfair on players.

Mia Duffy

Q14: Your daughter, Mia, is hugely promising. Have you worked with her since she started to play football? How proud are you of the player she has become?

From the earliest of ages Mia has always been kicking a football. We would play football in the garden all day or evening. If I wasn’t encouraging her she was encouraging me to go out for a kick about. I’ve always tried to show Mia the correct way to kick the ball, solo, catch and pass. She would and still does keep going till she can master the art. I remember a skill we practised in the garden and then in a match she did it and it couldn’t have gone any better. She even finished it off kicking a point. To say I’m proud would be an understatement not only with her football but as a young lady.

(Photos by Warren Matthews)