Darcy happy to 'feed the machine'
By John Harrington
It’s hard to form a judgement on the sort of person that Stephen Cluxton is because he’s always been very reticent about revealing anything much of his inner thoughts to the media.
But given how relentlessly driven he has been to self-improvement over the course of his career, it’s a safe assumption that he has a low tolerance for bluffers in a dressing-room environment.
Dublin defensive coach, Declan Darcy, confirms that assumption is bang on the money.
“Any of them would, but particularly him,” Darcy told GAA.ie “You need to feed the machine.
“You're talking about probably the most influential player in Gaelic Games the last 15 years.
“And there he is staring at you! You need to have your 'A' game on. But I love that. That's what gives energy to us as a coaching group, the players keep driving you.
“We challenge them, we give it back to them as well which is good and I think they enjoy that.
“They all understand clearly that the only reason we're doing it is for the betterment of the team.”
Sit down with Darcy for any length of time and his passion for football coaching and tactics becomes quickly apparent. The man is pretty much a coaching nerd.
“I have no choice!” he laughs. “I don't know if you've put yourself in a dressing-room and stared at these lads and seen Stephen Cluxton looking up at you.
“Any sense of bulls**t and you'd be f**ked out of the room fairly quickly!
“I'm firmly in the fast-lane and there's only one way I can go unless I get off the road.
“Everybody keeps driving each other and no-one accepts anything less than the best. That's a great credit to them.
“But it drives everybody. You can't turn up to training dopey some nights. You'll be caught out by this group, big time.”
So, has he ever brought an idea or piece of coaching to Stephen Cluxton that the Dublin goalkeeper didn’t think was up to snuff and wasn’t shy about telling him?
“We've had our moments!”, said Darcy. “We're pretty strong-minded people. There's a lot of big dogs in that room.
“But, at the same time, once the understanding is that its in the best interests of the team and there's no agenda other than to trying to help, I think once that's understood it will always function properly.”
As far as Darcy is concerned, having a player like Stephen Cluxton in the dressing-room makes his life much easier rather than more difficult.
Because the Dublin captain sets such high standards for himself, he’s effectively setting them for his team-mates too.
“I think it's really important that your big players function correctly and set really good standards and a good culture within the group and he does that,” said Darcy.
“He doesn't talk, he acts it. He does come to training two hours before it starts andhe will do it. And he will tell you that you're not doing it.
“That's what you want. If your top players are doing it consistently and you have enough of those players in your group then you have a chance of being successful for sure.
“I've often said this, John O'Mahony used to say it to me, if you can get more than seven or eight of those types of players in your team then you have every chance of winning. If you have any less than then you're not going to function.
“We're very lucky we have a very strong group in that context. A very experienced group of players as well, but all of us at the same time are trying to drive the standards.
“And Stephen certainly epitomises everything that's good about this team.”
Darcy has been coaching this group of Dublin players for the past seven years now and in that time believes both his expertise as well as the level of preparation of the players has come on in leaps and bounds.
“Ah, yeah. I think the standard of coaching and expectation from us, the hands-on thing, is a completely different dynamic. There's a massive change in the thought-process as well, a massive change.
“I look after the defensive stuff and Jason (Sherlock) looks after the offensive stuff. The standard of preparation and thought process gone into it by players and coaches is phenomenal. It's time and effort but it's brilliant.
“And the really good thing is that the players are craving it and want to get better. That's what most impresses me about this group, how much they want to keep getting better. That's all it is.
“They just want to get better and better. They're respecting the situation they're in and they're going after that thought process which is really important.
“It's not about winning All-Irelands, they're just trying to be as good as they can be for as long as they can when they have that jersey on their back.
“I think that's a big driver for them at the minute.”