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Ebbsfleet United boss Daryl McMahon on becoming a father and dealing with play-off heartbreak

By Steve Tervet

Daryl McMahon has spoken about how becoming a father has changed his life and what it was really like in the aftermath of Ebbsfleet's play-off final defeat to Maidstone.

In the second part of our exclusive interview at their Essex home, the Fleet manager and his wife Alex talk about the impact of football's good and bad days on their family life.

Their daughter Marnie was born in 2014 when Daryl was juggling his playing duties at Stonebridge Road with the academy manager’s job and a coaching role at Tottenham.

Click here to read Part 1 of the interview

Ebbsfleet boss Daryl McMahon Picture Andy Payton

When he was sold back to Boreham Wood in 2015 it looked like the door was shutting on his Fleet chapter but not so.

"I signed quite a long contract at Boreham Wood but I didn’t enjoy my football," Daryl admitted.

"It was Monday driving to Ebbsfleet, Monday night training at Boreham Wood, Tuesday Ebbsfleet, Tuesday night Tottenham, Wednesday I was doing stuff at Tottenham and a college game with Ebbsfleet, Thursday back to Ebbsfleet, Thursday night Boreham Wood, Friday Ebbsfleet, Saturday I played, Sunday I was at Tottenham all day.

"So I got to a point where I was out of the house a lot – and I had three different kits in my boot as well, which is always awkward!

"It was becoming a bit of a strain and the thing that had to give was the playing. I’d done the caretaker role at Ebbsfleet, was really getting into my coaching and it seemed to be going quite well for me. I was 31 so I knew it wasn’t going to last forever."

McMahon took over a Fleet side which had finished eighth in Conference South after sacking two managers – Steve Brown and Jamie Day – during 2014/15.

So did permanent management mean more time with the family?

Daryl McMahon celebrates Ebbsfleet's promotion with his wife Alex and daughter Marnie Picture: Andy Payton
Daryl McMahon celebrates Ebbsfleet's promotion with his wife Alex and daughter Marnie Picture: Andy Payton

"Less probably!" laughed Daryl.

"No, it’s much better, much more normalised now," said Alex. "It was every evening he was out."

In his first season in charge of Fleet, Daryl’s team were top of the league for seven months but dropped into the play-offs, conceded a goal in the last minute of extra-time in the final and then lost on penalties to Maidstone.

Daryl said: "Some days at the club have been tough for obvious reasons. Gosport, when Browny got sacked, sticks out and the play-off final against Dover was a bad day.

"But Maidstone was probably the worst. I can remember being on the pitch that day and as manager, I didn’t have time to... grieve is the wrong word but I had to be there for everyone else; the players, staff, board, whoever it might be.

"The days after that, at home, that’s when you are gutted. Initially you’ve got to be the one to say ‘don’t worry, we’ll be back next year’ but the days after that are tough."

Alex said: "It’s gutting because you know how much it means to the team and to Daryl. You just need to be there for them.

Ebbsfleet celebrate promotion to the National League Picture: Andy Payton
Ebbsfleet celebrate promotion to the National League Picture: Andy Payton

"Last season, when they were 1-0 down (to Chelmsford in the play-off final), the emotions were running wild.

"It only just felt fair that they would go up so it was amazing when they won it. I couldn’t drink because I was pregnant – but I would have done!

"I felt it was deserved and everything happens for a reason. The season before, you learn stuff from that and use it the next year."

Daryl certainly did that.

"If you’re the right character, setbacks make you stronger," he said. "People can hide and think it’s not for them when someone tells them they’re not good enough but you have to learn and bounce back.

"To a fan’s eye or a reporter’s eye, the first season was a failure but to me, it was my first time managing and we got 87 points and were 17 seconds away from promotion. If Maidstone hadn’t scored, it would have been the best season ever for a first-time manager.

"You’ve got to put some balance to it. You have disappointment but you settle down and rationalise it.

Daryl McMahon at his home in Essex Picture: Andy Payton
Daryl McMahon at his home in Essex Picture: Andy Payton

"I’ve got a very steady home life and to know you’ve got the support of your family is huge through highs and lows, whether you’re getting carried away because you’re doing all right or whether you’re having one, to pick you up, it’s important you’ve got that balance."

And nothing keeps you more grounded than becoming a parent. Marnie turns three before Christmas and will celebrate with her new baby sister.

"It’s very exciting," said Alex. "There’s lots to look forward to – but he might not even be there for the birth if he’s at Solihull away!"

Paternity leave is certainly at a premium in his line of work but fatherhood has been life-changing for Ebbsfleet’s young manager.

Daryl said: "The biggest thing is you’re not selfish any more. You’ve got people in your life that are more important than you.

"I’ve always been hard-working but it makes you even more hard-working to provide stuff for your family that maybe you didn’t have as a child. That’s a massive drive.

"It’s amazing to have a little person so dependent on you. Helping and watching Marnie grow is brilliant."

Ebbsfleet are now competing with the likes of Tranmere Picture: Andy Payton
Ebbsfleet are now competing with the likes of Tranmere Picture: Andy Payton

And having signed a new five-year contract in the summer, Daryl McMahon has found the same sort of stability at work as he values back at home.

"I don’t see my future anywhere other than Ebbsfleet," he said. "It’s a great club and I genuinely wake up and enjoy going to work every day. You don’t always feel that but I do.

"Win, lose or draw, there’s lots of stuff to work on and I’m the kind of person that embraces whatever challenge it is that we need to get over and we’re enjoying ourselves doing that."

Ebbsfleet have played 96 league games since McMahon was appointed manager in April 2015.

They have won 55, drawn 30 and lost 11, scoring 185 goals and conceding 81. Their record of 195 points during that period works out at more than two per game.

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