Niall Moyna: Sigerson football the key to inter-county success

Niall Moyna, Dublin City University manager.

DCU Gaelic Football manager Niall Moyna has emphasised the importance of third level football to young GAA players aspiring to make the inter-county grade.

The long serving manager reviewed last year’s GAA season as well as casting an eye on the coming year.

Moyna and his DCU charges suffered a surprising defeat at the hands of eventual winners St. Mary’s at the Sigerson Cup Quarter Final stage. It took extra time to separate the two sides after an excellent second half performance that saw Enda Smith score two goals, but it was not to be for Moyna and DCU as they fell to a 2-13 to 2-14 score line at St.Clare’s.

“The St. Mary’s game was an odd game, the game was dead and buried”, Moyna recalls.

“Basically, if we had anywhere near the same cynicism as they had we would have won the game.

“I’d never coach my players to kick balls away or to take black cards, it’s just not part of who we are in DCU.”

But the boss was also quick to applaud DCU’s opponents.

“You have to really hand it to Mary’s, they found a way to win it and we didn’t”, he said.

“We were very very disappointed, dejected is the word. Knowing the effort that the lads put in and the sacrifices they make.”

Moyna was quick to admit that preparation for the Sigerson Cup was less than ideal with the congested schedules of many young GAA players;

“It’s becoming much more difficult in the last four to five years to get access to players, now it may change this year with the under 21’s going to under 20’s,” he said.

“It’s extremely frustrating, not just for us because I’m sure it’s the same for all third level institutions, it’s becoming extremely difficult.

“With that in mind, what we’ve done over the last three years is combine the intermediate and the Sigerson squads (during the league campaign). It’s a lot of time and a lot of effort for the first semester.”

DCU enjoyed a strong run in the league however, topping their Division 1 group and defeating St. Mary’s and rivals UCD on the way to a final that was narrowly lost to Ulster University. A mixed O’Byrne cup campaign saw DCU pick up an important victory over UCD but two tough games against Dublin and Wexford overshadowed the campaign.

The Monaghan native and Professor in the department of Health and Human Performance believes that the structure of third level calendar may also change this coming year, although no changes have officially been confirmed.

“I get the impression we’re not going to be allowed into the O’Byrne Cup this year, that’s what I hear through the grapevine, all colleges – and I think they’re going to play the Sigerson very early, that’s what I’ve been told,” he said.

Although the university has lost quite a few senior players through graduation, Moyna is excited about the challenge of sculpting a new squad.

“We’ve lost quite a lot (of players) but that’s what I find most enjoyable, it’s why I’ve never taken an inter-county job”, he said.

“Every three years or every two years it’s a new team and it’s the challenge of moulding a team.

“Winning is wonderful but that’s where I get the satisfaction, taking a group of fellas who’ve never played together and just moulding a team.”

“We won the last three freshers (championships), but it’s an enormous step up from Freshers to playing Sigerson and I think a lot of the Freshers players have got to realise that.

“Spending a year with the team and learning the pace of the game, the physicality involved. I think the problem is that they’ve tasted so much success and it’s all about instant gratification and next it’s two steps to get to where they need to be and some of them are not prepared to put the time and effort in.”

The DCU manager is also slightly concerned about the mentality of some underage inter-county players.

“One of the concerning things for me now is that we have this rich tradition of Dublin players but they think now, a lot of the successful Under 21 Dublin teams think that Sigerson is beneath them and that they can skip Sigerson”

Despite this, Moyna was been very keen to point out that the nucleus of the conquering three in a row All Ireland Champions Dublin’s squad all featured for DCU or other third level institutions and now form the backbone of Dublin and many other top inter-county teams, adding; “If you look at the Dean Rock’s, the Brogan’s, Paul (Flynn) and all of these guys, they came through us and they made that transition.”

“If it was good enough for James McCarthy, Dean Rock, Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn, Eoghan O’Gara and Paddy Andrews, ten guys who played and won the Sigerson Cup played last weekend (in the All Ireland Final) and it was a wonderful stepping stone.”

Moyna is now entering his sixteenth term at the DCU helm, he’s built several DCU teams, of which have lifted the Sigerson Cup an impressive four times during his reign.

He has worked with countless inter-county and underage players but still stresses third level football’s importance.

“The best shop window that they’re going to have is Sigerson football”

Gavin Quinn

Image Credit: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile