Niall Moyna comes full circle at DCU

It’s already been an eventful season for DCU manager as he prepares to face UUJ

It's been nearly 10 years since Niall Moyna led DCU to their first ever Sigerson Cup title in 2006. A fresh faced Bryan Cullen captained that team and the university would go on to win two more titles under the professor's astute and progressive stewardship.

Cullen and Dessie Dolan, who both retired from intercounty football this year, have now joined other key players from that team such as Shane Ryan and Paul Casey in stepping away.

Like them it seemed late last year as though Moyna’s time had come. The spark and consequential appeal which had epitomised DCU for much of the past decade had been AWOL for the past two seasons. The college trudged through the competition last year before exiting at the quarter-final stage to a UCD team who were themselves beaten in the next round.

So long the bench mark for modern football, who attracted the cream of county minors, DCU had been slipping. Compounded by the fact that the university have been unfailing in dominating the fresher A, B and intermediate All-Ireland competitions, the blame game was firmly centred on Moyna and his management team.

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So much so that before the start of the this season the DCU Professor of Health and Human performance was told by the university’s GAA club, made up of players and students, that his services were no longer wanted.

Not yet replaced, a number of coaches from within the GAA Academy combined to take the panel for training sessions prior to the Ryan Cup league competition.

Ex-DCU GAA club chairman Alan Coyne headed the committee responsible for the decision.

Coyne says that “nothing happened” in particular prior to Moyna’s departure and the club were simply exercising their right not to ratify.

“Every club is entitled to, every year, although there’s no contract as such, to ratify their manager, or not if they don’t want to,” Coyne explained.

“There are different rumours around and some would baffle you as far as I’m concerned.”

Coyne added: “It’s the same as any club in the university, it’s a common thing, managers and coaches being chopped and changed.

“The committee decided as a group and notified him. I don’t know if he was looking to stay on but I’ve had no queries or complaints to date.”

The reason seemed to centre on player dissatisfaction with Moyna’s management team as a whole, and particularly with their man management techniques.

Nonetheless, still managerless, in another peculiar twist Moyna was then invited back by the players and the club shortly before the first league game. He surrounded himself with a largely new management team including former Meath manager Sean Boylan.

Since the reconciliation, DCU have been on fire, easing to a Ryan Cup success via the energetic, attack minded brand which had previously defined them.

While this team may be far younger than the great teams of the past, and slightly less star-studded, young players such as Roscommon's Enda Smith are quickly building reputations.

From 2010 to 2013 there were over 25 senior inter-county footballers, from 13 different counties, who have played with the DCU fresher A teams. Many of these are now on the current Sigerson panel, so while there may be no Bernard Brogan or Michael Murphy in the ranks there's still certainly no shortage of talent.

Yet for Moyna this week could prove his sternest test - DCU face a UUJ team as strong on paper as any of the teams he himself has in the past had at his disposal.

So while this fixture arrives in the competiton’s first round, it’s fair to say that Moyna has already embarked upon a journey with this panel - one that may very well stand to them on Wednesday.

UUJ v DCU throws in at 2pm in Jordanstown.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a sports journalist with The Irish Times