Niall Moyna sounds the ‘death knell’ for Gaelic football

Respected coach believes clubs being increasingly put into an impossible position

Niall Moyna: “The GAA in a way has lost the run of itself. It became totally consumed with generating revenue to the detriment of club football.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Niall Moyna: “The GAA in a way has lost the run of itself. It became totally consumed with generating revenue to the detriment of club football.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Something must be wrong when after 18 years uninterrupted coaching at Sigerson Cup level Niall Moyna has had enough of Gaelic football. Not because he’s tired of it, but because of what he sees and where he thinks it’s going. 

“The death knell is on its way, this is my first year out of Sigerson, I couldn’t take it anymore,” says Moyna, Head of the School of Health and Human Performance at Dublin City University (DCU).

He won four Sigerson Cups over those 18 years, as well as being part of the Dublin backroom team that helped claim the breakthrough 2011 All-Ireland under manager Pat Gilroy. 

“I fell out of love with Gaelic football. You couldn’t pay me to go and watch a game of football. I went to four games this year, the All-Ireland final and three Scotstown games [his club in Monaghan]. I couldn’t watch it, and the Sigerson became like that. It became 14 men behind the ball, whereas Sigerson was that one competition where it was man-against-man.

“Towards the end I felt for the poor players. They wanted to play for me, they wanted to play for their county. In my opinion, it is a box-ticking exercise. Sigerson has to be played, let’s get it played. In fact, if they get their way, they’ll play it over two weekends.” 

This pulling of players between county, club and college will, suggests Moyna, eventually fix itself because the county players will become county players only.

“That includes college teams. You just can’t get access to players. They are now being indentured to county teams, and [not] the clubs, who I believe should be deciding when they are released. We have it the wrong way around. 

“Again it goes back to over the last decade, the GAA in a way has lost the run of itself. It became totally consumed with generating revenue to the detriment of club football and that can only be sustained for so long.

“Where are the future generations of club players going to come from if clubs say ‘well, if we are going to develop a young player and this is the key cog in our team and he or she is gone for six to eight months of the year’? I think we need to take a really hard look.”

Club window

Speaking in Croke Park at the GAA’s new online learning portal ‘Leaving Cert PE’ to assist with PE becoming an exam subject, Moyna also believes the so-called April club window is having no impact. Recent county convention reports, such as Galway’s intercounty bill for 2018 coming in at €1.84 million, presents further evidence of the shift away from the clubs. 

“April hasn’t been a success at all. I know they are trying but I think that horse has bolted. My concern is that the GAA is heading down the road of semi-professionalism, that horse bolted eight years ago, and it is going to be very hard to turn it around. 

“I also find, particularly in the last five or six years, that there is a sense of entitlement... ‘I’ve got the bag, I’ve got the tracksuit, I’m a different article altogether’... That’s not what the GAA is founded on. It was founded on that local team, pride in the local team. 

“My concern is that money is being pulled and pulled away from the clubs, and the clubs are crying out for help. I mean, they are having to have draws just to keep the insurance in the club, just to keep everything running. We need to totally re evaluate that, because I believe are we giving that money to the same small five percent, are they getting the vast majority of the income from the GAA.”

One suggestion to reinvigorate the intercounty game is for the so-called weaker counties to merge.

“Everyone was worried about the day that Dublin got it right. Dublin have got it right. So make it a 12- or 14-team championship, where any team could win it. A bit like the Superbowl in America, and there would be no dynasties anymore.”

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