Sunday 16 December 2018

'It's important we attain a sense of a level playing field' - Niall Moyna calls for funding change to halt surge of Dublin

Ambassadors Prof Niall Moyna, Sophie Spence and Thomas Barr in Croke Park at yesterday’s awards ceremony for the Irish Life School’s Fitness Challenge. Photo: Jason Clarke
Ambassadors Prof Niall Moyna, Sophie Spence and Thomas Barr in Croke Park at yesterday’s awards ceremony for the Irish Life School’s Fitness Challenge. Photo: Jason Clarke

Cathal Dennehy

For professor Niall Moyna, the equation is simple: a city with a surging population plus an unrivalled allocation of funds adds up to one, goliath-sized problem for the GAA - Dublin.

The DCU manager, who was a member of the Dublin footballers' backroom team during their 2011 All-Ireland win over Kerry, has called on the GAA to re-distribute funding more evenly to avoid the football championship turning into a procession.

"Up until a year ago it didn't concern me but now it is concerning me," said Moyna.

"It's a combination of both the population and the money they've been getting from central funds. It makes a huge difference and it's a big reason they're pulling away from the rest.

"There's been huge population growth in Dublin and they have a commercial manager. Very few counties have that, but that's their level. It's important we attain a sense of a level playing field because you'd be concerned Dublin will pull away from the rest, including the Kerrys and Mayos."

Dublin has consistently received the lion's share of the GAA's games development funding, receiving €1.46m in 2016, with Cork the next highest at €249,000. That's in addition to investment under the Sports Capital Programme, which last November awarded a cumulative €3.3m to Dublin GAA clubs - 23 receiving six-figure sums, an amount received by just 16 clubs outside the capital.

The jury is still out on whether that's been the cause of Dublin's dominance, but Moyna believes the GAA needs to take action.

"I wouldn't like to be living in another county in Leinster," he reasoned. "People will say Dublin haven't won under-21s, they haven't won minors, but they're competitive every single year and you have to have a super team in your county to compete against even an average Dublin team.

"It's great to see the game thriving in our city but it has opened a Pandora's box and we can't turn a blind eye. If it continues the way it's going they're going to be so far ahead that it'll be difficult to catch up."

The solution, he believes, is not to split the county, but to direct more funding elsewhere.

"There has to be a really serious rethink about the distribution of central funds to other counties," he reflected.

"But my concern is if money goes back to these counties, that it is spent on development through the clubs and underage structures."

Which brings Moyna to his next point, a place he thinks far too many counties are wasting their money - and time.

"I'd have a serious concern with the amount of conditioning players are conducting and the amount of money being spent on these sessions. If you're not an elite athlete and don't have time in the afternoon to go to bed and get your rehab and nutrition, there's a law of diminishing returns and we're now well past that."

Moyna believes the GAA should shorten the inter-county pre-season to three weeks and allow unlimited subs during the league so teams can use the games themselves, and not multiple midweek sessions in gyms or on pitches, to condition their players.

"The league is supposed to get you ready for the championship so use unlimited subs as the foundation for your fitness rather than running around fields - senseless training they're currently doing. Running around fields won't allow you to make a sensible decision with a minute to go in an important game. I'd like to see a dampening down on conditioning and much more emphasis on coaching and games-based playing."

In more than a decade at the helm of DCU's Sigerson Cup team, Moyna has overseen many of the game's brightest talents, but he fears the professionalisation of an amateur game is doing untold damage to players.

"It's certainly not sustainable," he said. "How often can you bring the horse to the well, particularly young players, to overload without appropriate recovery? They're playing in multiple teams and everyone is expecting them to give 100pc. It's unfair to ask amateur players to put in the time and effort that is currently required. We could reduce conditioning by 50pc and the game would be as good as it ever was."

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