Niall Quinn

Profile picture of Niall Quinn

“I played for my country and was commended for that but I now know far more about Ireland and that makes me happy,” said Niall Quinn as he graduated with a Masters in History.

His decision to return to education came partly due to a promise he made to his mother, Mary, as he left Ireland to play for Arsenal when he was just 16 years old.

He explained, “I owed a debt to my mother that I would complete my education. I made that promise to her when I left for Arsenal at 16. At that stage I had done what used to be called the Inter Cert. I got a B in history and I was devastated it was not an A because I loved the subject. To me history was fun and it made me tick.”

Niall’s mother and sisters were teachers and he promised them all he would complete his education while in England but he didn’t get to do that. 

The next push, and the successful one in getting him to step back into the world of education, came from his daughter Aisling, who like her mother Gillian and brother Mikey, is already a graduate of DCU.

Niall says, “I found myself living in a house of study! They were all studying and I found myself as the odd one out. Aisling is a tremendous force of nature and she kept pushing me and told me I would love it. Gillian and Mikey kept chipping in too. 

Niall was prompted to delve back into the area of history by a gallery of photographs of former Presidents of the FAI; he was interim deputy CEO of the organisation in 2020.  

“Before I left the FAI, I was in the boardroom out in Blanchardstown and I had time between meetings. There were photographs of every President of the FAI hanging in the boardroom.”

“They all seemed to hold the position for two years except for Oscar Traynor, who was President for 14 years. That caught my imagination.”

He decided to find out more about him and said, “at the same time my family were encouraging me to do this so with the promise I made my mother, it all came together and I said to myself, I better do it. Because of the great experience all my family had at DCU, there was only one place for me to go.”

He did his Masters on a part-time basis over two years and decided to focus on finding out more about Oscar Traynor.  His dissertation is called,  ‘Oscar Traynor - A Re-evaluation of a footballer, rebel, politician and football administrator .’

Oscar Traynor, as well as being a revolutionary commander in the 1916 Rising and second in command of the Dublin IRA, was, Niall says, “a great football man and an excellent goalkeeper.”

As he researched Traynor, Niall said, “I was totally absorbed in him.” 

Traynor became, what Niall describes as, “the most important and loudest supporter of football when it came under attack as ‘a foreign game’. That is when the GAA introduced the ban so that people who played soccer were not allowed to take part in Gaelic games and were made to feel less Irish, Oscar Traynor, on numerous occasions, gave strong defence of the game of football on this island and gave great service in an administrative role to the FAI.”

He says Traynor was instrumental in getting the ban lifted and as a result Niall, as an 8 year old boy, was able to play both gaelic and soccer. 

“Oscar Traynor fought publicly over many years for the ban to be lifted. Coming from a GAA background I would not have had the life I did had the ban remained.”

In his closing paragraph of the dissertation, Niall says to the family of Oscar Traynor, ‘I hope that they won’t mind Oscar being pulled from obscurity by a Soccerite Shoneen, raised in a staunch GAA household but who grew up with the freedom to fecklessly enjoy all sports and one who writes now in rich gratitude to a man who did much to make that possible in a free Ireland.’

He said returning to education and to DCU “has been a wonderful experience and one of the best things I have ever done. It is as if a bit of me that was dormant, came alive. I am so glad I did it, I now know what I was missing out on.”

For anyone considering a return to education, he said, “I would beseech any person with the slightest itch to go back, to just do it. There is no down side, it is so fulfilling.”

He acknowledges that his journey was “made far easier ‘cos I loved my subject. So to younger people I would say that doing something to get further up a ladder to make a career is not as fulfilling as doing a subject you love. The heart is never too far wrong. I feel fulfilled, it is one of the best things I have ever done.”

Niall will be joined by his family including his 93 year old mother at his graduation as he fulfils his promise to her to finish his education.  

DCU Prospectus - Go to MA in History