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Three wise men

GAA president Nickey Brennan, former Galway hurler Sean Silke and former Tipperary chairman Con Hogan have emerged as the three king-makers who will decide who replaces Liam Mulvihill as director-general of the GAA.

The final round of interviews are scheduled for some time today with three candidates thought to be still in contention for one of the most prestigious positions in Irish sporting life.

GAA player welfare officer, Paraic Duffy, Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna and former Dublin All-Ireland medal winner Pat Gilroy, MD of Dalkia Ireland, are believed to be the three who have made it through the lengthy sifting process.

Following today's interviews, the interview board will make a recommendation to go before the Management Committee and it's expected that the name of the successful candidate will be announced in a fortnight.

Positions

Duffy, who has served in a number of positions both with his native Monaghan and at national level, was on everybody's short list to eventually take over from Mulvihill since leaving his post as principal of St MacCartan's College in Monaghan to become the GAA's first player welfare officer in January 2006. The creation of the post was the brainchild of Brennan, who announced the initiative when he took over as president in 2005.

Duffy's appointment was seen as deeply significant as it took him into the inner sanctum in Croke Park at a time when Mulvihill was beginning the countdown to the end of his 28-year term as director-general.

McKenna's success as Croke Park stadium director has helped his chances of landing the DG's job, even if some harboured doubts as to whether he would lean too heavily towards the business end of the GAA at the expense of the more traditional values.

However, insider whispers from the interviewing process suggest that McKenna has greatly impressed with his overall vision for the GAA through its many strands.

If Duffy and McKenna were always likely to be serious contenders, Pat Gilroy (35) is the surprise packet.

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An All-Ireland football medal winner with Dublin in 1995, he is a member of the St.Vincent's squad that recently won the county title for the first time since 1984.

He heads Dalkia Ireland, a Facilities and Energy Management company that provides a range of technical and administrative solutions.

Gilroy is seen as very much the 'dark horse' in what has become a fascinating race. However, it wouldn't be the first time the GAA opted for somebody from outside their immediate administrative circle as Mulvihill was a school inspector when he was appointed DG in 1979 at the age of 33.

Apart from the final three, others who are thought to have made a big impression are former GAA president Joe McDonagh and current Leinster Council chairman Liam O'Neill who will now concentrate on running for the presidency.

The recruitment procedure has been underway for two months, having started out with all candidates applying to Merc Partners who screened the initial list. At least two rounds of interviews have since been held with the aim of reducing the field to the final three.

The GAA has declined to name those on the various interviewing teams but the Irish Independent understands that, apart from Brennan, who has been on all the panels, others who have featured include Gene Duffy (Armagh), who is a member of the GAA's Management Committee, Pat O'Neill (former managing director of Avonmore and former chairman of the Irish Sports Council), Tim Dalton (former general secretary of the Department of Justice) and Fiona Joyce (Mazars Human Resources Consulting and Support).

The process has now reached the critical phase as the three candidates face Brennan, Silke and Hogan for the final assessments. It's understood that, unlike DG previous appointments, which were open-ended, this will be for an initial seven-year period.

Plans to appoint an operations officer, who would, in effect, double as a deputy DG, have been shelved until after the big job is filled. Consideration was given originally to filling the two posts simultaneously but it has been decided to defer the second appointment so that the new DG will have an input.

Three wise men: the GAA's kingmakers

Nickey Brennan (GAA president)

It was believed for some time that the appointment of a new DG would fall on his watch. As president, he is the key figure on the interviewing panels and it's believed that, while the appointment is not in his sole gift, he would be in a position to veto any candidate.

Sean Silke

(Galway)

Has wide experience in the human resources field. He enjoyed a lengthy playing career with Galway, the pinnacle of which was reached in 1980 when he was at centre-back on the team that won the All-Ireland hurling title. Served as coach during Conor Hayes' management stint.

Con Hogan

(Tipperary)

Like Silke, his field of expertise is human resources. A former Tipperary County Board chairman, he is their current Central Council delegate. He has served on many committees at national level and was seen as presidential material but has opted not to run in the 2008 election.


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