Sunday 18 February 2018

Tommy Conlon: Our galactico blazers won't let outbreak of insolence halt their heroic toil


'We can take comfort in knowing that John Delaney will be picking up an extra hundred grand, more or less, courtesy of his new position on UEFA’s Executive Committee' Photo: Sportsfile
'We can take comfort in knowing that John Delaney will be picking up an extra hundred grand, more or less, courtesy of his new position on UEFA’s Executive Committee' Photo: Sportsfile

Tommy Conlon

So, like Phil Hogan and Pee Flynn before him, John Delaney is heading to Europe. Tragically for our country, the great brain drain continues.

We can only count ourselves lucky that we got Pat Hickey back from Brazil before they made him an offer he couldn't refuse. And where these days is that other Irish titan of global sports administration, the fondly remembered cycling supremo Pat McQuaid?

While losing these talents to the international arena remains a bitter pill, we should perhaps feel proud that Ireland's reputation continues to be enhanced on the world stage by these distinguished ambassadors.

Sadly it can only be a matter of time before Fergal Carruth joins them in the marble foyer of the seven-star hotel that is the natural habitat of galactico blazers. The CEO of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association has already demonstrated his multi-national credentials by grooming some of our best coaches for export.

Billy Walsh, for example, the most successful coach in the history of Irish sport, was recruited by USA Boxing under Carruth's leadership. Ditto one of Walsh's lieutenants, Eddie Bolger, who was recently snapped up by the German amateur boxing programme. It is this kind of governance that has made Carruth a highly prized asset in the firmament of sporting mandarins.

"He's a very modestly salaried CEO," remarked IABA board of directors chairman Joe Christle in October 2015 at the Oireachtas committee hearing.

The words "modestly salaried" should have set alarm bells ringing at the time. Carruth was a low-hanging plum waiting to be plucked by some ambitious federation abroad. But, admirably and honourably, he has remained impervious to their blandishments. He is still in situ. It is only the likes of Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes who have left Ireland behind.

But it is surely time to panic again, now that Sport Ireland (SI) has lopped two hundred grand off the IABA's high-performance budget. Something to do with the boxers failing to pick up any medals at the Rio Olympics. "We're in the business of funding national governing bodies that deliver," declared SI chief executive John Treacy at the launch of their Rio report last week. "They didn't deliver. It's quite clear that they didn't deliver."

This is precisely the kind of petty meddling that drives great people out of Ireland and into the arms of countries with vision and ambition. Treacy, of all people, should know that the non-performance of the boxers had nothing to do with Carruth or the IABA, or indeed the defection of Walsh himself. They actually told him so, out of their own mouths.

He must have forgotten his own contribution to that same Oireachtas meeting. "We were told," he said then, "(that) 'We have 20 coaches that can do the job that Billy Walsh can do.' Twenty coaches!"

At that rate Irish boxing will soon be exporting them to Cuba, never mind America or Germany.

Anyway, as the fella said, God doesn't close one door but he opens another. So while the IABA will have to make do without that two hundred grand, we can take comfort in knowing that John Delaney will be picking up an extra hundred grand, more or less, courtesy of his new position on UEFA's Executive Committee.

He has obviously learned from the best because when Sonia O'Sullivan was infamously forced to change out of her running gear in the stadium tunnel at the Atlanta Games, it didn't damage Hickey's career in the International Olympic Committee. He climbed that pole all the way to the penthouse suite.

O'Sullivan described it at the time as a "humiliating" experience. At their press conference last Tuesday, players on the national women's soccer team recalled having to change out of their team tracksuits in the public bathrooms of an airport, in order that the FAI could recycle the same gear among other teams. The word Stephanie Roche used to describe this scenario? "Humiliating."

Like his erstwhile mentor and patron Hickey, this is the kind of attention to detail that brought Delaney into the exalted realms of the blazers' freemasonry last week. Indeed, his elevation to UEFA's ExCo came just a day after the women players outlined their grievances to the press. Given this kind of insolence from the foot-soldiers of the game, UEFA had no choice but to rally around their man; it was an exemplary display of class solidarity.

Unlike Carruth, Delaney can hardly be described as "modestly salaried", unless you feel €360,000 a year is modest. Without doubt, the €30 a day that the women players received while on international duty was modest, but was evidently seen as not being good value for money. So it was abolished. This is in sharp contrast to the €300 a day Delaney will receive in expenses from UEFA while labouring for the organisation. In addition, of course, to the €100k a year.

Is he worth it? Damn the begrudgers. It is no bed of roses being the supremo. As Mr Flynn rightly said on The Late Late Show way back when: "I wanna tell you something - try it some time."

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