Sport Soccer

Friday 18 October 2019

Eamonn Sweeney: 'Replacing Delaney with his protégé would not be a good look for football in this country'

Noel Mooney talking to John Delaney in 2017
Noel Mooney talking to John Delaney in 2017
Noel Mooney. Photo: Sportsfile
Eamonn Sweeney

Eamonn Sweeney

John Delaney has always been an inspiration to work with. He is a young CEO who managed to make the FAI fit for purpose. The FAI is one of the most progressive and well-run federations. It really is a super federation and they can be proud of themselves, the board and all their members.

Don't worry. I haven't been made chairman of some junior soccer league in Munster, I'm just repeating the tributes once paid by Noel Mooney to John Delaney and his great organisation.

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Mooney is the lad who's been despatched by UEFA to effectively run the FAI for the next six months.

At the end of that six-month spell he may well be appointed CEO of the organisation as a replacement for the man he holds in such high esteem. Or he may not, as Mooney claims he's keen to return to his job with UEFA in Switzerland.

The former Cork City goalkeeper's encomia to Delaney and the FAI were made when he was a guest at the organisation's AGM in 2017. We presume he hasn't changed his mind as he hasn't criticised his old boss since.

Mooney is Delaney's protégé. The former CEO gave him a job as Club Promotions Officer with the FAI in 2006.

A few years later, Mooney was made marketing manager with UEFA, securing a glowing testimony from Delaney as he went, and has since risen to become its 'Head of National Associations Business Development'. They obviously think highly of Noel Mooney in UEFA, perhaps nearly as highly as they think of that other high-flying Irish football operator.

Mooney didn't forget Irish football after moving to UEFA, praising Limerick FC as "a shining example" for the League of Ireland who were, "the envy of many clubs." "What Pat O'Sullivan has achieved there is quite breathtaking," gushed our man in Switzerland. "He is a doer and makes things happen."

Limerick chairman O'Sullivan, whose players recently had to threaten strike action because of unpaid wages, has been a prominent Delaney defender.

Some of you might feel that replacing the man who has brought the FAI to a record low in terms of public esteem with someone who admires the way he does business is not a great look for football in this country.

The FAI don't seem to care what you think. They don't seem to care what anyone in this country thinks. UEFA are paying the Abbotstown piper at the moment so theirs is the only tune which matters.

It's a tune the FAI really like. In recent weeks you can see the Association recovering a bit of the boldness which briefly disappeared when the allegations were coming thick and fast and John Delaney had to step aside.

You can see this in their willingness to tear a strip off SIPTU because the union suggested the FAI might be in financial trouble, in their claim in the High Court that information provided to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement is legally privileged and cannot be disclosed to anyone else (so much for that flannel about a new transparent FAI) and in the fact that the organisation's board remain in situ. They're also not telling anyone why a press release falsely stating that the Board knew all about the mysterious €100,000 'loan' provided by Delaney to the Association was issued when the controversy blew up.

The FAI seem to feel they might get through this whole affair without too much trouble. The people who stood by the farcical Hall Report to provide Delaney with a handy way out and who stood with the supremo in stonewalling the Dail Committee might not have to answer for their actions after all.

And what if the government and Sport Ireland and the public would prefer this didn't happen? Fuck them.

The first two don't have the power to make the FAI do anything and the third group will forget all about corporate governance if Mick McCarthy's team keep winning.

Sit tight for a little while and there might even be some soft interviews for Mooney, "The high ranking UEFA official is very much his own man," writes Syc O'Phant." Delaney can hardly be reinstated but seeing that he renegotiated his contract to include a €2m loyalty bonus he'll be alright.

Meanwhile, his erstwhile colleagues will ensure that no-one from outside the inner circle gets the chance to attain any position within the FAI which might enable them to find out what's really been happening in recent years. That's what John would want after all. Loyal to the end, Delaney's Donkeys will ensure their boy's good name is protected. The good name of Irish football seems a lesser priority.

Welcome home Noel. Show us what you're made of.

The Last Word: Lauda accident kept James in the hunt

I did a lot of praying for Niki Lauda back in 1976. As a religiously inclined eight-year-old Formula One fan it seemed the least I could do.

Fortunately my intercession proved successful and the Austrian managed not just to survive his horrendous accident at Nurburgring but to be back in action six weeks later and to add the 1977 and 1984 titles to the one he'd won in 1975.

It's always seemed odd to me that British sports fans eager to laud James Hunt's 1976 world title skip over the fact that he wouldn't have had a hope had Lauda not crashed in Germany, missed the next two Grands Prix and been impaired to the extent that he couldn't finish the final race.

Going into that almost fatal race in Germany, Lauda was 20 points ahead of Hunt who eventually pipped him to the title by a single point. Pretending that Hunt's victory shouldn't have a big asterisk beside it is just one of those weird English things. Like believing Maradona's entire career is overshadowed by one handball. Or voting for Nigel Farage.

* * * * *

Brooks Koepka's victory in the PGA Championship continues a run of American dominance in the Majors. The Yanks have now won eight of the last nine and you have to go back to 1980-1982, when they won 10 out of 11, for a stretch like that.

That run ended with Seve Ballesteros' win in the 1983 Masters as an era when American dominance had been virtually unchallenged came to a close. It seemed unlikely that we'd ever see the like of it again, yet now the Americans are not just winning Majors, they're dominating them, filling five of the first six places at the PGA and six of the first eight places at the Masters.

In those circumstances, don't last year's Ryder Cup victory and all the jingoistic claims that the Americans had somehow been found out seem very hollow indeed?

* * * * *

One of the most remarkable European sporting imports to the States will be going for glory this week as ice hockey's Stanley Cup finals begin. At 42, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will be one of the oldest players to appear in the sport's biggest games, but the Slovakian is used to standing out. At six foot nine Chara is the tallest player ever to appear in the National Hockey League while the 108.8 mph effort he produced in the 2012 NHL hardest shot competition is an event record.

The Bruins appearance in the final against the St Louis Blues is the latest contribution to a golden era for Boston sport. No city has ever won more than two major league titles in a calendar year. But with Boston already home to the champions of American football (New England Patriots) and baseball (Boston Red Sox) the USA's most Irish city has a chance to rule three out of the four main American sports at the same time.

The best of seven series begins tomorrow night in Boston.

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