Tuesday 22 October 2019

Ewan MacKenna: 'How do you explain that John Delaney is actually a real person?'

John Delaney departed the FAI last Saturday. Photo: Gerry Mooney
John Delaney departed the FAI last Saturday. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Ewan MacKenna

Ewan MacKenna

It won't be long before we have a whole lot to answer for. You can be fairly sure we won't have a whole lot of answers though.

Watching the news followed by a day with the nephew, not quite two, would make anyone realise as much. And not solely as to why this is an era that manages to force for all eternity the tune and words of Baby Shark into a brain not yet fully formed.

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In years to come he should have a long line of questions. Why Greta Thunberg was either nicely told to go home and watch a film or called a spoilt brat by adults who'd have served us better had they done just that?

Why "dither and delay" amounted to an entire government policy at a time of relative crisis via a bunch of pompous British elitists who managed to convince the working class of the north they were on their side?

Why there was a lunatic reality TV sociopath in the White House? Why more and more had a dark sky as a roof and a wet path as their floor as we spoke of the boom times and paid €6 a pint? Why Love Island was actually a thing?

Of course sport comes way down the list of priorities but there's another curiosity the nephew may have when he grows a little.

FAI Chief Executive John Delaney celebrates with Ireland players in the Aviva Stadium dressing room after the Euro 2016 qualifying play-off win over Bosnia back in 2015.
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney celebrates with Ireland players in the Aviva Stadium dressing room after the Euro 2016 qualifying play-off win over Bosnia back in 2015.

Eamonn Sweeney of this parish had a great line at the weekend asking, "What will future generations think of John Delaney? They'll probably think we made him up".

Only we didn't make him up. We helped create and tolerate and prolong and enrich him.

So how exactly will I explain Delaney to a growing nephew a few years on down the line...

* * *

"So John Delaney was real, uncle?"

"Very much so, I even met him a few times. He liked to shake hands with everyone and used your first name over and over in that way politicians do so they easily win trust and favour and you think they really are interested in you."

"But what was he like?"

"Well his parents said he gave his shoes to an 'itinerant' that came to the door once, but that's another story for another day. Put it this way. You know if you have lots of sweets and your friends like sweets so you share your sweets with them as it's the right thing to do?

With IOC President Pat Hickey and girlfriend Emma English at the Sweden game in Paris during Euro 2016
With IOC President Pat Hickey and girlfriend Emma English at the Sweden game in Paris during Euro 2016

"He was like the boy that didn't share his sweets, so he ate all his sweets, and then took other people's sweets.

"And he got fatter and fatter and wanted more and more to eat. You've seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I guess he was a bit like Augustus Gloop.

"He thought he was better than anyone and everyone. There were people that worked for him and he wouldn't go for his lunch with them and if he wanted them he'd shout at them to come to his office.

"Yet still they worked hard but then he got rid of their jobs and said he couldn't afford them anymore while he gave himself a bigger wage anyway."

"How long did he do that for?"

"For 15 years and it could easily have been longer."

"Why didn't anyone stop him."

"It's complicated but when you're older you'll learn about scratching others' backs. It's how a certain class close the doors to the rest. Besides, people get bored quickly so don't stay angry at anyone for long.

The new Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is greeted by FAI chief executive John Delaney as he arrives for his first press conference at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin. Picture: David Conachy
The new Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is greeted by FAI chief executive John Delaney as he arrives for his first press conference at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin. Picture: David Conachy

"This allows those at the top to get away with a lot. This guy John, he kept his friends in high places happy, and went all over Ireland and smiled and opened pitches with other people's money and pretended it was his doing."

"When did you know about all of this?"

"Considering this was Ireland in the new millennium, and his father was a football administrator who had to resign over some dodgy business before him, there was always a hunch.

"But it became clear in 2008 as there was an old footballer called Dave Langan who'd been hurt and was going through some really tough times.

"So some nice folks tried to have a fundraiser for him and John and the FAI agreed to throw a dinner to raise a few quid.

"That night there was close to €10,000 worth of drinks for the crowd.

"The crowd thought the FAI were paying for the drinks but the money was taken from Dave's share. His sister had to beg to give it back. I knew then."

"Nobody said anything about this?"

"Not really because there was bigger news and around then John was busy trying to sell golden tickets for 10 years and you could go to all the games but he wanted €32,000 in return."

"Is that a lot?"

"It wasn't for John, but for everyone else it was too much. So no one bought them and the FAI lost a lot but as a reward John gave himself a pay rise for a job he'd badly done. You know when you're a good boy you get a surprise? John had a very different set of rules for himself."

"Why weren't the fans angry?"

"Well he pretended he was like them. He got drunk in Poland once on duty - you're never to do that. He sang rebel songs in bars when his job involved diplomacy.

"He was carried around with no shoes and he bought pints for supporters on company credit cards with funds that should have been for football. They didn't care though as they all had a big party."

"But if he spent all this money and gave himself a lot too, didn't he run out?"

"It was okay because Ireland drew Estonia and made a European Championships, and then 24 teams were allowed in making it easier. So fans would go away and beg to be loved while the team lost."

Former FAI chief executive John Delaney. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Former FAI chief executive John Delaney. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

"Why weren't journalists writing about this?"

"They tried but you know that story about the big, bad wolf? He was similar. One time, there was a journalist he didn't like so John went to his boss and said he wanted him to lose his job.

"Another time a journalist asked him why he earned so much and he got mad and wouldn't talk to him anymore.

"He only liked people who wrote nice things and never asked any questions and showed him as a high-flying, successful, celebrity that everyone loved."

"Was he a celebrity?"

"Probably. In his own head certainly."

"So how did he get caught?"

"One person didn't like him and was brave and told a journalist called Mark Tighe on him."

"What did they tell him?"

"That John's rent was being paid by money meant for football. That he wasn't paying his tax properly around this. That money was going from John to the FAI in loans that shouldn't have been.

"That he was using their credit card to take money out and pay for things for him."

"Did he get in trouble when the man told Mark Tighe?"

"Not really?"

"Why not?"

"Well because you'll learn soon that if you are rich and powerful enough you are allowed do more wrong than those with nothing; and when the government called him in like your headmaster at school he refused to talk to them; and his friends tried to take care of him because he had been good to them. They were very loyal in the wrong way."

"So what did he do when everyone knew he wasn't a good person?"

"He got a holiday, only it was a different holiday. When you go away it costs your mom and dad money. But on John's holiday, he kept being paid.

"His friends in the FAI told him to go and have fun in Flordia - that's where DisneyWorld is - and when he came back his bank account would be even bigger."

"Did they give him a lot of money?"

"They gave him €7,000 a week. Just so he could have a nice time and wasn't too stressed after all that happened.

"So if you do some maths like your teacher showed you, you can easily work out that was €165,000 just for him.

"There was one problem though. There were some other people looking into everything he had done wrong, and they were going to do a report, and they could have got him in big trouble and it could have cost him his job.

"So his friends told him it's better if he quits."

"Did they have to give him this?"

"Oh no, they could have waited for that report and tried to tell him to go away and kept all that money and used it for your football team.

"But instead they paid him and then those friends put that news out late on a Saturday so the journalist that caused all the trouble couldn't get the story that he was leaving.

"They were very bitter so they blamed everyone else. Remember we talked about taking responsibility? No one ever taught them about that."

"And what happened John after that?"

"He lived happily ever after."

"What? Are you sure this is real?"

"You know what, come to think of it, I'm not sure. Your uncle's getting old and his memory isn't what it used to be. It does all seem a bit far fetched."

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