Friday 19 July 2019

'I am ashamed at how our beautiful game has gone' - acting head of FAI Noel Mooney breaks silence on Irish game

Interim General Manager says 'I often sing the song myself' when asked about anti-FAI chants

Noel Mooney, FAI General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships speaking with Greatest League in the World podcast at the Sugar Club in Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Noel Mooney, FAI General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships speaking with Greatest League in the World podcast at the Sugar Club in Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Noel Mooney, the interim head of the FAI, says he's "ashamed" of what has happened at the FAI in the last three months but he claims that his past relationship with the association as an employee, should not prevent him from taking on his six-month contract with the embattled body.

And the Limerick native, on secondment to the FAI from his full-time role with UEFA, says he understands why supporters sing anti-FAI songs at matches, even joking "I often sing the song myself when I can," Mooney also claiming that he noted the "staleness" in the FAI resulting from former CEO John Delaney remaining in his post for 15 years.

Limerick native Mooney returned to the FAI in a newly-created position of General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships, the appointment confirmed by the FAI a month ago tomorrow though he only began work, as the effective CEO, at the FAI on June 3.

"I fully understand and I often sing it at matches myself when I can," Mooney said of those anti-FAI chants when he spoke at an public event for the FAI's official League of Ireland podcast in Dublin's Sugar Club last night.

"I understand because what's happened over the last few months, I am angry. I am disappointed and ashamed at how our beautiful game has gone, what has happened has put Irish soccer into a difficult spot.

"When we don't do what we should do, we should be ashamed, it's right that people should talk about it but it's our responsibility to make football the best it can be.

Ireland manager Mick McCarthy in conversation with Noel Mooney, FAI General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships prior to the opening games of the Kennedy Cup last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy in conversation with Noel Mooney, FAI General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships prior to the opening games of the Kennedy Cup last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

"There are lots of areas where the FAI are good, there are great people working there but I do believe that what has happened there is not good enough, the fans should voice their concerns, they should put up banners, they should say they are pissed off.

"My eyes are open to staleness, we had a CEO who was there for 15 years, a long time and it's hard to keep that motivation for such a long time and there are areas where we need to be refreshed."

Mooney's past relationship with the FAI, and the support he voiced for Delaney only two years ago, has led to criticism of his position in Abbotstown, with minister for Sport Shane Ross, and Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, chair of the Oireachtas committee on sport, both calling for Mooney to step down.

"As I worked there a few years ago it's seen, or said, that I should not have a voice. I saw things I wanted to change and it's sad that people don't want you to go back and change them, I hope to be one small part of the solution," he said.

"I saw things eight or nine years ago, it's said that people don't want me to go back to bring change, I hope that I can be part of the solution.

"He (Shane Ross) has his view, he's entitled to his view, we need to work with government, we can't work on infrastructure without government, there is a lot of noise at the moment but I have no doubt it will work again.

"We will build relations with the government, maybe not in my lifetime but we will do it."

Mooney spoke last night about transparency in what he calls a new-look FAI keen to reform.

Apart from an interview with the FAI's in-house TV channel and an appearance on stage at an event in Dublin last night for the FAI/League of Ireland's officially-sanctioned podcast, Mooney has not spoken to the media and plans to hold a briefing for football reporters tomorrow have been abandoned.

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