Friday 24 May 2019

'The FAI needs to do more' - Ireland legend wants Niall Quinn as next CEO

Niall Quinn and (inset) Paul McGrath
Niall Quinn and (inset) Paul McGrath
Paul McGrath with McKelvey Celtic U-10 coach Graham Regan and his son Senan Regan

John Fallon

It takes a lot to get Paul McGrath worked up but the subject of priorities within Irish football is sufficient for him to become animated.

The former Ireland defender, now living in Wexford, has got to witness many layers of the game through his various roles, including one with the FAI - and he doesn't like parts of what he sees.

Over the Christmas period, one club visit encapsulated his contrasting emotions.

As special guest of Dublin nursery McKelvey Celtic, the club having won a competition held by Manchester United and DHL, the 58-year-old was in his pomp encouraging the battalion of pre-teens to try a trick in a specially-arranged training match.

Once off the sidelines, after being serenaded with a chorus of 'Ooh, aah Paul McGrath', his thoughts turned to the bigger picture.

McGrath's deflation isn't so much attributed to last month's World Cup play-off humbling, rather the conditions within which football is supposed to be fostered.

While McKelvey are grateful for the all-weather pitch they constructed with the help of grant aid, McGrath thinks they deserve more to help them deliver the valued job of keeping youngsters out of trouble and help maximise their football talent.

Finances alone aren't the missing ingredient. McGrath feels a change of priorities and, in some cases personnel, is needed to acquire the necessary medicine.

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The sentiments are not from a taxi driver or bar-stool merchant, instead a sacred member of any person's all-time greatest Ireland team.

"The FAI needs to do more," asserted the 83-times capped legend. "If the clubs working with young players don't get what they need to bring the kids to the next level, then the senior team will be stuck where they are for a while.

"We had a team capable of reaching the World Cup finals but it isn't just about what happens on the pitch.

"I've always believed past players have a role to play in developing the game."

McGrath would love to see Niall Quinn given a role. The former Ireland striker has continuously denied that he is interested in a top job, but he hasn't been shy about pinpointing the issues afflicting the game.

These days, Quinn is slightly detached in his new role behind the phone application, FanzFirst, having left the Sky Sports studio in August.

His record as chairman of Sunderland, whom he took out of financial trouble and back to the Premier League, is just one of the reasons why McGrath would like to see him at the epicentre of decision-making within Irish football.

"Niall Quinn would be my choice as the next FAI chief executive because he'd soon get Irish football back where it belongs," said McGrath, who soldiered in the finals of three tournaments with Quinn.

"Niall would make a tremendous leader. He knows the ins and outs of the game. He's done it before at Sunderland, is not looking for money out of it. He'd soon get rid of a few people at the top echelons of the game."

Irish Independent

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