FAI executives say little and reveal even less


ANOTHER stormy day in the troubled times of the FAI, but no matter. Though further discredited by a third resignation of its full time staff within five days, namely National Coach Joe McGrath, the officer board of the FAI clung together and emerged from a tempestuous Executive Council meeting and ensuing press conference with their hold on the reins of power even firmer than at the start of the day.

During an hour long press conference (which followed a three hour council meeting), there was an awful lot of talking but very little revealed. It was a masterful exercise, controlled by stand in chief executive Des Casey. The association's newest consultant, PJ Mara, was not present at least not physically.

In relation to the most vexed question of all, namely an alleged shortfall of £200,000 in money accrued from the FAI's allocation of 1994 World Cup tickets, Casey gave the "same answer" that he had earlier given to the executive.

Curiously, this consisted of the minutes of a meeting of the finance committee in the Westbury Hotel on November 11th, 1994, and questions raised there by the Leinster League representative. All statements were attributed to the FAI's former accountant, Michael Morris. "No monies were owed by any officers of the association. No serious amounts of money were outstanding that caused them any concern or worry.

As to reports that one of the officers met the shortfall, Louis Kilcoyne stated: "Not so." Added Casey: "That was raised tonight and there was no evidence to that effect. If it's there, I certainly don't have it."

There was no shortfall that Casey "was aware of". According to Kilcoyne, there were no substantial amounts of money owed to the association, "not now, nor ever". Though Michael Hyland had admitted on Tuesday that there might be a case for an inquiry into the above matter, Hyland was "quite satisfied by the answers given by Des Casey".

Initially, the officers declined to say whether they had confidence in the former chief executive, Sean Connolly. "We're not commenting on that issue tonight," Casey said repeatedly. They did reveal they were paying Connolly compensation, even though he resigned voluntarily. So far as we could tell, Morris and McGrath were not paid compensation.

Connolly was not forced out, said Kilcoyne, who paused when asked if he had wanted Connolly to go, before saying: "Look, I'm not saying any more." There was "no animosity" between Connolly and the association.

Referring to the departures of Morris and McGrath, who taking up a similar appointment in New Zealand, Casey said: "The three departures, whether you believe it or not, were entirely co-incidental."

McGrath had gone to New Zealand to do a week's coaching in January at the invitation of the New Zealand FA, and was offered a position at that time.

Though the officers failed to impose a package of proposals put to them by McGrath in 1993, and though the departed national coach criticised them for failing to adequately support his work, they all maintained they had given him their full backing.

Casey admitted that the officers "probably don't deserve" the full support of the media. None of the officers volunteered to accept any responsibility for the "instability" which Casey admitted had recently plagued the association. They would "circle the wagons and try to demonstrate that the association is alive and kicking".

What's more, the executive are fully behind them and "were very together tonight", according to Kilcoyne. This patently wasn't so.

During the preceding executive committee meeting a suggestion that there should be votes of confidence in each of the five officers was talked down. The Bray Wanderers representative, Eddie Cox, strongly opposed the suggestion on the grounds that it would be injurious to the association. Nevertheless, a motion to that effect could be put forward at the next meeting of the full, 50 member council, on March 8th.

Though the officers maintained they had the full backing of the executive, and that no one had asked them to resign, the first sightings of internal strife came moments before 8.00 pm when the Shelbourne representative, Finbarr Flood, stormed out and declined to talk to journalists.

Shortly afterwards, an hour behind schedule, Casey fronted the press conference, flanked by his fellow officers, Pat Quigley, Louis Kilcoyne, Michael Hyland and Joe Delaney.

A lengthy opening address, revealed that a number of matters had been resolved, such as Ian Evans' appointment as part time assistant to Mick McCarthy, and several appointments to internal vacancies.

Contrary to a claim by Flood last week that there was a statement agreed fully backing Mick McCarthy following Kilcoyne's admission that the new manager was not his first choice, Kilcoyne said: "There was no statement. There was a suggestion that there might be a statement. I didn't agree with that."

In contradiction of Hyland's claim on Tuesday that PJ Mara had not yet been appointed by the FAI, Kilcoyne said Mara "was appointed by our council to act for us in a public relations capacity".

Though a compelling case could be made for the resignations for some, if not all, of the officers, in view of the recent chain of events, they responded thus: Kilcoyne - "Certainly not from me. Hyland" - Certainly not me.

They have survived. For better, or for worse.