Noel Mooney calls for ‘brave decisions’ on all-island league
Two-day seminar discussing future of domestic game regarded as ‘hugely positive’
FAI general manager Noel Mooney said Niall Quinn’s involvement with the association could be “of benefit to Irish football”. File photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
FAI general manager Noel Mooney says that some “brave decisions” are required if Airtricity League clubs are to achieve tangible change after a two-day “strategic planning” seminar that all parties seem have regarded as “hugely positive”.
Mooney, representatives of the clubs, fans, managers and players all attended a press briefing after Sunday afternoon’s session at which the association’s interim head of administration said that concrete decisions would have to be made by October.
This seemed to primarily apply to the “All-Island” league plan put forward by entrepreneur Kieran Lucid who has himself pushed for quick progress to get the new competition in place by 2021, something the 35-year-old has described as “ambitious but not impossible”.
The timeframe is seen as important given the historical significance of the association’s approaching centenary and the scale of the internal upheaval in Abbotstown, something that is seen by many as a window of opportunity but it has major implications for the 2020 campaign.
“That season is already mapped out,” said Mooney, “but the clubs would need to know what they were playing for.”
Niall Quinn’s proposal that he and his group become involved in running the senior club game is also to be considered further over the coming months.
A working group of eight league clubs – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Drogheda United, Cork City, Sligo Rovers, Derry City, Galway United and Bray Wanderers – has been established to examine the two proposals and deal with various other, ongoing issues. Lucid and Quinn have been asked to meet again in late August by which time, it is hoped, they will have further developed their plans.
Their presentations out in Abbotstown over the weekend were generally very well received although there are clearly still reservations and representatives of Dundalk made it clear that there was quite some way to go before they would be willing to take the sort of leap of faith required to endorse either proposal. The club’s general manager Martin Connolly said there were still “a lot of questions to be answered”, while its American chairman, Mike Treacy, described the presentations as “fantastic”, but added that “at this point, they are just ideas”.
Quinn and his group could actually become a part of the decision-making process within a matter of weeks, though, with the former international acknowledging that they may seek places on the new FAI board, most obviously a number of the independent directorships, if the governance reforms to be put to leagues and affiliates this month are voted through.
Mooney certainly seemed open to Quinn’s involvement which he said could be “of benefit to Irish football”, and former Cobh Ramblers manager, Stephen Henderson, representing managers, said that the Dubliner had put “a lot more meat on the bones” of his ideas when addressing delegates over the weekend. The group’s initial document had been widely regarded as disappointingly short on detail.
The general feeling is that Mooney would also be personally happy to see the “All-Island” league proposal advanced and he made fairly clear here that the association would not be an impediment to progress. He suggested that Uefa, who also addressed the seminar, may not be a problem either but did not express an opinion on whether the IFA, NIFL and northern clubs can be brought on board.
He does seem to have brokered some sort of peace between the Airtricity League clubs and the association. Jonathan Roche of Shamrock Rovers was one of a number to credit Mooney with the change in atmosphere while Connolly said that the problem previously had been the “culture around the place, but I think the big thing about the last few days was the huge willingness to change that culture”.