Noel Mooney says FAI became stale during Delaney's reign
Delaney’s temporary successor says fan in him is ‘angry’ about state of league
Noel Mooney. Photograph: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Noel Mooney, the former marketing manager of the FAI who is currently overseeing the administrative side of things at the organisation, has described the situation that prevailed before the current crisis at Abbotstown as “a little bit of staleness”, something caused, he suggested, by the fact the same chief executive had been in place for 15 years.
The 43-year-old was speaking at a live show put on in front of an audience of fans in the Sugar Club in Dublin by the Greatest League in the World podcast, an FAI-backed initiative established to promote the Airtricity League.
“[The association] had a CEO who was there for 15 years and it is very hard to maintain the levels of motivation required when you have a CEO who has been there for 15 years.”
The challenge, he suggested, was to restore that “freshness”. He subsequently acknowledged some of the many and varied difficulties the association is experiencing but remained characteristically upbeat about even the short-term future, remarking that: “The governance report, the new look of the FAI, the rebirth of the association will become clearer over the coming weeks.”
Mooney was speaking publicly for the first time since an interview with the association’s own communications director, Cathal Dervan, which was posted on the association’s YouTube channel just after he started his six-month stint in Abbotstown. He has yet to speak with the press, although he was due to on Wednesday, but that event that has now been postponed for reasons that have not been made clear.
He was not questioned here – either by the presenters or in a subsequent Q&A with the crowd – about his relationship with former FAI chief, John Delaney, or the widespread criticism of Mooney’s appointment by the board, although he did express gratitude to those at the organisation who had persisted with the move in the face of Government pressure to abandon it.
Focus on league
Instead, because of the nature of the event and audience, he got to focus on the league, in which he started out as a player with Cork City, Limerick and Shamrock Rovers. He said that his intention was to work with clubs so as to map out a “vision” for the senior game.
He insisted that the fan in him is “angry” over the way the association has failed to develop the league. Asked if he understood why supporters regularly sing anti-FAI songs, he joked “I sing them myself whenever I can”, but he expressed a great deal of confidence that the fractured relationship between the two sides can be healed over the coming months.
“As a fan, I’m angry, disappointed, ashamed in some ways,” he said, “over whatever has happened in our beautiful game that has put us in such a difficult spot.
“But we have a lot of challenges at the moment, and so you have to pick your battles. You have the reviews going on and you have the financial situation, but even while all of that is going on you have to have a vision for the future too.
“You have to look at where you want to be in 10 years’ time. You can’t do two- or three-year plans any more. Dundalk need a new stadium, St Patrick’s need a new stadium, we need to improve the facilities, we need better commercial revenues, better marketing. We need a vision for where we want to be in 2030.”
Niall Quinn vision
Asked whether he feels Niall Quinn and his group have a major part to play in that vision, he said that that will come down to the association’s new board and the league’s clubs but, he clearly suggested, he regards them and others as being a valid part of the debate.
“I spoke to Niall and his group briefly on Friday,” he said. “There are some bright and intelligent people in that group with a great experience that we would be crazy not to listen to them.
“There is another person, Kieran Lucid, also out there talking to people about an all-Ireland League, we will listen to that too. If the clubs want to explore the All-Ireland league format, that is fine, but there is a lot of noise out there at the moment and at some point the clubs have to decide where they want to be.
The new board will make the decisions, along with the clubs,” he continued. “I think July will be a big month for the league. I hope that by the time I leave we will have the future mapped out”
July is certainly shaping up to be quite a month for the association and the Irish game.