We’d still love Kerr to take role with FAI, says Mooney

LIAM MACKEY: We’d still love Kerr to take role with FAI, says Mooney
Former Cork City star Neal Horgan and FAI general manager Noel Mooney at the launch of Horgan’s book ‘The Cross Roads’ at the FAI offices in Abbotstown, Co Dublin. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Noel Mooney has said that he would love to have Brian Kerr back working with the FAI but, having described him as “bitter” in a recent podcast, reiterated his dismay that the former Ireland manager chose to make public an email from the association’s general manager, in which the suggestion that he take up the role of ‘media watchdog’ was subsequently witheringly dismissed by Kerr.

“We would love Brian Kerr to be involved in Irish football,” said Mooney. “He is a treasure to Irish football. He has achieved so much. However, you can’t let somebody treat you in a way that I think is disrespectful.

“I reached out to him in the most genuine way. Anyone who knows me [will tell you] I have zero agendas. I just wanted Brian to come back in and have a cup of coffee. What it turned into then was extraordinary. I was amazed by how a genuine reach-out, where I did everything I possibly could to meet him for a cup of coffee, turned into a media story that it just didn’t need to be.

“I just don’t agree with taking a private conversation by email … I’ve never seen it before. I’ve had thousands of conversations with managers and never seen that, it’s just an unspoken rule. You don’t do it. We reached out as best we can, we have apologised for any hurt and upset that he felt here. That’s all done. He’s got all the apologies he’ll ever want, or that I can ever give him.”

Asked what he had meant by the contentious phrase ‘media watchdog’, Mooney said: ”For me, a media watchdog, my understanding, is someone who looks at the organisation and comments on it. That’s my understanding. Maybe I got the phraseology wrong.

But what I was saying to him was, rather than being out there commenting on us, wouldn’t it be much better if you were inside looking at the strategy of Irish football and developing the talent of the future with the capable coaches we have, (like) Colin O’Brien and Tom Mohan. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if he was here? We’d love nothing more than that.

“Anyone here in this room who knows me will know that all I want to see is the game grow. ‘Brian, please, please, please, please be involved’, and it turns into something that was truly ridiculous. I’ll beg him, if you want, to get involved in Irish football. I’d be very happy to do that. I’ll beg him. I’ll ring him, I would email him again and again.

“But I have sent a long note, really asking him to be involved, and he took one phrase on the bottom of thousands of words, and decided it was more important to use that in a media story to bash me and to bash the FAI.”

A sign of changing times, certainly, was that Mooney was speaking in the FAI HQ in Abbotstown at the launch of a book by a former team-mate whose sub-title includes the words “crisis at the FAI”.

The Cross Roads – Rise Of The Rebel Army and Crisis at the FAI, Neal Horgan’s third book in his Cork City trilogy, sets the fall, death and rise of the club against the backdrop of turmoil in the game’s governing body and amid much debate and uncertainty about the way forward for the League of Ireland.

And ahead of today’s meeting of clubs from north and south of the border to hear the latest on Kerry businessman Kieran Lucid’s plans for an all-island league, both Horgan and the FAI general manager backed the idea in principle, while expressing some reservations about the timing.

“I think ultimately I’m for it, but I don’t know about right now,” said former City full-back Horgan. “I think it would take a bit of time to get there. I always thought there was a capacity issue in terms of our population with a professional league, and this would bring in an extra two million.

If you look at other countries with the population of what there would be for the all-island league, they’re able to deal with a small professional league.

“It would be hard to do it next year, I think, but working towards it would be ideal. Having played in the Setanta Cup, I came across this argument that there was no-one supporting it. But it was like a League Cup to us, except the prize money was greater. If you made it a proper league, it could be successful and could be a real support to professional football.”

Mooney also worries that the plan might be premature.

“I think it’s a good concept, if it improves the game and gets more money into the clubs, gets more attendances and better broadcast deals,” he said. “If it reaches the potential we all speak about, great. But there are barriers to it, a lot of issues around it. It will be interesting to see how they get solved.

“My own personal view — and I would share Neal’s view, actually — is I think it’s something we should work together towards. But I would have doubts on the timings. A possibility could be that we build relations again through a good cup competition for a couple of years to build trust between everybody and then work towards an all-island league.

“The concept is great — but premature? Possibly. I have no idea of what’s going to be said at (today’s meeting) but if they put enough meat on the bones you could see this thing take off very quickly.”

Neal Horgan’s ‘The Crossroads – Rise Of The Rebel Army and Crisis at the FAI’ is published by Sportsproview.

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