Former Cork City goalkeeper Noel Mooney is the new man between the posts at the FAI, the embattled Association trusting that their loan signing from UEFA will prove the safe and experienced pair of hands capable of leading them through a challenging period of transition.
Mooney has been seconded to Abbotstown from UEFA headquarters in Nyon for a period of six months with the title of General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships.
His appointment means that Rea Walshe will step down as Interim Chief Executive – a position which now no longer exists - and, as was planned before the current crisis, take up the role of Chief Operating Officer, in which capacity, say the FAI, she will “continue to lead the process of governance and reform.”
After his secondment to the FAI, Mooney – who, after finishing his playing days in the League of Ireland, previously worked for the Association as National Clubs Promotion Office - will return to UEFA and his position as Head of National Association Business Development on November 30. Neither Mooney nor Walshe will be members of the board during this new interim arrangement.
FAI and UEFA agreed to transfer Mooney to Dublin at a recent meeting in Nyon. It’s believed that there was some opposition in government to the move but at their recent meeting with Sport Ireland, FIFA strongly
reinforced the message of FAI autonomy and last night’s announcement appears to suggest that the football bodies have had their way.
Critics have argued that Mooney is too closely associated with the John Delaney years and have cited incidents where he publicly praised the former CEO. But Mooney is expected to strongly defend himself against that perception when, according to the FAI yesterday, he and President Donal Conway will conduct a press conference early next month.
As UEFA’s Head of National Association Business Development, Mooney has worked across Europe with a number of member associations on such issues as strategic planning, finance and commercial development. His experience in that sphere, coupled with his deep links to the Irish game, make him what both the FAI and UEFA regard as “a perfect fit” for his new temporary but significant role.
Taking up his assignment on June 3, Mooney will, say the FAI, “initially assess the FAI’s requirements and will co-ordinate future support and expertise in finance and other areas from UEFA and FIFA.”
In a statement tonight, FAI President Donal Conway said: "UEFA’s advice and support will be very important to the FAI as will Noel Mooney’s UEFA experience and knowledge. Noel Mooney will also play a key role in our engagements with all of our stakeholders as we deliver change for Irish football."
For his part, Noel Mooney said: "Working with all of our stakeholders, I am confident Irish football will emerge stronger and better over the next few months as we listen to the voices of those who want the game to succeed and are determined to deliver the radical reform required for Irish football.
"In my time with UEFA I have led teams across Europe developing football in many countries. Returning home to help the FAI with its challenges is something I will embrace as we deliver change with our highly committed staff and all our leagues, clubs and partners."