Noel Mooney believes government opposition to his role at the FAI is “bonkers and not based in reality” but says he is prepared to leave his position as caretaker general manager “for the good of Irish football”.
Mooney previously worked in a marketing role for the FAI before embarking on a career at Uefa. And Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, believes his links with the previous regime at Abbotstown make him unsuitable for a long-term position within the Irish game.
Speaking to his former Cork City teammate Neal Horgan and another former City player Darren Murphy, on the Irish Examiner Soccer Podcast, Mooney hit back at the minister.
“The government, the minister, has made it clear he’d like if I wasn’t here, because I used to work for the FAI. I think that’s crazy stuff, to be honest with you. I worked in middle management. I was let go by the FAI, they are the facts. I had no impact on the big decisions of the FAI when I was here.
Soccer Podcast: The Noel Mooney Interview — Will the FAI show League of Ireland the love?
“I went around Europe for the last eight years to prove myself and to learn to operate at the highest level you can off the pitch. I worked with all of the federations of Europe, from the biggest to the smallest, in practically every area. If there’s somebody out there who’s got a better skillset to run the association, that’s great.
“I think it’s really throwing the baby out with the bathwater to say, because I worked in the association many years ago… But you have to do the right thing for Irish football, so if the government thinks it’s the right thing that I go back to Uefa…I think that’s the right thing to do.”
Mooney rejected the idea that he has been tarnished by his previous role, given the several ongoing reviews of the way the FAI has conducted its business.
“It’s just bonkers. It’s not based in reality. It’s based on wanting to score political points. The FAI is an easy punching bag at the moment. I understand why people say, just scorch everything that was ever there, burn everything and start again, but that’s not based in reality.”
Mooney admitted his own frustrations with the FAI during his spell in a marketing role.
But he recalled a meeting in Limerick when the FAI discussed a revolutionary change in how the League of Ireland would be run.
“It looked like the FAI would have real money. We sat here working on a document to take over all of the clubs and centralise all the contracts of the players, to get all the clubs professional.
“It was 2008, I think. We sat, asking what would it take to take over the contracts of the players, like the IRFU would have. And then what happened, the Vantage Club ticket project failed. And it was back to recession and cuts.
Today a League of Ireland working group will present its review of proposals for the league’s future, including businessman Kieran Lucid plans for a cross-border structure. Mooney regards this a pivotal moment for the league.
“Coming home one of the real attractions was to find a real big decision for the League of Ireland. Whether that’s a cross-border league or a much better version of what we have. We need big brave decisions. It needs radical reform. There’s no question about that. It needs government involved. It needs big investment.
“It can’t be a four-year plan or a five-year plan, it has to be a 20- or 30-year plan. Because you’re investing in stadiums and in young players and that doesn’t happen in three or four years.”
Listen to the Irish Examiner Soccer Podcast on SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and irishexaminer.com/podcast