Noel Mooney open to Niall Quinn-FAI link-up

Noel Mooney has revealed he is open to Niall Quinn being part of the FAI’s ‘rebirth’ but admits tensions with the Government will not ease until he departs.

Noel Mooney open to Niall Quinn-FAI link-up

Noel Mooney has revealed he is open to Niall Quinn being part of the FAI’s ‘rebirth’ but admits tensions with the Government will not ease until he departs.

The association’s former marketing manager was rehired last month from Uefa to the post of general manager on a six-month secondment, a decision Sport Minister Shane Ross slammed as “backward”.

State funding remains suspended until Ross and his department are satisfied that corporate governance mechanisms are modernised.

That scepticism of Ross derives principally from Mooney’s perceived closeness to Delaney. The former chief executive, who Mooney only two years ago branded an “inspiration”, is currently on gardening leave from the FAI.

“We will build relationships with the Government, maybe not in my time, but we have to because we cannot work with stadium infrastructure,” he said.

“Dundalk need a new arena, as do St Patrick’s Athletic. Two of three plans are not the answer. We need a vision of where the FAI and the League of Ireland will be at in 2030.

“When the FAI got into financial difficulties over their ticketing scheme, our budget for promotions disappeared. I had some disagreements about strategy of the league and was disappointed with the attitude shown towards the league.

It was very hard to keep the motivation when there was a CEO there for 15 years. Areas need to be refreshed to make sure the FAI is fit for purpose. Niall has some bright and intelligent people in his group and we’d be foolish not to listen to their views.

Mooney said he had no objection to fans protesting against Delaney and the FAI’s hierarchy, either at domestic or international matches. “What’s happened over the last few months off the pitch makes me angry and ashamed,” he said.

“Fans should be free to put up banners if they want, to say they’re pissed off. I’m passionate about the League of Ireland and sing some of those songs at grounds myself.”

Meanwhile, Ireland’s four representatives in Europe will today discover their opposition.

Champions Dundalk could be paired with Linfield in a repeat of the European Cup tie of 40 years ago. The League of Ireland title-holders are the seeded team in the Champions League first round and Uefa yesterday devised the sub-groups ahead of the draw in Nyon.

The Lilywhites, currently five points ahead at the summit, are pooled in Group 3 on the opposite side of five unseeded teams: Linfield, Piast Gliwice (Poland), Valur Reykjavik (Iceland), HB Torshavn (Faroe Islands), or Riga (Latvia).

Drawing Linfield could present a security headache for Uefa. The sides’ 1979 meeting sparked riots that marred the clash at Oriel Park. Several injuries and arrests led to the second leg being switched to Haarlem, Netherlands.

Of the other potential opposition, Piast Gliwice may be the team to avoid. The club, based in southern Poland near to Katowice, won their first-ever title last year in a league considered far superior in quality to the domestic product. Commercially, Dundalk’s owners Peak6 will be eager for a favourable outcome.

Dundalk are guaranteed to scoop a minimum of €800,000 for their European campaign. Even defeat in the opening round, the fixtures taking place on July 9/10 and 16/17, would be cushioned by a parachute into the second round of the Europa League.

Progression to the second round of the Champions League, where they would be unseeded, grosses at least €1.2m. There is also potential to draw one of the bigger names and a large turnout.

In the Europa League, Cork City are the only one of the three entrants seeded.

City can face Progres Niederkorn from Luxembourg, Cardiff Metropolitan University of Wales, Faroe Islands outfit B36, Inter Turku from Finland, KR of Iceland, or either Prishtina from Kosovo or St Joseph’s of Gibraltar.

Shamrock Rovers could face Vaduz (LIE), Kilmarnock (SCO), Brann (NOR), Vitebsk (BLR), or Malmo (SWE).

Waterford were due to be the final team but only two months ago were refused a licence by Uefa, and replaced by St Patrick’s Athletic. Pats are clustered on the other side of seeds that includes Scottish club Aberdeen. Other possible opposition are Stjarnan (ISL), Norrköping (SWE), Riteriai (LTU), and Dinamo Minsk (BLR).

Elimination at the first hurdle will be eased by prize money of €240,000. The draws today start at 1.30pm Irish time.

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