The John Delaney era looks to be over.
After weeks of speculation surrounding the much-maligned former CEO turned Executive Vice-President, the Football Association of Ireland released a statement on Monday claiming that Delaney has voluntarily ‘stepped aside pending the completion of an independent investigation’.
“The Board of the Football Association of Ireland met in Dublin today. Following that meeting, the sub-committee of the Board met with Executive Vice-President John Delaney.
“John Delaney has offered to voluntarily step aside from carrying out his role as Executive Vice-President with immediate effect pending the completion of an independent investigation by the Association into issues of concern to the Board.”
Since making the jump from CEO to Executive Vice-President, the chief executive’s role has been filled on an interim basis by Rea Walshe who originally joined the FAI in 2014 before working her way into the role of Chief Operating Officer.
Walshe will more than likely wish to take on the role permanently but she faces stiff competition from some highly qualified candidates. Here are our top five candidates to fill the role of FAI Chief Executive.
1. Peter Sherrard
CV: former FAI Logistics Manager, now CEO of Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI).
Sherrard’s responsibilities for the FAI included team operations and match operations, and he was also in charge of organising team preparations at EURO 2016.
The County Down native took on the role as CEO of the OFI in May 2018 in what was the most difficult time in the organisation’s history (similar to the current situation with the FAI) following the arrest of some key members including former President, Pat Hickey.
Throughout his tenure in the FAI, Sherrard held numerous roles including director of communications and interim commercial director.
2. Niall Quinn
CV: former Irish international and Chairman of Sunderland F.C.
A popular choice among fans given his legendary status, Quinn represented the Republic of Ireland on 92 occasions from 1986 until his swansong at the 2002 World Cup.
Since his retirement from football, the former frontman has carved out a second career for himself as a successful businessman which many feel makes him a viable candidate to take over as chief of the FAI.
He originally took over as chairman and manager of his beloved Sunderland in 2006 before handing the managerial reins over to Roy Keane. He remained in his role as chairman until 2011 before taking over as chairman of a satellite broadband company in Ireland called Q Sat.
Quinn has been vocal in his criticism of the FAI in recent weeks previously stating that he would not apply for the role under the current regime.
3. Noel Mooney
CV: former Cork City goalkeeper now working with UEFA.
The former League of Ireland goalkeeper took up a role with the FAI back in 2006 following his retirement.
Mooney worked with the association for six years where he was the Head of League Marketing and Promotions.
He departed the FAI in 2012 to take on the role of Marketing Manager with UEFA and since then Mooney has gone on to become Head of National Associations Business Development.
He is highly regarded in UEFA circles and many are pointing to the former shot-stopper as a genuine candidate to fill the vacant chief executive role at Abbotstown.
4. Gary Keegan
CV: CEO of Uppercut and former head of boxing in Ireland.
Viewed by many as the man who revolutionised Irish boxing in the early 2000s, Keegan set up a High-Performance programme that has produced around 50 senior boxing medals at European, World and Olympic level. He has also previously worked as an external High-Performance Expert within the IRFU.
Following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Keegan took up the role as director of the Irish Institute of Sport, a position he held for eight years before leaving to set-up his own business, Uppercut, a high-performance support offering for the world of business.
Keegan has also held the role of Chair of the High-Performance Advisory Group at Cricket Ireland and has had involvement with both the Dublin footballers and Cork hurlers in the past.
5. Rea Walshe
CV: Interim CEO of Football Association of Ireland
Walshe has worked at the organisation since 2014. Rea oversaw the FAI’s implementation of new governance guidelines endorsed by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
Walshe held the role of Corporate Affairs and Licensing Director before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer earlier this year, however, she had not even begun working in the role when news broke of John Delaney’s €100,000 bridging loan that forced his resignation meaning Walshe was catapulted straight into the chief executive’s chair.
Currently holding down the fort at FAI headquarters, it will be interesting to see if she is considered for the role as many people have called for a complete overhaul of the organisation.