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Dunphy gives his verdict on Champagne Football and why he was at Delaney’s 50th birthday

Eamon Dunphy Champagne Football

Eamon Dunphy is very prominent in Champagne Football, the book that charts the scandals of John Delaney’s tenure at the FAI.

With Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan’s book Champagne Football: The Rise and Fall of John Delaney and the Football Association of Ireland captivating football fans, the fallout from their investigative journalism continues to be discussed.

As those who read the book will know, Champagne Football starts with a recount of John Delaney’s James Bond-themed 50th birthday party. Journalist and former RTÉ football pundit Eamon Dunphy was one of the people in attendance at that event.

Speaking to Matt Cooper on The Last Word, Dunphy was asked to give his verdict on the book and his reasons for being at Delaney’s lavish birthday party.

Eamon Dunphy Champagne Football

“It’s a good book, even though I feature quite a bit more even than I’d like to. There’s lots of information there about how Delaney took control of Irish football for over a decade and ran it, sort of, as his own personal bank account,” said Dunphy.

Later in the conversation, Cooper asks Dunphy what is it about Delaney’s personality that draws people to him, like Dunphy and John Giles.

In Cooper’s own words, “what does Delaney have that he could get sceptical people onside?”

“Well, he encouraged John (Giles) who was very interested in contributing to grassroots around the country through the John Giles Foundation. That was Delaney’s way of getting John in and John complied and travelled all over Ireland with the best of intentions,” said Dunphy.

The FAI picked up a total tab of €30,000 that night, as discussed below.

Dunphy adds: “There was the Con Martin element and all of the fees that Con got were very tricky. I was no friend of Delaney’s but I did a favour to John by going to his 50th party and I helped the lads with the book, I ‘fessed up and told them everything I knew.

“He had 10 Manchester United season tickets and a friend of mine was a Man Utd fanatic and he gave me two. So, that kind of patronage. It never affected my work as a journalist because I was very critical of the team. He did build a network of people who somehow owed him something.”

Eamon Dunphy Champagne Football

When asked by Cooper if he agreed with the analogy that Delaney was like a political fixer – a “pound shop Charlie Haughey” as Cooper puts it – Dunphy agreed that the former CEO of the FAI used patronage to his advantage.

“He used patronage and he realised what all shrewd operators know, which is to look after the grassroots people who never get noticed because their vote is just as important as the big shots vote. When it comes down to it, everyone has one vote. So, John went around the country – I even think there’s a ground named after him – so, he knew had to do it. He had the time, he invested the time. I’m afraid, I wouldn’t plead complete innocence in terms of Delaney.

On a more serious note, the topic of conversation then turned to the highly-publicised issues that the FAI are having with their finances, a situation that was not helped by Ireland’s playoff defeat to Slovakia.

Eamon Dunphy Champagne Football

“It’s a disaster for the FAI, the result in Slovakia is very bad for them because the money would have flowed back in for them during the Euro 2020 finals. He left football in a bad way, it isn’t funny, it’s horrible. What the book shows is how he did it. The comparison with Haughey is fair in the extend that he toured around the country too and realised that one vote is as good as the other. If you get the little people onside – as he called them – you’ll win the vote.

“We have to have capable, genuine people in charge in sport in Ireland. by contrast, the GAA and IRFU are brilliantly run, it makes a huge difference who’s in charge and this is a sad episode in Irish soccer and it isn’t over yet,” Dunphy said.

You can listen to Eamon Dunphy’s full interview on Champagne Football here.

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