Home GAA Frank Murphy & John Delaney – Brothers In Arms?

Frank Murphy & John Delaney – Brothers In Arms?

The Football Association of Ireland recently endured a much publicised controversy, spearheaded by Chief Executive John Delaney. This was quickly been followed by the confirmation of the redevelopment of Pairc Ui Chaoimh, which was controversial to some GAA folk.

This sparked a question at Pundit Arena. Could similarities be drawn between the chief executive of the FAI, John Delaney, and the secretary of the Cork County Board, Frank Murphy?


The general similarity between the two is the controversy that has tended to surround both characters. Frank Murphy probably has a longer history in that regard than John Delaney but the most recent actions of Delaney, whether people think they were harmless or incorrect, have been brought into a similar limelight to that of the infamous ‘Frank’.

Frank Murphy is the most famous secretary in GAA. Very few people would able to quickly rattle off the names of the county secretaries of Kilkenny, Kerry, Dublin, Mayo, Galway, Armagh or any county for that matter. But most GAA followers know the identity of the secretary of the Cork County Board. He has been at the centre of most things in Cork, both good and bad, and is a great man to divide opinions.

Cork was the county that set the trend of strikes and player power in GAA, with no less than three stints of players withdrawing their services from the county team during numerous tensions between players, player management and the county board officials.

A lot of the upheaval during these times was directed at Frank and his fellow administrators and matters turned ugly. It was ironic that both sides of the argument managed to survive in some cases.

Frank Murphy announced his resignation from his position as secretary back in 2009 and yet five years later he still remains the secretary of the Cork County Board. He announced that his final intention was to oversee the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoímh before signing-off on his long and relatively successful stint in charge. The ‘successful’ aspect is something that others would debate.

Frank’s controversy is hard for a lot of people to put a finger on. His history as a referee and selector of Cork hurling teams went off without much hassle. Although his time as a selector with Cork was connected to Liam McCarthy successes, his subsequent move to the board seemed to rustle a few feathers.

Everybody knows about the player strikes that went on in Cork. The Cork players divided the county and some might even say the country, as they downed tools in protest against Frank Murphy, who seemed to be the main target, and his county board. The first strike was against the general treatment of players, which was changed. The second strike was initially a football strike in 2008 that ended up being run by the hurlers.

The hurlers then went on strike again in 2009 with everything being directed at the county board and the manager at the time, Gerald McCarthy. People know very few of the ins and outs of these disputes, but it was clear that this was based around a conflict of interests and a quest for power. The players wanted to do what they wanted while the county board had other ideas.

Whether Frank Murphy and the Cork County Board’s moves were correct or incorrect is another matter for debate. But to the general public, this seems to be his main area of controversy. As mentioned before, he is the most famous county secretary in GAA for no real apparent reason, other than everybody knows who he is.

Murphy continues his legacy in Cork GAA for the moment and now the FAI’s John Delaney looks to be following in his footsteps as a controversial leader of an Irish sporting association. A few things come to mind when people think of John Delaney.

Delaney has generally been a talking point during his tenure in charge of Irish football, with a lot of questions asked regarding the size of his salary and how much work he actually does for football in Ireland. The state of the game could questionably be at the lowest we have seen for 30-40 years, yet Delaney remains in charge and almost unquestioned.

The only real public criticism dished out to John Delaney came from Roy Keane in the aftermath of the Thierry Henry handball in Paris in late 2009. While Ireland sat in mourning and felt sorry for ourselves, Keane gave a harsh and probably ill-timed rant on how the FAI should stop moaning and get on with everything as they fell victim of an act of appalling officiating.

Delaney and the FAI made a laughing stock of the country as they pursued a replay with France and asked to be placed in the World Cup as the 33rd team. Keane did not hold back in suggesting that it was karma for the FAI and John Delaney. The real diehard football fans would strongly question the leadership of his organisation.

Football in Ireland seems to be going backwards and there’s no sign of a restructure from the top table. While all of this is going on, Delaney is still getting paid a significantly high salary and seems to be in a position where his job is never in question. His salary in comparison to some of the other Football Association chief executives is shocking.

Is he doing a good job? Most definitely not.

Irish football is certainly nowhere near as good as it was and this decline has happened under John Delaney’s watch. Giovanni Trapattoni may have brought Ireland to a major tournament in 2012 but we have to look at how the team was left following his departure.

He ground out results and made Ireland hard to beat but this did very little for our development as a footballing nation. A lot of people could argue that Trapattoni left us in a worse state than what he inherited and the playing pool seems to be smaller than it has been for a long time.

Again, this decline has all occurred during Delaney’s tenure. Even his actions at the Euros in 2012 have to be heavily questioned. He was constantly seen on the streets drinking with fans and joining in the famous chants. Yes, the fans enjoyed themselves and had the trip of a lifetime but here was the man in charge of the footballing organisation joining in the fun while ‘his’ team were being embarrassed on the playing field.

His latest actions have just brought to light another sign of a lack of professionalism. His actions, singing an Irish rebel song, did not harm anybody and whether it was correct or not is a matter of opinion. Modern technology also did not help him but he should not allow himself to be in a position where such a video could go viral. Again we must expect better from the head man of Irish football.

The attempt to deny his involvement in the controversy was the worst of all. Again, it was a lack of professionalism. Modern day sport involves people taking responsibility and Delaney has shown a lack of this in his actions and in the quality of his work. But is there any sign of a change? No.

This is where the link between Frank Murphy and John Delaney comes into consideration. No matter what they have done, their positions have never really been put into doubt. Frank Murphy survived three player strikes in Cork. John Delaney was treasurer when Ireland’s best player was sent home from the 2002 World Cup and went drinking with fans during the 2012 European Championships instead of overseeing the team’s affairs.

Are both of these administrators more powerful than they should be?

Much of the ‘pub talk’ going around Cork for years was that Frank Murphy was picking the Cork team or having too much input into team affairs when he had no direct involvement. John Delaney appears to be untouchable despite allowing the game of football to regress in Ireland.

Should they have more to answer for? Should they be heavily questioned? It appears that Frank Murphy and John Delaney do not have anyone to answer to other then themselves. Maybe if people had their way, then neither figure would be in their current positions.

Maybe Frank Murphy and John Delaney are ‘brothers in arms’ after all. There are similarities and controversy has followed both. Are they coming towards the end of their respective roads?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like either will be leaving any time soon.

Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena

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