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Who is Noel Mooney, the man tasked with helping to turn the FAI around?

We profile the FAI’s new General Manager, who will soon begin a six-month secondment from Uefa.

File photo of Noel Mooney.
File photo of Noel Mooney.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER loan to the FAI.

This time it arrives from Uefa in the form of Noel Mooney, the former League of Ireland goalkeeper who has been parachuted in on a six-month secondment to work as the FAI’s “General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships.”

Rea Walshe has moved from interim CEO to Chief Operating Officer, so Mooney will assume the day-to-day responsibilities of steering the Association through this crisis. 

He will begin by assessing what the FAI need to help the Association through its present crisis, and co-ordinate with Uefa and Fifa in delivering on what is deemed necessary. The FAI press release explicitly states Mooney’s “expertise in finance”, amid reports that Uefa has up to €10 million available to help the FAI through its travails.

He will begin working at Abbottstown on 3 June and is set to return to Uefa on 30 November.

Mooney was once a goalkeeper, briefly playing with Limerick before moving to work on building sites in England.

In 1996 he was tempted back to Ireland by then-Cork City manager Dave Barry, who had seen him play a Munster Senior Cup game for Limerick against Cork. In an interview with the Irish Independent in 1998, Mooney revealed he left the country after having a row with Limerick, but he soon established himself as Cork’s first-choice goalkeeper.

The Examiner hailed him as a “new darling of the Shed End in Turner’s Cross”, and in 1998 he was part of the City team that won the FAI Cup.

Having initially worked as a car salesman, Mooney then founded his own company entitled Kapacare, which supplied safety products and training to construction companies forced to fall into line with Health & Safety guidelines introduced years earlier.

Mooney continued to play in the League of Ireland, moving from Cork to Shamrock Rovers. He also completed a post-grad in Marketing and Management at DIT, which he put to effective use upon his 2005 return to Limerick.

Here his career was cut short because of a cruciate knee injury, so he helped the club bring in some sponsorship, selling space on the advertising hoardings engirdling the pitch.

“As a young kid I dreamt of being a footballer, as I got older I dreamt of working in marketing”, he told the Examiner in 2013.

The FAI took notice, and Mooney was appointed as a Club Promotion Officer with the Association.

He was publicly unveiled in the role alongside new League Director Fran Gavin, the pair’s respective challenges accentuated by the fact that they posed for photographs a day after after a Dundalk fan doused himself in petrol and threatened to set himself on fire outside the FAI offices in protest over the decision to exclude his club from the Premier Division.

Noel Mooney, Fran Gavin and John Delaney Mooney is unveiled as the National Club promotions officer alongside John Delaney and Fran Gavin in December 2006. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Upon his unveiling, he spoke of his ambition to increase weekly League of Ireland attendances from 12,000 (as they were then) to 30,000.

(Figures tallied by extratime.ie show that the highest weekly attendance in the League last year was 18,823.)

Mooney later took on a wider marketing role for the League, and then started doing ad hoc marketing work with Uefa, which involved travelling to other member nations to give presentations on club marketing.

He was also given a role as General Manager of the John Giles Foundation in 2010. 

In 2011 he joined Uefa full-time, recruited as a marketing manager. He left the FAI with a full-throated message of gratitude to then-Chief Executive John Delaney, saying that Delaney “has always been an inspiration to work with.”

Delaney, for his part, said this was a “wonderful opportunity at this stage in Noel’s career to broaden his horizons on the European stage and a testament to the quality of staff we have developed at the FAI.” John Giles assured that Mooney would be a success with Uefa.

In 2016 Mooney tagged a ‘Senior’ onto his title as marketing manager, picking up a Masters’ in European Sports Governance along the way.

He is now Uefa’s Head of National Associations Business Development, a role from which he will take a six-month sabbatical to return home to work with the FAI.

This will be the longest of Mooney’s trips home since leaving the FAI, but it is certainly not the first. He is listed along with Rea Walshe as a Director of the Federation of Irish Sport, and in 2017 he appeared on stage alongside Roy Keane at a fundraising event for Cappamore, his local club in Limerick.

More significant, however, was his appearance as a guest at the FAI AGM of 2017.

Here he described John Delaney as a “a young CEO who managed to make the Association fit for purpose”, and told those present that “the FAI is one of our most progressive and well-run federations…it really is a super federation and you can be proud of yourselves, the board and all the members here.”

Less than two years on, he returns to find this “progressive and well-run” federation subject to six separate reviews or investigations with State aid fully cut off for only the second time in its history.

He is scheduled to meet the press with FAI president Donal Conway in early June, but today gave a 17-minute interview to the FAI’s in-house YouTube channel.

In it, he was asked about “remarks made at the FAI AGM in 2017”, to which he replied by hailing the grassroots work done by the FAI “below the surface”, saying that it is a “shame” that the good work being done elsewhere has been overshadowed by events at the top of the organisation.

John Delaney was not mentioned by either the interviewer or the interviewee.

Mooney did say that the role of FAI CEO has never been discussed with him before, and that he won’t be sticking around to take up that role after his six-month secondment ends.

Come the end of November, he plans to return to Switzerland.

For six months, however, he will once again be a fixture of the sports pages in Ireland. This will be nothing new to him, as in the first-half of 2005, when he was still at Rover, he was a recurring presence on the back of the Evening Herald.

It was an ad for a hair transplant company, with his endorsement reading “If you want results, choose the right procedure.”

Now he finds himself at the heart of a very different procedure, whose results will be subject to a much wider judgement.

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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