Martin Heraghty and Gerry McAnaney to face off in EGM vote to replace Donal Conway as FAI President

FAI board member Martin Heraghty and council member Gerry McAnaney will battle in a vote on Saturday week to succeed Donal Conway as FAI President.

Nominations closed last night with candidates required to be current members of 79-strong council with two years’ experience.

Mr Heraghty was elected to the FAI’s interim board in July at the adjourned annual general meeting.

The Sligo Rovers Chairman was proposed from the constituency representing the League of Ireland. Dick Shakespeare from UCD was the other nominee from the domestic game elected in the summer.

Mr Heraghty is a retired senior civil servant, serving until 2013 as Assistant Secretary General of the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. He had specific responsibility for the development of the Irish food industry.

During a long career in the department, he served in a number of positions including head of Corporate Affairs, Dairy and Beef Divisions, Press and Information Officer as well as private Secretary to various Ministers, including Simon Coveney.

Should he be elected from the floor of the emergency general meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown, his place on the board will be filled by another League of Ireland representative.

The President automatically joins the board and has to sever all ties with his club or league.

Mr Heraghty has been a prominent member of the FAI board since taking office, putting his signature to the set of delayed accounts published on December 6.

The financial statements, up to December 2018, showed a loss of almost €9m and current liabilities of €62m.

It was the first time for an FAI board member, who wasn’t a serving officer, to sign off on the accounts.

He has been part of negotiations that will see a rescue package secured with the Bank of Ireland, UEFA and the government.

Mr Heraghty will face tough competition from Cork native McAnaney. 

Mr McAnaney, a retired army commandant, was beaten 80-57 by Paul Cooke in the election for vice-president.

His background is the Defence Forces, a sector he succeeded in attaining caps for their international players. More recently, he has been involved with the Football for All section.

Conway’s exit will finalise a full clearout of the 10 members who worked with fellow director John Delaney on the board.

Despite calls for him to quit as the association become immersed in financial and governance strife midway through last year, he vowed to continue when re-elected at the first AGM in July.

Conway, like all except two of the old board, was kept in the dark about the nature of John Delaney’s contract renewal in 2014.

Had he finished out his contract next year, rather than quitting in disgrace four months ago, he’d have been entitled to €3m in benefits above his basic €360,000 salary.

Mr Conway also denies knowledge of the annual €36,000-rent allowance Delaney was paid for most of his tenure.

“The board operated on the basis that there would be people given authority to negotiate with John Delaney,” said Conway, a retired schoolteacher.

“I was never one of the anointed nominees to go discuss terms, contracts or whatever, with John.

“With the 2014 contract, those gentlemen came back to the board and there was no change in the headline salary figure.

“As we didn’t know about the addendum, we couldn’t ask to about them. I didn’t know about the rent either.”

Pressed on whether Conway requested a copy of the contract terms, he replied “No. Contracts were not scrutinised at the board table.”

Conway was still publicly praising Delaney up to March. 

Welcoming what proved to be temporary switch by Delaney to a new role of FAI executive vice-president amid the developing crisis around his leadership, he said: “John has transformed how the FAI operate.”

Conway, reflecting seven months later, said: “I would regret that phrase, to be frank. I would have preferred if I was stronger.

“John had too much power but, personally, I didn’t fear him. If you were employee, or your life was going to be determined by in the FAI, and if you took the wrong stance, a person may be fearful of the consequences.”

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