Football Association of Ireland Chief Executive John Delaney visited the soccer mad students of Carrick-on-Suir CBS Secondary School and regaled them with tales from his career and experiences while also imparted some sound advice.
Mr Delaney is the latest in a series of high profile figures from all walks of life to visit the school to address its senior students.
In his wide ranging and entertaining speech, the former accountant recalled the value of his own education at the CBS in Waterford, which equipped him with a strong foundation to build on under the guidance of good teachers and his good parents who always supported and encouraged him from a young age.
Mr Delaney spoke passionately about encouraging children and young people to become involved with sport as the discipline and benefits of training from a young age not only help achieve a healthy balance of mind and body, but also develop keen sports skills and nurture lifelong friendships.
He stressed to students the importance of communicating with others at all times.
“Talk to your parents, talk to your peers, you are not on your own in life and whatever challenges you face - work through them with people around you,” he said.
Mr Delaney also spoke about the “scourge” of drugs and praised the work of sports clubs nationwide to address this problem with the launch of policy documents, strict guidelines and a strong network of support in the communities.
Nodding over to Richie Friend, Secretary of Carrick United FC, John Delaney praised the local Club, its development and notable achievements over the years. “Carrick United is one of the best clubs in Ireland” he stated.
The FAI chief had many tales to tell of teams and players, past and present. Some were witty, some were poignant but all showed his undying passion for soccer and for those who trained, played, coached and supported the sport.
His role in the FAI was never dull. It was challenging, unpredictable and full of surprises. “As long as I have the support of the grassroots and the drive and energy to do the job, I will continue” he said.
Responding to questions from the students, he named his favourite player as Liam Brady, whom he described as an ‘exceptional footballer’ with Paul McGrath, following close behind.
He spoke of the smashing talent and style of Damien Duff, who played for Ireland for 14 years and now plays for English Premier League team Fulham and hailed Shay Given as one of the best goalkeepers Ireland has ever had.
He also commended the achievements of the school’s past pupils, professional footballers Stephen and Noel Hunt.
And he recalled his dismay when Ireland was eliminated in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying game against France when a goal was scored by Thierry Henry, who had handballed the ball.
CBS Principal Billy O’Farrell thanked Mr Delaney for visiting the school and praised the Students Consultative Council, which worked hard to organise interesting events for the school.
Mr Delaney was invited to speak at the school by the Student Council Speaker Forum. Other well known figures to speak at the school in the past included businessman Bill Cullen, Brian Crowley MEP, journalist Charlie Bird, Senator David Norris and scientist Dr. John Nolan, who is a past pupil.
Mr Delaney was presented with a piece of Tipperary Crystal by Chairperson of the Students Consultative Council, James Dunne. A soccer themed cake baked by parent Mrs Comerford was displayed at the school to mark the occasion and all were treated to a slice.
John Delaney took time to meet with the students, sign autographs and junior classes were invited in to meet him.
Local schools were invited to the school to meet him and pupils and teachers from Carrick-on-Suir Gaelscoil and Rathgormack NS attended.