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HAVING A BAD WEEK: (l-r) FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney and Fran Gavin, FAI Director of Competitions, on their way to face the Oireachtas committee on Wednesday Pic: Sportsfile

HAVING A BAD WEEK: (l-r) FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney and Fran Gavin, FAI Director of Competitions, on their way to face the Oireachtas committee on Wednesday Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

HAVING A BAD WEEK: (l-r) FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney and Fran Gavin, FAI Director of Competitions, on their way to face the Oireachtas committee on Wednesday Pic: Sportsfile

Ireland's political class - well, the ones not called Healy-Rae - may have given the FAI a kicking in the association's shambolic appearance before an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday, but yesterday opponents from a number of areas lined up to try and take down the much-criticised regime at the helm of the FAI.

Dissent was expressed by League of Ireland players, the biggest junior football league in the country, and one of the FAI's key sponsors who have all, in the space of a few hours, started the ball rolling on what looks more and more like the dying days of this FAI regime.

There is even the promise of a protest (in voice, not with tennis balls) from a combined group of supporters' clubs at Sligo Rovers during their game at home to champions Dundalk tonight.

That came after news that the Leinster Senior League had contacted member clubs to ask: "Do we believe the board should resign and allow the association to go in a new direction?"

Clubs being asked their opinion is new as other bodies who had previously come out in support of John Delaney, such as the DDSL, were criticised internally for not gauging the mood of membership before issuing those statements.

An intervention from JACC Sports, whose client, New Balance, is the official kit provider to the FAI, was hugely significant, the first open sign of distrust of the FAI in the business world.

"We note with interest that the FAI has commissioned various reports to review recent financial and corporate governance matters and we urge the FAI to implement all recommendations as soon as possible," said a statement signed by Jonathan Courtenay, MD of Toplion Sports and JACC.

But last night came the harshest blow of all, a real two-footed challenge from the body which represents players, the PFAI.

Relations between the PFAI and FAI have been tense for some time but contact has been almost non-existent since the PFAI backed the strike by the Ireland women's team two years ago.

A 530-word statement from the PFAI last night didn't hold back, with words like "dismay.. embarrassing... disgraceful" used.

"Deputy Ruth Coppinger said yesterday that the hearing was 'like Hamlet without the Prince'. To continue the analogy, something is rotten in the state of the FAI," said the PFAI statement.

"We have watched the events of the last few weeks with dismay, culminating with the appearance by FAI representatives at the Oireachtas yesterday.

"While many of the public were shocked by the inability of those attendees from the FAI, and in particular the blatant stonewalling by the former CEO, unfortunately for us, as players and for our representatives, this is the standard response that we have become accustomed to over the last few years.

"There needs to be root and branch reform within the FAI. We need to start again, from now at year zero, and make professional football in this country and us, the players, the centrepiece of the rebirth."

The candour of the PFAI statement was also striking as it was signed by the nine members of their management committee.

Seven of those are current League of Ireland players (Gary Rogers, Paul Skinner, Dean Clarke, Oscar Brennan, Brendan Clarke, Paul O'Conor, Luke Byrne), the others are a 100-cap international (Áine O'Gorman) and a player, now retired, who only 11 months ago was in the Ireland squad (Shane Supple).

Compared to the behaviour of the FAI delegation at the Oireachtas committee, where Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster said that the Delaney's refusal to speak was the FAI "giving the two fingers to everybody", the bravery of those nine signatories, especially the current players, to sign the statement, regardless of any possible repercussions for them or their clubs, is admirable.

LOI clubs remain silent but the players have spoken.