Football

Seven Years On, 'John The Baptist' Documentary Is A Remarkable Watch

Seven Years On, 'John The Baptist' Documentary Is A Remarkable Watch

Few in the Irish public eye have experienced a quicker fall from grace than John Delaney.

He went from an untouchable figure in the FAI to a man under massive pressure seemingly overnight, eventually resulting in his departure from an organisation that he had been part of for two decades.

This was almost entirely down to some brilliant journalism by Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan, with The Sunday Times exposing a number of Delaney's questionable exploits during his time as CEO of the FAI. The full extent of of what went on would later be revealed in their book Champagne Football.

Of course, the Irish media has not always been so scathing of Delaney in the past. Much of that was down to Delaney himself, who carefully monitored what was being said about him in the press and was not afraid to threaten legal action if he felt it was required.

That being said, some pieces that were produced are interesting to look back on with the gift of hindsight.

There is no better example than John The Baptist, the 2014 short documentary produced by the Irish Independent on Delaney's rise through the FAI. It features contributions from Delaney and his family, as well as the likes of Denis O'Brien, Eamon Dunphy, and Martin O'Neill.

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Viewing it in 2021 is quite the experience, something we recommend you set half an hour aside to do. It can be viewed in full on YouTube here.

The project is anchored by Barry Egan, who conducts the interviews throughout.

We would start here by saying we're not exactly sure what the aim of this piece was. To describe the documentary as 'fawning' would be a major understatement, with Delaney himself probably unable to put together a more flattering 'insight' into his life.

Some could describe it as propaganda. We will leave it up to the viewers to decide that one, but it's clear it does shine an incredibly kind light on Delaney while neglecting to mention his various failings in the FAI that were known up to that point. The appointment of Steve Staunton and the Vantage Club ticket scheme spring to mind.

The documentary was also accompanied by a five-spread written by Egan in the Sunday Independent's Life magazine.

As recalled in Champagne Football, the feature explained where the name for the documentary came from. According to the author, Delaney was the 'John the Baptist of the FAI' because: 'he partly cleansed it of its sins and made it a much, much better institution'.

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Yikes.

A premiere was even organised in the Sugar Club in Dublin, with one FAI employee describing organising the event as a 'low point in my life', according to Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan.

There are no shortage of genuinely bewildering moments packed into 30 minutes, but we will pick out some of the best of them below.

Firstly, the whole thing opens with this now infamous line from Denis O'Brien:

John Delaney could run anything, as far as I can… John Delaney could run UEFA, easily. He could run FIFA, as far as I’m concerned, because – well, certainly better than Sepp Blatter. And more honestly!

From this point, we knew we were in for a treat.

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The first glimpse we are given of Delaney himself is when he is sitting at home watch the Champions League quarter-final between his beloved Manchester United and Bayern Munich in April of 2014.

He is engrossed in the game, but does manage to take a phone call over the course of the 90 minutes, wherein he reminds the person on the other end of the call: "I’m off to see the Queen tomorrow too, don’t forget that!"

The topic soon turns to Delaney's background and rise through the FAI.

He followed in the footsteps of his father Joe, who acted as treasurer in the FAI in the 1990s but would leave the association after a scandal involving tickets for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. That is not touched upon in this documentary.

Instead the focus is placed on his son's business background included (but was not limited to): saving a failing bakery in Kerry, a logistics company in Waterford, a furniture shop in Athlone, and leasing a pub in Tralee.

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With his background established, we can now look at Delaney's heroic rise through the FAI ranks.

There was some brief conversation about his time at League of Ireland club Waterford and how that ultimately ended in him following in his father's footsteps to become treasurer of the FAI. Then we get on to Saipan, the controversy after which John Delaney established himself as the dominant figure within the organisation.

In fact, he even labelled it as 'a blessing in disguise' because it allowed him and others to overhaul how the FAI conducted their business:

Saipan was a watershed moment for the FAI...

So, in one sense it was a blessing in disguise, but it certainly was a watershed moment, there was no doubt about that.

Sometimes you’ve got to hit the bottom of the barrel, before you can rise. Sometimes you have to. And I think what Saipan gave people like myself who wanted to reform the association.

Labelling Saipan as a 'crazy island in the specific [Ocean]', the controversy gave Delaney the platform to exert his influence in the organisation.

Delaney described the FAI as a 'very badly ran organisation' when he first got involved, a claim that is probably not far off the truth. However, we imagine many people craved those forlorn days of the pre-Delaney era at the moment.

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From here, the documentary conveniently skips over the lack of success during Brian Kerr's tenure and the disaster that was the Steve Staunton era, instead focusing on the recruitment of Giovanni Trapattoni.

Denis O'Brien said it was towards the end of the Staunton era that he first contacted John Delaney about 'sponsoring' some of the salary of the next Ireland manager, revealing he was delighted when they managed to get somebody like Trap on board.

Eamon Dunphy said that while he felt the former Juventus boss 'didn't work out' he felt it was a 'brave' move to commit to such a well-paid manager, something the FAI hadn't done in the past.

The highlight of Delaney speaking about Trapattoni was without doubt his god awful impression of the Italian, where he told this story about an event they attended in Tramore.

I always tell the one. We were down in Tramore and…there was no media present, about 400 or 500 there, club of the year, we’re all in the room, having the craic.

And we had a thing that…I’d tell a few stories in a mic and then Trap would come up and speak.

So I tell a few stories and I say, “now, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to the Irish international manager, Giovanni Trapattoni.”

And he takes the mic and he says, “’Scuse me, ‘scuse me, my English is not so good, not so good.

And I got up on the mic and I said, “it wasn’t so fuckin' bad when you were doing the wages!"

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Delaney felt that he did not keep Trapattoni in the role too long, but he was thrilled to get Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane on board thereafter.

He said he had no problem with Keane coming in as assistant manager despite his tumultuous relationship with the FAI, something that was echoed by O'Neill:

"He didn’t bat an eyelid. He said, “you’re the manager. If this is what you want as an assistant and Roy’s the man, I’ve no problem with that.” And that is as genuine as I am saying it now."

We soon return to the Delaney household, wherein we are treated to a framed photo of Joe Delaney and Charlie Haughey on the wall from Italia 90. Here's how the incident came about, according to his son:

That’s actually on the pitch after Ireland lost to Italy in the World Cup quarter-final in 1990. And Jack [Charlton] wouldn’t go on to the pitch, Jack was devastated they’d lost the game.

So, dad got Haughey to go out on the pitch to keep the crowd entertained.

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If this was a Hollywood movie, that would probably be some sort of foreshadowing of events to come.

The documentary closes with John Delaney's hopes for the future. He said his next major goal was to bring Euro 2020 to Dublin, a bidding process that would be a success. He also expressed his desire to continue in the FAI for many years to come.

When asked if he would one day be president of FIFA, Delaney responded:

I don’t think so – Blatter will probably still be alive!

Neither Delaney or Blatter are currently involved in football.

SEE ALSO: Jose Mourinho Refuses To Get Drawn Into War Of Words With Roy Keane

Gary Connaughton

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