Within the coming weeks, the process will take place to fill the role of CEO at Sport Ireland. It is a position that has been held by John Treacy over two decades that have transformed the sporting landscape in Ireland.

The role is one of the most influential in Irish Sport and the initial five-year fixed term will run through to the end of the current 10-year National Sports Policy, as well as the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sport Ireland disburses €90 million per annum of Government funding to over 60 National Governing Bodies of Sport and 29 Local Sports Partnerships and has a crucial role to play in how sport is funded, how it is governed and how it is delivered.

The successful candidate to emerge from the open recruitment process will need to be a leader and a diplomat, a shrewd political operator and beyond reproach with regard to governance.

They will also oversee the substantial property and development potential of the Sport Ireland Campus.

Our understanding is that there has been substantial interest in the role and that the task facing the selection panel will not be easy.

Without any knowledge of whether these people have put themselves forward for the position and are actually in the running, or without any bias on our part as to who among them might be best suited, here is a selection of those who could be sitting behind the big desk at Abbotstown House come January…

 

Liam Harbison

Director of the Sport Ireland Institute and one of the four potential candidates from within the existing management structure of Sport Ireland.

Liam was CEO of Paralympics Ireland during that organisation’s transformation from the Beijing Games of 2008 to London in 2012.

He moved to head up the Sport Ireland Institute in 2017 and has been closely associated with delivering on the potential of that initiative to raise the standard of Irish competition on the world stage.

He served on the Board of the European Paralympic Committee gaining valuable experience and oversaw the bid to host the 2017 Allianz European Paralympic Swimming Championships on the Campus

 

Sarah Keane

CEO of Swim Ireland and President of the Olympic Federation of Ireland, Keane is widely regarded as one of our leading sports administrators.

With a background in Law, she became the first CEO of Swim Ireland in 2004 at a time when the organisation was under acute pressure in relation to safeguarding issues.

She turned it around to become the body it is today and repeated the trick when leading the transformation and rebirth of the Olympic Council of Ireland after the traumas exposed by events at Rio 2016.

Sarah has international experience in Governance and Gender Equality Issues and was considered a leading candidate for the role of CEO at the Football Association of Ireland this time last year. She was recently appointed as a non-executive member of the Commission of the Central Bank of Ireland.

 

Gary Keegan

Gary is CEO of high-performance consultancy Uppercut, as well as a member of the National Professional Games Board of the IRFU, Chair of Cricket Ireland’s High-Performance Advisory Group and a member of the Cork Senior Hurling backroom team.

He is one of the best-connected and most highly regarded individuals working within the Irish sporting scene, evidenced by the breadth of his current positions.

His reputation was built as the creator of the high-performance culture which gave rise to Ireland’s high ranking position in amateur boxing.

He transferred that to the wider sporting arena as Director of the Sport Ireland Institute from 2008 to 2016.

 

Una May

Dr Una May is the Director of Participation and Ethics at Sport Ireland and has been seen as a de facto Deputy CEO to John Treacy in recent years.

She established and implemented the first Irish national anti-doping programme and has been a powerful voice at world level in the quest for honest sport.

Part of her role has been to oversee the growth of the Local Sports Partnership network, giving her a very broad feel for the participation side of the sporting equation.

She gained her Doctorate from Liverpool John Moores University and has a strong background in the promotion of inclusion and diversity in sport.

 

Paul McDermott

Paul McDermott is the Director of National Governing Bodies and High Performance at Sport Ireland.

This connects him as closely as possible to the complexity of how sport is managed and how the distribution of funding from the Government can be put to best use.

He has been central to the managed process of applications for core funding and for high-performance funding, and the distribution of funding as a result.

His High-Performance credentials have been built on a rising level of success at European, World, Olympic and Paralympic Games.

 

Peter McKenna

Peter McKenna is the Commercial and Stadium Director at the GAA.

Perhaps an outlier on this list, he is nonetheless qualified on the basis of his successful stewardship of the commercial aspects of the largest civil organisation, never mind sporting one in the country.

He was central to the operation of Croke Park as our National Stadium during the redevelopment of the Aviva Stadium and his experience in that area of facility management would make him a strong factor in the management of the Sport Ireland Campus facility that is and will be a key part of the role.

There is of course no reason to suggest he is likely to move away from the GAA but interesting as an outsider.

 

Michael Murray

Michael Murray is Chief Operations Officer at the Sport Ireland campus and the last of the four Executives who may be considered in the front line of possible succession planning.

A qualified accountant he served as Director of Finance and Operations with Littlewoods Ireland before moving over to property and development with Murray Nolan Limited and RCS Consulting prior to joining Sport Ireland.

He has been in his current role since 2014, overseeing the delivery of substantial development at the Campus including the National Indoor Arena in both its phases.

 

Liam Sheedy

Liam Sheedy is the highest-profile of those we see as potential candidates. He is currently a Board Member of Sport Ireland and Chair of the High Performance Committee.

In that role, he was central to the pulling together and publication this year of a High-Performance strategy that runs through to the Olympic and Paralympic Cycle to 2032.

He spent 18 years at Bank of Ireland, including as Provincial Director for the Munster Region up until this time last year and he has served two stints as Tipperary Senior Hurling Manager, winning All Ireland Titles in 2010 and 2019.

He is currently the Vice-Chair of Teneo Ireland and Head of the Teneo Performance Division.

 

Michelle Tanner

Michelle Tanner is the second Spor Ireland Board member to make our list, having been appointed to the position earlier this year.

She is Head of Sport and Recreation at Trinity College Dublin, responsible for the development and management of sport at Trinity College; managing a large portfolio of facilities and working with a team of sports, fitness, administrative and managerial professionals.

Michelle is a former Chair of Sport Ireland and President of The European Network of Academic Sports Services.

 

 

 

Sport for Business Perspective

It could be any of these potential candidates, or it could be somebody from an entirely different sphere.  It will be a challenge for Kieran Mulvey as Chair to oversee the appointment of the right leader and the management of those who may then be disappointed not to have been given the opportunity to lead from the very top of Irish sport.

 

 

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