AN €80 million bounty is being lost to Clare and the mid-west because of the Football Association of Ireland’s refusal to back the ambitious plans of an Ennis-born entrepreneur to bring the cream of European club soccer to the region writes Joe O’Muircheartaigh.
Damien O’Brien, who hails from the Turnpike area of Ennis and is bringing Manchester City to Thomond Park this Sunday to take on Limerick FC, has blasted the FAI’s commitment to soccer outside Dublin over failing to sanction his plans for a multi-million euro soccer extravaganza in the mid-west.
“I was due to do a tournament in Thomond Park this year – the same weekend that Man City are coming, but the FAI refused the rights to bring four teams into Limerick,” revealed Mr O’Brien.
“It’s ridiculous what went on. It was a four-year deal that I was bringing to Limerick and it would be worth €80 million into the economy, but the FAI in their own ignorance decided to stop it,” he added.
Thirty-eight-year-old O’Brien was the brainchild behind ‘Football’s Next Star’, the Sky TV programme that has been dubbed “football’s X-Factor” and syndicated to 103 countries around the world. He is the managing director of the Iconic sports agency that’s based in Manchester.
Having been thwarted in his bid to host a tournament in Thomond Park this weekend, he helped secure the services of Manchester City who will take on Limerick FC in a friendly game this Sunday evening at 7pm.
“Being refused for the tournament wasn’t going to deter me,” he revealed. “I had the support of Limerick in this and that’s why it’s happening. Limerick had to go to the High Court to get the right to hold this match. It’s shocking.
“It’s a great showcase for the region, the stadium and for the Limerick players. This is putting soccer in the region in the shop window. This match will air live in over 100 countries, so it’s fantastic for Limerick.
“Manchester City are bringing their full squad – it will be their full line-up and it’s their last pre-season friendly before the Community Shield and Premier League starts,” he added