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FAI gives backing to Delaney

The Football Association of Ireland has handed chief executive John Delaney a vote of confidence in the wake of controversy surrounding him singing an Irish republican ballad.

President Tony Fitzgerald said the FAI is "happy to bring the matter to a close" after Delaney apologised.

Delaney found himself in hot water after a video surfaced online of him singing 'Joe McDonnell', a song about a provisional IRA member who died in prison in 1981.

But Fitzgerald backed Delaney to see out his recently-extended contract that now runs until 2020, effectively scotching any talk of the CEO departing his post.

"Following recent coverage of the cyber bullying of his partner Emma and the fact that John has publicly apologised if he offended anyone for singing the nationalist song in question, we are happy to bring the matter to a close," said Fitzgerald in an FAI statement.

"The Board is more than pleased with the way John Delaney is running the Association. He has done an enormous amount for Irish football. In the past year alone the winning of EURO 2020 bid for Dublin adds to a number of very important developments he has helped oversee during his tenure.

"We recently awarded him a contract extension to 2020 and he is fully deserving of that."

The timing of the video of Delaney's singing proved highly embarrassing to the FAI, with the Republic of Ireland taking on England in Dublin in June.

England boss Roy Hodgson was also forced to apologise after fans sang 'No Surrender' during their match against Scotland at Celtic Park.

Delaney apologised on Tuesday, but also defended himself against the heaviest criticism he had received.

Delaney told RTE 2fm: ''First of all, 'Joe McDonnell' is a song that has been sung in my presence and I have chipped in on a number of occasions in the past.

"I am not somebody who supports violence at all.

''When you sing a song like that, you don't believe in every word that is in the song. I sing a large number of songs, maybe five or six different ones. It's normally done in a private way when there is a sing-song. It's a typically Irish thing we do. We sing songs amongst our group and you expect it to be kept to the group.

''In fact over a large number of years I have been working closely on cross-border initiatives in football to break down barriers. I am just not a violent person. My grandfather fought in the Civil War and he also fought in the War of Independence. I have always said I have a nationalist background.

''Unfortunately, on occasions people use camera phones in a sly way and try to tape it - people who are not in your company - and they try to make it something bigger than it is.

''What I will say is that if the song offends anybody, of course I'm sorry. It is not in my nature to want to offend people. It was something I have sung or had sang in my presence in the past.''

Delaney went on to say that the Ireland team have often joined in singing of similar songs going back to Jack Charlton's time in charge, such as 'Sean South from Garryowen' which is about another IRA member.

He added: ''I'll give you an example. 'Sean South from Garryowen' has been sung on the Irish team bus for years, from the Jack Charlton era, right up to the current era.

''If people want to tape these things in what I would call a sly way, and then try to make them public, it is wrong. But I do accept that if I have upset anybody here, I'm sorry.

''Many of us have a nationalist background but are non-violent and sing songs but don't believe in all of the lyrics.''

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