Irish FA president David Martin is poised to become one of the most powerful figures in world football tomorrow with a little help from a new ally, FAI chief executive John Delaney.
The relationship between the unlikely bedfellows could see 65-year-old Martin named Fifa vice-president at the Uefa Congress in Rome.
Martin is going head-to-head in a vote against English FA chairman Greg Clarke for the Fifa vice-president position reserved for the four British associations and Uefa sources suggest the Dromore, Co Down, man is well placed to land the £190,000 per year role almost a decade on from having to leave the IFA in controversial circumstances.
Martin has formed a strong connection with Delaney, surprising many inside the IFA and FAI who have been at odds in recent times over the thorny issue of player eligibility.
Delaney is on Uefa's Executive Committee and has major influence among Uefa's 55 member associations who will be voting between Martin and Clarke in Italy's capital city tomorrow morning.
Having Delaney on his side is a huge plus point but, true to his reputation in taking nothing for granted, it is understood Martin has been busy lobbying delegates ahead of the decision making process and has every chance of following in the footsteps of countrymen Harry Cavan and Jim Boyce and becoming Fifa vice-president for the next four years.
While Cavan and Boyce are viewed as giants of Northern Ireland football, Martin, who yesterday declined an interview about his potential Fifa post, is arguably the most low-key president the IFA has had, preferring to stay clear of public forums.
That is down to the severe scrutiny he came under in 2010 when he left the IFA and the negativity which surrounded his dramatic comeback in 2013.
Nine years ago, Martin, who was then the IFA treasurer, and the then IFA president Raymond Kennedy had to depart the Association when Sports Minister at the time Nelson McCausland deemed that the organisation was 'not fit for purpose', declaring that the IFA would not be handed any of the £26m government money for the redevelopment of Windsor Park while the pair were in office.
Martin and Kennedy had been strongly criticised in an independent report into the exit of chief executive Howard Wells, who had taken an unfair dismissal case that cost the IFA £500,000.
Stunned by this development, Martin told allies he would return to the IFA, but in his initial attempts to do so failed three competency tests carried out by independent commissions, as requested by government when anyone wished to become an office bearer in the Association.
At the 2013 IFA AGM, however, the criteria was changed when a motion was passed that it was not a requirement to complete a competency test.
That year, Martin was elected deputy president on the back of a unanimous vote at a meeting of the IFA Council leading to Northern Ireland fans protesting with banners at a Windsor Park game against Russia.
International defender Gareth McAuley also stated Martin’s election was ‘a very worrying development for Northern Irish football’ and there were concerns from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), who said the IFA’s removal of the suitability test was a retrograde step which could breach the £26m funding agreement for Windsor Park. Even so, the stadium rebuild went ahead with public money. In 2016, Martin became IFA president. Now this controversial yet durable character, covets an even grander position.
• Northern Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Belarus on June 11 will be played in the Borisov Arena, home of BATE Borisov. The stadium has a capacity of 13,000 and is located 74km from the capital, Minsk.