Newly-elected FAI board member Martin Heraghty wants the League of Ireland to be "a central driver" for the development of the game in this country, and believes the current "change process" has opened up a huge opportunity to make that happen.

Heraghty, the Sligo Rovers chairman, was elected on to a 12-person interim board at the FAI's AGM last Saturday as one of two League of Ireland representatives, alongside UCD's Dick Shakespeare.  

Donal Conway was re-elected as president unopposed, with an independent non-executive chairperson and three independent non-executive directors set to be added over the course of the next month. 

A fortnight ago, the FAI and the 20 League of Ireland clubs agreed on establishing a working group to develop a new strategy for the professional game here.

That group met for the first time yesterday, with FAI General Manager Noel Mooney and a number of UEFA consultants discussing the domestic game in depth with members of Bray Wanderers, Cork City, Derry City, Drogheda United, Dundalk, Galway United, Shamrock Rovers, and Sligo Rovers representing both divisions.

Heraghty came away from that meeting genuinely optimistic that real change will happen.

"We're very happy to see a major change process underway in the FAI," he told RTÉ Sport.

"We'd like to see the League of Ireland being more of a central driver for the development of Irish football and more to the fore in terms of the strategy for the association going forward. 

"A couple of weekends ago we had a two-day session that focused on the League of Ireland, and on developing a new strategy for the League of Ireland.

"There were obviously external presentations there from Niall Quinn and Kieran Lucid. Rising out of that it was decided a working group would be set up involving eight clubs. We met yesterday from early morning to late evening, for a session on the League of Ireland and all aspects of it.

"It was really good to have that in-depth discussion on the league and what might be done to improve it generally. It's the start of the process. We'll meet again in a couple of weeks' time for a second session, at which some of the external parties will be coming back to us again.

"The whole purpose is to develop a strategy for the league. 

"There are a number of options that are being explored. The question is, what's the best option to help the league develop?

"All of those options will be considered over the next number of weeks."

Quinn and Lucid's visions have made the headlines over the last couple of months; the former proposing a UEFA-style governance structure for the FAI while also establishing new commercial and government revenue streams to create a sustainable football industry; the latter making a case for an all-island league, which would merge the League of Ireland and the Irish League and be in place by the summer of 2021.

All possibilities remain on the table, and Heraghty is confident momentum is building.

"I sincerely believe there's a determination to use this opportunity... to grasp this opportunity," he added.

"There is urgency in the process that's under way; that's important too, because we have had discussions for a number of years around the League of Ireland.

"We now need to take a more urgent approach to grasp the opportunity that's there.

"The [appointed independent members of the FAI Board] will come in to bring skills and expertise that won't necessarily be on the board and, to some extent, be independent of the football voices.

"That's very important in terms of a corporate board, that we have that type of expertise on the board. We'll have the Football Management Committee and the National League Executive Committee also there.

"All of that is going to bring focus into the football development side of it, but there's also corporate responsibilities that all of us on the corporate board will have in terms of making sure there's proper governance applied.

"That's very important, to regain the trust and confidence of everybody, of all the football supporters who've been disappointed about what has happened in recent times.

"I know situations like this are often greeted with some sort of cynicism but if we show real progress I think that will be turned around. I think we can regain the trust of all the supporters. 

"And I hope in that process also that we can do something that betters the League of Ireland, which is a critical component for the development of football."

Heraghty also discussed his own club's fixtures predicament.

The Bit O' Red's next home game isn't until 14 September against Finn Harps as the clash with Dundalk [originally down for 3 August] was postponed due to the Lilywhites’ Champions League showdown with Qarabag this evening.

Last year Rovers went eight weeks without a game at the Showgrounds.

"It was one of the issues touched on," said their chairman.

"When we run into fixture issues of the type we've run in to again this year, it causes difficulties. So yes, that will be one of the issues that will be addressed. Hopefully something can be done to prevent these type of situations arising again in the future.

"I'd see my own election on to the board as being a reflection of the standing and reputation of Sligo Rovers.

"Most people know the type of club we are, a club very much embedded in the community and relying really on the good will and generosity to help sustain the club.

"Along with Dick Shakespeare of UCD, I'll be bringing a League of Ireland voice to the board.

"We'll have responsibilities to see that the organisation regains the trust and confidence of all the stakeholders and football supporters generally."

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