FAI independent chairperson Roy Barrett declared on Tuesday afternoon that the association "should be by far the leading sports organisation in the country".

"That's what we're aiming to achieve, and that’s what we will achieve," he told FAI members at the AGM that was held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions.

But Barrett, appointed to the role almost exactly a year ago, also conceded there's a long way to go before they can compare themselves favourably to the GAA and the IRFU. 

Right now the FAI are seeking small victories. Presenting the financial position for the financial year ending 2019, their Finance Director Alex O'Connell detailed the association's target to be cash positive within three years.

"What's got in the way the last couple of years are largely reputational issues of the FAI itself and all the things that have happened."

Those 2019 accounts show the FAI to be almost €70m in debt - and that's before the enormous impact of the Covid-19 pandemic comes into play.

They will be repaying Sports Direct €100,000 a month until the autumn of 2025 after the company triggered a callback option on the €6.5m they gave to the association in 2016. Their sponsorship had not been due to begin until 2020. 

Auditors Grant Thornton said there's a "material uncertainty" over the finances of the FAI which may cast doubt over its ability to continue as a going concern. However, Barrett downplayed those fears.

"I would be confident [there's no danger of insolvency]," he told the media at a post-AGM press conference.

"The accountants' report is a fairly exhaustive report, it took a long time but it's very thorough.

"Looking forward, we're going to endure the same uncertainties as many others and that's going to impact our business in so many obvious ways. But yes, I think we're out of the woods."

On his hope that the FAI will usurp competing organisations in terms of how it's perceived as well as how it's run, Barrett clarified: "The context of it was in how we do our business, the reputation of the organisation - you know we're kind of lucky, we have a game that has probably the highest level of participants in the country.

"We have a sport which is represented internationally... competes on a global basis, which many of our other competing sports don't.

"What's got in the way the last couple of years are the largely reputational issues of the FAI itself and all the things that have happened.

"We're committed to improving that. We're committed to putting in place all of the governance structures and all of the management structures and appropriate operating structures in the FAI to enable the staff within the FAI to feel proud of the organisation, and enable people outside the staff to feel proud of the organisation; to have trust and confidence in it. 

"I think both Gaelic and rugby have good reputations and those reputations are well deserved. I just think we can be as good if not better."

Nothing has been plain sailing for the FAI this year. Aside from the off-the-field financial issues and the labourious process of bringing into practice key governance change, the men and women's football teams failed to lift the mood by securing qualification for a major tournament.

Stephen Kenny is still waiting on his first win as manager of the men's team but the most talked-about incident of his reign so far has arguably been the leaking of details around a three-minute motivational video shown to players before Ireland's friendly against England at Wembley.

There had been reports in UK media that some players were unhappy with the political nature of the video, with Kenny later claiming the "non-story" was down to "people behind the scenes or elsewhere" who wanted to cause disruption around the team. 

"He hasn't [said who he thinks leaked the information]. And who did, I just don't know," Barrett said. 

"What I can say is that personally, I've a huge amount of respect and regard for Stephen and his team and the job he's doing. He enjoys the full support of myself and the board.

"I suppose its an organisation that has a history of lots of leaks, it's very difficult sometimes to try to get to the bottom of them.

"I was as disappointed as anyone to see the whole thing to be frank."

Meanwhile Robbie Keane - given a four-year deal in 2018 when he was named Mick McCarthy's assistant - remains contracted with the FAI despite, seemingly, there being no role for the country's record goal-scorer.

Kenny brought in his own back-room team when he took over from McCarthy last April, leaving Keane in the cold.  

"Robbie is still on the books on a full contract," added Barrett.

"There is some engagement now which will go through [new chief executive Jonathan Hill].

"It's possible [he could get a different role], I just don't know the answer to that question."