More resources for Senior Squad, Establishes a Junior Academy in association with St Josephs Boys Club and Aims for Centre of Excellence Covering Wicklow Football
Bray Wanderers, in tandem with FAI requirements, have launched their 5-year Strategic Plan for the club. Highlights of this ambitious plan include the creation of a Junior Academy and the development of a state-of-the-art Centre of Excellence for football in Wicklow catering for the entire county.
Chairman Denis O’Connor presented the plan to Bray Municipal Council as one of its principal stakeholders who would also have a similar interest in facilities for the Club and for the greater football community.
‘Wicklow County is crying out for more facilities for its young footballers. While we love being in the heart of Bray, there are no all-weather pitches, in fact no training pitches at all and limited changing room facilities. How can we expect to build the sportsmen and women of the future without investing in quality facilities such as are enjoyed in neighbouring counties?
‘We are asking our young players to succeed without giving them the tools with which to succeed. We are serious about our commitment to the county and want to make Wicklow the Football County,’ he says.
Bray Wanderers enjoyed a dramatic second half of the 2016 League of Ireland season; with only two defeats in the second half of the season – a record not even Cork or Dundalk could match – they climbed from the relegation zone to end the season in the top half of the table for the first time in almost a decade. Managed by Harry Kenny with Liam O’Brien as assistant manager, Bray Wanderers have added pride to the colours worn each week.
Already Kenny has re-signed up the bulk of his first-team squad for 2017. He has an eye on not only moving up the League but advancing to Europe. He is building an even stronger squad to achieve these plans.
The club has also signed a formal three-year partnership with St Joseph’s Boys AFC to create a Junior Academy with a lease taken out on grounds in South Dublin.
‘We want to encourage our young players, growing their talent and giving them a clear playing path to progress through the underage structures and into the first team,’ says O’Connor. ‘We are aiming to establish the best youth elite structure in Ireland with a key objective of identifying, recruiting and retaining players with the ability to play professional football with Bray Wanderers.’
It is in respect of the facilities that Bray Wanderers faces its most daunting challenges. ‘We cannot operate a professional club without proper training facilities. The Carlisle Grounds has been a great home for the Seagulls but it lacks practice pitches, all weather pitches, proper changing facilities, even proper shelter for fans – and ultimately space for our teams to advance.
‘This is about providing a facility for all Wicklow players – from Bray down to the borders of Wexford,’ says Denis. ‘And it will allow us to bring in international games and players – we want to put Wicklow on the map.’
The new facility should ideally be connected to Bray via the new extended LUAS. A site of some 20 acres is envisioned. In the new complex, the club proposes to erect a 4,500-capacity UEFA Category 3 stadium.
Also in place will be two full-size floodlit 4G training pitches, available for commercial use when not being used by the various club teams for training, 2 full-size floodlit grass training pitches, parking for 200+ cars, 4 5-a-side astro cages, an indoor sports hall, conference facilities for hire, club offices and a gym.
While Bray Wanderers look to engage with the Council on these plans, the club is also moving forward in a number of other initiatives to bring the community into the club. Bray Wanderers have appointed a Social Responsibility Officer in the person of Dermot O’Brien, well-known local youth worker and 2016 Bray Person of the Year. He will be responsible for a number of areas in the club including mental health and the Young Seagulls (the junior Supporters’ Club).
A 5-year partnership is being negotiated with Rugby League Ireland. Already a number of international matches have been played in the grounds, culminating in a World Cup Qualifier against Russia just last month. The Irish team won in a convincing fashion on the day and can now look forward to competing in next year’s World Cup in Australia. The siting of Rugby League Ireland in the Carlisle Grounds has also resulted in significant commerce arriving in Bray through increased custom in hotel rooms, restaurants, shopping and bars.
Local county Wicklow-based charities are also supported by the club. The club is in the process of nominating four dedicated charities which will have an opportunity to promote their work in the club programme and conduct bucket collections at home games.
The extension of the club’s underage structure to include an U-15 team is a significant move, and coupled with the Academy, will encourage more young people to engage with the sport.
‘Come to any home game and witness the difference already,’ says O’Connor. ‘The place is alive with young supporters and there is practically a scrum to get autographs at the end of the game. The supporters are wonderful and the players really enjoy the excitement.
‘This is only the beginning.’
About Bray Wanderers
Bray Wanderers, aka the Seagulls, are a League of Ireland Football club based in the Carlisle Grounds, Bray, Co. Wicklow and competing in the Premier Division. Founded in 1922, the club enjoyed success as a Junior and Intermediate club, winning both the FAI Junior cup and FAI Intermediate cups, twice each in the 1950s.
The club joined the League of Ireland in 1985 and won the FAI senior cup twice in the 1990s.
The current chairman is Denis O’Connor, and his fellow directors are Gerry Mulvey and Kieran Kelly. The manager is Harry Kenny with Liam O’Brien as assistant manager. The club has a Senior team, Under 19 and Under 17 team (jointly with St. Joseph’s Boys) in the national leagues. It is in the process of setting up an U-15 team.
The 2017 season will be Bray Wanderers’ 13th consecutive season in the Premier Division of the League of Ireland.
For more information, please visit www.braywanderersfc.ie