The jour­ney from a pub in 1975 to a soc­cer club boast­ing 23 teams

Bray People - - SPORT -

AL­THOUGH they are not the old­est soc­cer club in Wick­low Town, since their for­ma­tion in 1975 Wick­low Rovers have cre­ated a legacy in lo­cal soc­cer.

This week we talk to club pres­i­dent and found­ing mem­ber Anthony Earls (AE), found­ing mem­ber Teddy Dunne (TD), club chair­man and small-sided fix­tures sec­re­tary John Frazer (JF), for­mer chair­man and se­nior fix­tures sec­re­tary Paul De­laney (PD) and di­rec­tor of coach­ing and head grounds­man Johnny Dunne (JD).

We will be dis­cussing how a group of lads go­ing out for a drink turned into some­thing very big, where the club is at to­day and the fu­ture hopes among a host of other things.

AE: “It all started in 1975 with one team. A group of us were sit­ting down hav­ing a drink to­gether in the pub and Jimmy Cul­bert came up with the idea of start­ing our own team and a new club, at the time there was only one team in the town.

“Wick­low United had just folded and a few of their ex play­ers were in­volved in the mak­ing of this new team. The found­ing mem­bers were; my­self, John 'Spud' Mur­phy, Teddy Dunne, Noel McVeigh, Ge­orge Porter, Jimmy Crofton, Billy Dunne and Michael Lough­lin. Jimmy Cul­bert bought the club's first ever set of jersey's with money he won on the slot ma­chines and out of that our club was born.

“We then en­tered the Wick­low Ju­nior Foot­ball League and we had to play our first eight games away from home while we were in search of a ground to call home.

“We did fi­nally find a place to play our home games, we ap­proached the coun­cil and the land we now know as White­gates was ac­quired.”

PD: “The name White­gates de­rived from sim­ply as their was a dou­ble White Gate on the Sta­tion Road, where the pitch is lo­cated. The name White­gates just stuck and if a day ever came the ground got name spon­sor­ship, I'm sure all the lo­cals would still know it as White­gates.

“The ground it­self has seen ma­jor de­vel­op­ments since I was young. The pitch used to be just a ploughed field with that many stones on it, it re­sem­bled a beach.

“The work done has been phenom­e­nal, we now have fil­ter pipes un­der the sur­face of the pitch, our own club­house, a five aside all weather pitch, a full size car park, a fence around the perime­ter of the ground, gates and as re­cently as last sum­mer dugouts.”

TD: “The first cup won was the Giff Cup and we won that in 1978. The club has won five Wick­low Cup's in its his­tory. We won our first Pre­mier League ti­tle in 1980. Red Jack Byrne scored Wick­low Rovers' first ever goal.

“The first team in the club's his­tory con­sisted of; Peter 'Chico' Mur­phy, Cha Byrne, Nobby Brian, John Clarke, Tom Mur­phy, Jack Byrne, Mick Doyle, John 'Spud' Mur­phy, Noel McVeigh, Jimmy Byrne, Den­nis O'Brien, Billy Dunne, Billy Ka­vanagh and I. Jimmy Cul­bert was the gaffer.”

JD: “We never con­ceded a goal in all of our Wick­low Cup fi­nals. I was play­ing sweeper so we didn't need a goalie and the right and left backs may as well have gone to the pub (jok­ingly).

“Our most fa­mous win was over Gorey Rangers. They had won it the three years pre­vi­ous and were chas­ing four in a row so we went in as the un­der­dogs. We won the game 3-0 cap­tur­ing the Wick­low Cup and bring­ing it back to county Wick­low. We won the Pre­mier Di­vi­sion that same year.”

PD: “In re­cent his­tory our first team won the Lani­gan Cup in 2009/10 and in 2011/12 they joined the ranks of Le­in­ster Se­nior League intermediate level.

“This year our un­der-17s, man­aged by Jimmy Nolan and Brian O'Con­nor, won the clubs first youths ti­tle in many a year. We have had a num­ber of teams that have done well in the Na­tional Cup's too, reach­ing last 16 and quar­ter fi­nal stages, as well as win­ning sil­ver­ware lo­cally. All of the en­deav­ours and hard work of the found­ing mem­bers and past com­mit­tee mem­bers well and truly has the club the way it is now and the fu­ture is look­ing bright!”

JF: “At the mo­ment we have eight hard work­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers; my­self as chair­man and small sided fix­tures sec­re­tary, Jimmy Nolan as PRO, Johnny Dunne as di­rec­tor of coach­ing and chief grounds­man, Paul De­laney as se­nior fix­tures sec­re­tary, Franny Copeland as club and 11 aside sec­re­tary, Joe Neilan as trea­surer and Wil­lie O'Brien and Ja­son Har­ris as com­mit­tee mem­bers.

“We also have Maria Lewins as our child li­ai­son of­fi­cer and Deb­bie Bouch­ier as our safety of­fi­cer. Anthony Earls is life­time club pres­i­dent and is al­ways avail­able to give a hand in any way, whether it's help­ing the con­struc­tion of the new dugouts or just be­ing present at games, Anthony is al­ways there!”

JD: “We started our academy 16 years ago for kids ages three to eight. This is a huge step in their player de­vel­op­ment for the fu­ture. The club runs four soc­cer and fun camps each year, one at Easter and three over the kids sum­mer hol­i­day's.

“These camps are also used to de­velop play­ers while hav­ing fun. The whole aim is to get lads and girls ready for un­der 8's foot­ball and above. Wick­low Rovers has pro­duced play­ers that have gone on to play at pro­fes­sional level; Danny Earls and Davy O'Sul­li­van are ex­am­ples. This shows the sys­tem in place works”.

JF: “We have 23 teams in the club in to­tal from un­der-8s right up to se­nior. Our un­der-8s and 9s are con­stantly im­prov­ing and work­ing hard to­wards the days they will be play­ing for sil­ver­ware.

“John Ger­ard McGet­ti­gan has done a fan­tas­tic job in­tro­duc­ing girl's foot­ball in Rovers, the un­der-13 girls re­cently reached the Sub­sidary Cup fi­nal, a com­pe­ti­tion which fea­tures many top clubs in Dublin and other coun­ties. Our un­der­10B, 11C and 14B teams have all achieved pro­mo­tion this sea­son. Our 11As won the pre­mier di­vi­sion and went 14 months un­beaten in all com­pe­ti­tions. Many of our other school­boy teams are in­volved in Shield and Cup fi­nals as well as chas­ing league ti­tles.

“Last sea­son we won Pre­mier Shields at un­der12, 13, 15 and 16 lev­els as well as cups and leagues in var­i­ous age cat­e­gories and di­vi­sions. There is a lot of talent in the club at school­boy and girls level which will make for good se­nior teams in years to come.”

PD: “Our sec­ond team are cur­rently in a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle but we are con­fi­dent they can pull through. They ex­pe­ri­enced a man­age­rial change mid sea­son, Pat Ffrench came in and re-struc­tured the team based on youth, and they're get­ting bet­ter.

The first team are mid ta­ble in Intermediate 1B with three home games left, Ea­mon De­laney and Ja­son Bushe came in just af­ter the sea­son's start and took over the reigns. As pre­vi­ously stated the un­der-17s won the WDFL De­vel­op­ment League and are in a Cup fi­nal, which is a fan­tas­tic achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing at one stage last sum­mer they only had six play­ers”.

JF: “In the next cou­ple of years we hope to get flood­lights in White­gates, In the near fu­ture we are go­ing to be look­ing for an­other ground and to ex­pand our teams. At the mo­ment we have two girl's teams and in the next few years we'd like to have more and pos­si­bly a ladies se­nior team.”

JD: “In the fu­ture I'd hope to have all the best play­ers in Wick­low play­ing for Wick­low Rovers and for our first team to be play­ing at a higher stan­dard than Le­in­ster Se­nior League intermediate level, pos­si­bly League of Ire­land.”

PD: “We hope to get our Sec­ond's up to Satur­day Ma­jor in Le­in­ster Se­nior League and maybe for them to win a Na­tional ti­tle like the FAI Ju­nior Cup.

“It'd be nice to form a third team to en­ter into the Wick­low League but we'd need a good man­ager. This would feed into the teams above.”

JF: “Over the last few years our school­boy's have been very suc­cess­ful in all age groups and the de­vel­op­ment of all teams in Wick­low Rovers will con­tinue to sus­tain the se­nior end of the club. This pol­icy will also help to form un­der-17s and youths teams.

“We also hope to keep up our cur­rent tra­di­tions such as; the an­nual un­der 14 trip away to Eng­land for coach­ing and to watch a Pre­mier League match, our awards nights, our Easter and sum­mer camps and so on. We would like to cre­ate new tra­di­tions to add to the al­ready long list”.

The un­der-17 team that won WDFL U-17 De­vel­op­ment league last month, first Youths League ti­tle in many a year for the club.

Com­mit­tee photo (left to right): Wil­lie O'Brien, Franny Copeland, Anthony Earls, Jimmy Nolan, Paul De­laney, Ja­son Har­ris, John Frazer, Joe Neilan and Johnny Dunne.

A view of the en­trance to the White­gates.

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