Bridge prospering in their spiritual home
IT'S ALMOST 43 years since club founders Brian Murphy, John O'Neill and Peter Walsh fused brain power to bring league soccer to Castlebridge. Bridge Rovers Football Club - as the club has been known since its inception in 1971 - started out life on the edge of the village in a wet, sticky area known as 'Bogside'.
A couple of moves later and the club are back in their spiritual home, although 'urban sprawl' now dictates that 'Bogside' has found its way into the heart of the village in more ways than one.
Why has Bridge Rovers become so ingrained in villagers' hearts? It's because the members of this small club have, time after time, fought big battles to move the Rovers forward. That determination has bred the deep-seated passion; from near court battles to rejection of financing, the members have beaten all the odds.
The early days of the Bridge Rovers proved a happier, angst-free time with the first team finishing second in its first season in the league to guarantee an immediate promotion to Division 2. The visit of Dublin club Shamrock Rovers lit up the early years, as did trips to Liverpool, to play local side Bootle, and Leeds. Indeed, the Mersey boys made the return trip to Castlebridge in the mid-seventies as the young club flourished.
After the early lustre wore off, success proved hard to come by with just a pair of under-age league titles in the club's trophy cabinet by the early-eighties. The men's team slowly began to make progress and moved into the second tier in 1988, and again, after relegation, in 1992. Bridge Rovers finally reached the holy grail in the 1997-'98 season: the Premier Division.
In between the ups and downs on the pitch the club had joy and turmoil off it. They purchased 'Bogside' in 1995 to finally gain a permanent abode, but almost disappeared as an entity after an incident on the pitch, in which a Bridge Rovers player struck a referee. The flash point led the Wexford League to throw the club out of its competitions indefinitely.
Rovers fought as the club has always done and saw appeals to Wexford, Leinster and eventually the Football Association of Ireland, all rejected. Finally, despite being advised against the move by three separate solicitors, Bridge Rovers took the case to the High Court and were reinstated by the F.A.I. before the case got to trial.
Back on the pitch, the first team has moved between the top few divisions in recent years and currently sits mid-table in Division 2. Other areas of the club have flourished in that time. The introduction of under-age girls' sides is set to ensure a bright future for women's socccer in Castlebridge.
In 2006 the men's 'B' team became the first side to complete a Division 4A and Gwyn Jones Memorial Cup double.
Arguably the club's finest moment on the pitch came just three years ago when the Under-18s beat Moyne Rangers to claim the Wallace Youth Cup and League Divison 2 double to ensure that the future of Bridge Rovers rests with talented feet.