Monday 20 May 2019

Next generation will drive direction of club, vows new Bray owner O'Driscoll

Niall O’Driscoll: full of ideas for Bray. Photo: Sportsfile
Niall O’Driscoll: full of ideas for Bray. Photo: Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Twelve months ago, Bray Wanderers were telling the world of their plans to build a facility which would be on a par with those at Manchester United and Barcelona.

A year on and the new owners of the club, still bottom of the Premier Division and needing a miracle to avoid automatic relegation, have a different perspective.

"Are we going to be a Shamrock Rovers or a Dundalk? No, we are Bray Wanderers and whatever that will mean in one or two years, that's where we will go," said Niall O'Driscoll.

O'Driscoll is a figure familiar to many on the football scene, from his connections with St Joseph's Boys and also his business interests. He is now the main shareholder in Bray, having completed the purchase of the club from Gerry Mulvey last week.

There was no 'bounce' for the first team - as happens sometimes when a new manager comes in - as Bray lost 3-1 at home to Cork City on Friday night.

And, with Limerick beating Waterford, Bray are now nine points away from ninth place - the finish they need to at least get a relegation play-off spot.

O'Driscoll is aware that the last 12 months have been the most traumatic in the club's history. He's keen to build bridges with those previously loyal to the club who have become disenchanted and passed out a business card, with a dedicated email address and even his own mobile phone number, to supporters at Friday's game.

"To build a club you need people and my first job is to get people back into Bray Wanderers," said O'Driscoll, who claimed to have received 30 offers of help in the first few hours after the email account was set up.

"We'll get the children involved and enthused, we will work in the schools and in the local community. Yes, there is a whole group of people who were here and have gone.

"Whatever time people can give - whether it's one hour, washing the windows or marking the pitch, let's go with it."

Bray's previous plan was to sell the Carlisle Grounds (which the club doesn't own) and move to a state-of-the-art facility somewhere in the county.

Last summer, then chairman Gerry Mulvey promised "a world-class football academy to rival the best in the world". He said he would "seek from Wicklow County Council the rezoning of the land in the Carlisle grounds, with the proceeds used to fund the construction of what will be the best academy and sporting grounds in the country".

That didn't happen. Instead, Bray - with a weekly wage bill of €10,000 in the first half of the season - got bogged down in debt, leading to players balloting for strike action due to unpaid wages.

Staying in the Carlisle Grounds, and making the facility more accessible to the local community, is now the goal. According to the new owner, the days of largesse are gone.

"You put in a budget to run for a season and you manage it as you manage any budget - as you manage your bank accounts at home. I am a great believer that, if you have one Euro, you spend one Euro and not two," O'Driscoll said.

"The development of young players, introducing them to the National League will be our strategy, rather than going out and paying somebody a thousand a week that we don't have. That won't happen. We will cut our cloth to fit.

"The strategy is to build a club first, attract the best young talent, get the best young coaches and see where it takes us. Do I know what I have let myself in for? No. I will let you know in six months."

Irish Independent

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