It looked as though the curtain was about to fall on Bray Wanderers but yesterday it was confirmed that Niall O’Driscoll, principal of insurance firm O’Driscoll O’Neill had bought a majority stake in the club to secure its future.
O’Driscoll is Chairman of St Joseph’s Boys in Sallynoggin, one of the strongest under age setups in the country and a partner with Bray in the development of its own development squads.
‘Joey’s’ had been dragged into the financial predicament at Bray when not receiving money’s owed to it as part of a UEFA solidarity scheme and it is likely a concern over the club being excluded from a pathway to the top flight of football here that prompted the action.
O’Driscoll is understood to have stepped in to clear the wages backlog that had led to a threatened strike by players earlier this month. He has now undertaken to guarantee all the wages through to the end of this season and pledged his long-term support for the club.
O’Driscoll O’Neill has been 30 years in business and specialises in cover for sport, theatre, festivals and events. It has a solid financial base and has involvement in soccer, basketball and cycling as well as many other sports.
“My background at youth development, as a UEFA-licenced coach and manager of both boys and girls teams at local and national level, naturally forms my view that home-produced players are the key to the future of Bray Wanderers,” said O’Driscoll in a statement yesterday.
“Already, our Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 teams are competitive at national level and there will be a clear strategy of maintaining that pathway into senior level.”
“I would encourage the people of Wicklow, fans and businesses, to support their local club, starting with Friday’s important match at the Carlisle Grounds against champions Cork City.”
Bray’s long-term sustainability may still be wrapped up in the location of the Carlisle Grounds in the heart of Bray. If the grounds were zoned for development it would ease the burden of reliance of what have traditionally been poor crowds.
The weekly wages bill is understood to come to around €10,000. O’Driscoll is a passionate football man but also a good businessman and the path to survival for Bray will rely on his striking the right balance between those two.
The roots of the takeover are very much based in the space of South Dublin between Sallynoggin and Cabinteely. Cabinteely FC came about as a result of a desire of the juvenile club to be part of the development structures and deciding to create their own club rather than partner with an existing one.
Joeys chose the latter and that is ultimately what has resulted in the salvation of Bray.
“It is great news that Niall has joined Bray Wanderers as his drive and vision will surely help the club return to a solid structure, where they can progress further on and off the pitch,” said FGAI CEO John Delaney welcoming the move.
“Niall is a real football man and has proven that during his time involved in the game at all levels.”
“I would like to thank Gerry Mulvey for his time at the club and wish Niall the very best in what I’m sure will be an exciting new era for Bray Wanderers.”