Waterford Junior League chairman Noel O'Keeffe with architect Ronnie Faulkner and FAI chief executive John Delaney.

Waterford Junior League chairman Noel O'Keeffe with architect Ronnie Faulkner and FAI chief executive John Delaney.

Way back in 1954 the “new” dressing-rooms were officially opened in Ozier Park. On Sunday last, April 19th, 2009, the latest redevelopment of Waterford soccer’s spiritual home was unveiled.

Complete with a new stand, new terracing, refurbished meeting room and a truly magnificent playing surface, the Grand Old Lady of football in Waterford opened her arms to football lovers once again following an absence of almost 18 months.

The ground first hosted a football match in 1924 but never did it see a day like this. The sun shone down on those who were lucky enough to be present on what was a very special occasion indeed.

Noel O’Keeffe, the current chairman of The Waterford and District Football League, thanked his six colleagues on the committee for making the day a reality.

He admitted that it took a lot of work and money to make the dream come true but added that it was all worthwhile to see the venue take its place up there with the very best.

Noel also paid tribute to John Goff (solicitor) and Ronnie Falconer (architect), two gentlemen who gave their professional expertise to the league free of charge.

John Delaney, chief executive of the FAI, said it was a very special day for football in Waterford. He recalled a day five years ago when he spoke with Jimmy O’Neill and Mattie Stafford, two long-serving members of the committee when they made their feelings known about what they wanted as regards Ozier Park. He said he hoped Jimmy’s and Mattie’s dream was now fulfilled.

Emotional Searson

Jimmy Searson, the Waterford and District Football League President, performed the official opening by unveiling the commissioned plague which is placed on the wall of the pavilion.

His voice creaked with emotion as he performed his glorious task. “I served this committee for over 50 years and during that period lots of people came and went but all of them played their part and they should be remembered also here today. This wonderful league of ours is 85 years old and today is the best day of them all.

“All we want now is to get floodlights in and then we can all rest easy. We opened dressing-rooms here back in 1973. They were an improved version of the original rooms but look at what we have today. It is amazing.

“I would like to thank one person in particular today. It is one thing having a great venue but all of that means nothing if the playing surface is poor. Tom Murphy came in here as groundsman some years ago and he transformed the place completely. The pitch here in Ozier Park is perhaps the best in Ireland and that is down to Tom Murphy. His love and care to the pitch is clear for all to see today.”

Jimmy Searson will be a special guest of honour at the Republic of Ireland World Cup game in Croke Park in October. John Delaney informed him of the news on Sunday last. Needless to say it rounded off a memorable day for the Waterford League President.