It’s great to see Waterford FC riding high at the top of the League of Ireland Premier Division in the wake of their 2-1 win over champions Cork City at a packed RSC on Friday last. The bumper crowds which have made the Kilbarry venue such a fortress this season shows how hungry soccer supporters in the city and its environs are for the club to succeed.
Over 3,600 attended last Friday’s all-ticket game, exceeding the attendance at the Shamrock Rovers game on March 23rd by around 600.
That game was played in atrocious weather, but despite the rain and the match being televised on RTE, the attendance on the night spoke volumes for the buy-in by supporters, both established and returning to the cause.
While Dundalk top the table on goal difference, the buzz is well and truly back in local soccer circles, and the pride the players have generated has been off the scale following a decade in the First Division wilderness.
Huge credit must be extended to manager Alan Reynolds, club owner Lee Power and all the local volunteers, who stuck with the club through thick and thin.
Two years ago, fan numbers were in the low hundreds at the RSC – even down to double figures on some occasions. By then, running the club was placing a major strain on the Supporters Club and all who kept the club alive. And what a reward they too are now reaping.
The visits of Shamrock Rovers and Cork City brought back happy memories of the club’s golden days back in the 1960s and 70s when five leagues were won in seven seasons.
The elusive FAI Cup was finally won in 1980 while the League Cup was lifted in 1985. Since then, four First Division titles were the only pieces of silverware the club could lay claim to. And now the talk is of European football, a tantalising prospect that couldn’t have been foreseen over a year ago.
It’s been great to see so many young people and families at the Blues’ games. The Friday night outing is now becoming a social occasion for the younger set, while older fans must get a sense that they’re harking back to the Kilcohan Park days.
It’s a pity that standing areas are not allowed in the ground, and it would be welcome to see temporary seating, if possible, provided behind both goals in a bid to further develop the RSC atmosphere.
We can recall back in the late 60s when special wood terracing was brought in to expand the capacity for a Dundalk visit in what was then a top of the table clash. This permitted a gate of 9,000 fans, almost three times the size of last Friday’s crowd. But nowadays, health and safety limit these options.
The current Waterford is producing a strong brand of attacking soccer. The squad has been strengthened with new seasoned professionals joining the ranks from the UK, much like it was during the glory days.
The scenes at the end of last Friday’s match were regrettable and let’s hope they’re not repeated anywhere else in the country between now and the end of the season.
Bray Wanderers will be next to visit the RSC come April 20th. One suspects they’re not looking forward to the trip to Fortress Kilbarry against a team which is the talk of domestic soccer for the first time in many years. Keep the flag flying, Blues!