Monday, November 2nd, 2015 was a red letter day in the long and cherished history of the Waterford and District Junior League.
Ozier Park, the headquarters of football in Waterford has been in existence since 1924 and during the intervening 91 years many thousands of players, mentors, administrators and spectators have enjoyed many wonderful hours of entertainment at the venue which is sometimes described as “The Old Lady”.
There is no doubt whatsoever that “The Old Lady” never looked more beautiful than she did last week as the new state-of-the-art floodlights were officially switched on for the first time. The current chairman of the local league, Michael Butler got proceedings underway by welcoming the many invited guests, former committee members and the large band of loyal supporters who have been attending the venue during the course of their lifetimes.
He also paid tribute to the former committee members Philip O’Keeffe, Jimmy O’Neill and Mattie Stafford who sadly passed away in recent times and as a result were not present to see the fruits of their labour come to fruition.
Honorary Life President, Jimmy Searson then spoke about his life and times spanning over 60 years on the committee and it was clear to see that he was clearly moved by this special occasion.
John Finnegan, the Vice-Chairman of the Munster Football Association congratulated the local league of on their initiative and he presented Michael Butler with a unique plaque to commemorate the auspicious occasion.
Milo Corcoran represented the FAI and said he will do everything in his power to bring international games to Ozier Park during the coming months and years.
The Mayor of Waterford City and County, John Cummins echoed what the previous speakers had said and he added that he was honoured to be asked to attend the opening in his official role as Mayor and he recalled some wonderful times at the famous venue.
Jimmy Searson then officially switched on the floodlights to rapturous applause from the large gathering.
The scene was then set for a special match between 36 former (in the main) players who represented every club in the league. “The Blues” were managed by the legendary Paddy Halley and “The Whites” were managed by the Carrick stalwart Sam Walsh.
Ian Walsh of Grannagh scored the first ever goal under lights in Ozier Park to put “The Whites” in front.
His effort after 12 minutes may have touched an opposition player but Woe betide anyone who was going to take the historic strike from him. John ‘Wonka’ Donnelly of Dungarvan equalised for “The Blues” five minutes later and then Michael Donnelly of Portlaw struck an upright with a spot kick for the “The Blues”.
Shortly afterwards Gary Wallace put “The Blues” in front with a wonder strike from 35 yards and then Alan Drohan of Seaview Celtic made it 3-1 in favour of Paddy Halley’s charges. Southend’s Paddy Dooley pulled a goal back for Sam Walsh’s squad and “The Whites could have equalised on the blow of halftime but Christy Power of Ballinroad struck the crossbar with his penalty.
Niall Farrell of Tramore Rangers put “Halley’s Heroes”’ 4-2 in front early in the second half but Paddy Dooley made it 4-3 six minutes later and Christy Power atoned for his earlier penalty miss by scoring a late equaliser.
Sam Walsh’s squad won the penalty shoot-out 5-4 with Paul Dunphy, Anthony Brown, Paddy Dooley David Murphy and Mickey Sheridan all successful from 12 yards. Michael Walsh, John Donnelly, Gary Wallace and Evan Shanahan found the net for Paddy Halley’s men but Jamie Moore shot over with “The Blues” fifth penalty, but at the end of the day everyone was a winner on this evening which was savoured and embraced by players and spectators alike. The match officials Johnny Matthews, Jimmy McGrath, Anthony Walsh and Noel Purcell also added greatly to a glorious night of nostalgia and a night which proved to be a massive step into a bright new future.
Sam Walsh Selection: Jonathan Moran (Crusaders) Henry Morrissey (Abbeyside) Alan Barry (DLS) Anthony Brown (Johnville) Mickey Sheridan (Waterford Crystal) David Cummins (Hibs) David Murphy (Dunmore East) Adrian Kirwan (Kilmacthomas) David Pepper (Park Rangers) David Osario (St Saviour’s) Paul Dunphy (St Paul’s) Paddy Dooley (Southend) Tadgh Crowley (Stradbally) James Walsh (Carrick) Jeddy Kelly (Villa) Christy Power (Ballinroad) Ian Walsh (Grannagh) Trrone Whyte (Portlaw)
Paddy Halley Selection: Derek Hearne (Waterford Crystal) Darren Walshe (Bolton) Richard Gaffeny (Ferrybank) Danny Marks (Crusaders) John Donnelly (Dungarvan) Gary Wallace (Bohs) Dave Geraghty (Kilmacow) Evan Shanahan (Red Star) Jamie Moore (Moincoin) Michael Walsh) Noel Flynn (St Joseph’s) Alan Drohan (Seaview Celtic) Leigh Quilty (Tramore) Niall Farrell (Tramore Rangers) Karl Grant (Tycor) Anthoy Carlin (Ballyduff) Nigel Coffey (Piltown) Pat Fahey (Rathgormack)
Match officials. Johnny Matthews, Jimmy McGrath, Anthony Walsh, Noel Purcell.