The formative years of Ferrybank AFC were marked by the constant
striving of the club to secure a ground of their own.
Following a nomadic existence that continued for many years,
the problem was seriously addressed in the last decade, when plans
were put in place to provide a modern new venue for the club.
Ferrybank secured a lease on six acres of land at Abbeylands and
by 1997 two playing pitches were ready for use. The construction
of new dressing rooms when completed will provide an excellent
facility for our club, which has been in existence for over 50
years. Jimmy Searson, the founding member of Ferrybank AFC in
1948, is still involved with the club. "I suppose the main
motivating factor in trying to set up a soccer club in the area
was to give the kids something to do. There was plenty of interest
in the game, but the only outlet for playing was on the road."
With no money in the kitty, it was clear that financial assistance
would have to be found in order to provide playing gear for the
proposed new team. Jimmy set about raising the necessary funds
and soon had enough to purchase the club's first playing kit.
"Bishop Harvey, the Protestant Bishop, donated half a crown,
as did William Burley, secretary of Waterford Football Club. Together
with other small contributions we were able to buy our first set
of jerseys, which were black and red hoops from George Goodfellow,
who owned a sports shop on the Quay where J.D. Sports is now."
In the very early days the club was known by another name and
catered for only one team. "We were known as 'Suir Rangers'
and played our football at Willow Gardens, which was open ground
where Castle Oaks and the Fairways estates are today." Members
at that time resisted the urge to call the club 'Willow Gardens
Wanderers' perhaps for obvious reasons!
Within two years of its foundation the club were successful
on the playing field when Suir Rangers won the U16 league in 1950.
The following years brought much change, including the formation
of the first committee to organise and look after the affairs
of the club properly. Suir Rangers became Ferrybank AFC and adopted
new green and white colours, which remain the club's colours to
the present day. We encountered much the same problems as many
others club during the fifties and sixties: where to play the
matches and travelling to and from the various games. The only
mode of transport was the bicycle and if you were lucky enough
to own a bike you had the added pleasure of transporting a passenger
to the matches!
The more pressing problem facing our club was trying to find
a home of our own. For over forty years, Ferrybank AFC moved from
field to field. After our move from Willow Gardens we had the
use of a field at the top of Rockshire Road and spent three years
there. Our dressing room was a chalet that we transported from
St. Patrick's Hospital, dismantling it on the hospital grounds
and re-erecting it at the field. In the following years our club
would have to find several new venues. Thanks to the Brothers
of Charity at Belmont Hospital we spent several seasons playing
on grounds attached to the hospital. When that land was needed
for the Brother's own use we were on the road again. We continued
to move around, playing at Grannagh, then on to Slieverue's pitch
and next to a field at the top of Milepost Hill.
The next stop was Murphy's field in Killaspy, before we finally
secured a permanent property. In the early 90's Waterford Corporation
leased six acres of land to the Waterford Junior League for our
use. We began using the two playing pitches five years ago and
put in place plans to develop modern dressing rooms to replace
the containers currently in use. Expenditure on the project to
date exceeds £250,000. We have received government grants
of £100,000 and contributed £50,000 from our own resources.
The balance is made up from borrowings and our very successful
lotto, that has been in operation for the past ten years, will
continue to help finance the development. The schoolboys' section
of the club has seen rapid growth in recent years.
With the population of Ferrybank continuing to expand, there's
an increasing number of young boys and girls interested in playing
soccer. In addition to the Premier Division and Second Division
teams, the club caters for juveniles from 7 up to youths, with
two managers looking after each team. While the immediate aim
of the Premier team is to retain premier division status, we are
only too well aware of the need to develop the juvenile side of
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable days in our history was
the meeting of Ferrybank and Shelbourne in the S.F.A.I. u/12 Cup
semi-final 2000. Although the home side lost 4-2, the game attracted
the biggest crowd ever to watch a schoolboys' match in Waterford.
Notable players who began their playing careers with Ferrybank
include Jackie Lonergan, who went on to play with Waterford, Noel
Norris who won a junior cap for Ireland and more recently John
O'Shea, currently a regular starter on the Manchester United first
team and for Ireland.
Ferrybank AFC is a modern progressive club, dedicated to the
development of soccer. The club has made remarkable progress since
its foundation over half a century ago. When fully completed the
club's development at Abbeylands will provide a facility more
than capable of catering for the needs of Ferrybank AFC for some
time to come.