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Daniel Ennis, the vice chairman of East Wall Bessborough FC, has a vision to keep expanding the club.
Last year, it launched a free training academy for young children and a programme for children with special needs.
Ennis says he thought it would take a few years to get the kids’ teams up and running, but they have two teams already. “I honestly can’t believe how far the club has come.”
The academy is free, and training takes place on a small astroturf pitch at the East Wall Youth club, with about 30 kids, he says. But “if we were to get another 10 kids, we wouldn’t be able to take them”.
And, there’s demand for an under-15 girls team in the area too, he says. His issue is space, he says.
The club play senior matches in the summer at the pitches in the Alfie Byrne Park in Clontarf, but the grounds are dirty with dog poo, and they have no changing facilities.
If the council would grant the club a lease, it could fence off one of the two pitches there, clean it up and install changing facilities, says Ennis.
Having a proper home ground would help to build pride and a sense of community. “You have to give the kids something to look up to rather than just buildings.”
At a meeting of the Dublin City Council’s Central Area Committee on 10 January, the club made a presentation and asked the council to lease it the pitch.
Area councillors all backed the plans and urged the council management to grant the lease as soon as possible.
“It just highlights to me what can be achieved through sport,” said Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam, who chairs the committee.
He will set up a meeting between the club and council managers to try to push the plan forward, he said.
A Kind of Therapy
In 2008, two clubs in Dublin 3 amalgamated, says Ennis by phone on Tuesday.
Bessborough United from North Strand, and East Wall Wharf came together.
They formed East Wall Bessborough FC and the club was a huge part of his late father’s life, he says. Geoff Ennis Snr was involved in training young people as part of at-risk youth programmes, he says.
“He kind of done everything. He played at one stage. He was the secretary. He was the treasurer and the chairman,” says Ennis.
Daniel played for League of Ireland clubs Shelbourne United FC and then Bohemian FC.
Looking back now he thinks that what his dad was doing was more important, he says.
“My dad, being from the area, knew how to keep lads out of trouble,” he says. He built up a sense of team spirit. If a player couldn’t make it from work to a match on time Geoff would drive across the city to collect them, says Daniel.
When his dad died of cancer in 2016, Daniel took over as chairman. “It was my therapy,” he says. He kept a connection with his father through the club.
But he struggled to bring in sponsorship funding, he says. The club continued to be a family affair.
“To save on cleaning the kits, my mam was washing all the jerseys for three teams,” he says. His brother Geoff Ennis Jnr helped out a lot as well, he says.
“The motto of the club is ‘Together we’re stronger’. My dad always preached that family thing, there was never a player that was outside the circle,” he says.
Together We’re Stronger
In 2018, Ennis feared that the club wasn’t going to survive, he says. They were down to one men’s team, having had three previously, and they didn’t have good sponsorship or a strong committee. “It was really looking bleak,” he says.
But then, in 2020 Anto Macken started managing the team and that gave the club a huge boost, says Ennis.
They started forming a new committee, he says. He brought on board some friends who had been on the Bessborough United at-risk youths’ team that his dad had trained, he says. “It kind of came full circle.”
Today the club is thriving. Thomas Keating is the chairman, he says and everyone on the committee is totally committed.
They are planning to start an under-19s team, an over-35s team, and a women’s team too, he says. As well as the children and under-15s girls’ teams.
His father would be thrilled to see the children’s teams, he says. “I know he would be dancing up there.”
Thanks to a sponsor, Dublin Port, they are able to keep the academy free, he says. Which is important so that no one is excluded.
“Success is not always about winning competitions and going up to higher leagues,” says Ennis.
For him success is building a football club that brings everyone in the area together, he says – to live up to the club’s motto and build pride and a sense of community.
The Alfie Byrne Park is their home turf. “We always have called it home,” he says.
But there are issues with dog fouling, scramblers, and access to the pitches. They can’t get into it from the car park without climbing over a fence, he says.
The club would like to get the keys to the gate, get control of access, and fence off one pitch. “We want one pitch free of dog fouling and bikes getting in,” says Ennis.
They would fundraise for a container to use for changing rooms, he says. The under-15 girls are ready to play but need to have changing facilities, he says.
He has a picture in his head of what it would be like to have a proper home facility in summertime, he says. Playing kids’ matches followed by adults’ matches on Saturdays.
“The guts of 50 people walking up through Dublin 3 in their red, white and black to the Alfie Byrne,” he says. “That’s a dream for me and I know we are going to get there.”
At the Central Area Committee meeting, local councillors called on the council management to ensure that the club gets the lease.
Independent Councillor Christy Burke said the council needs to think outside the box to support community volunteers who are “trying to steer young men and women down the proper pathways of sport”.
“We need, as councillors, to give whatever support we can,” said independent Councillor Nial Ring.
“For young girls to have no facilities, and we are trying to encourage them into sport, it is a disgrace,” he said.