On Friday, Drogheda United will begin their 100th year in the League of Ireland when they play host to Cobh Ramblers in the First Division opener.
With just 24 hours until kick-off, there’s a buzz about the club as they prepare for a monumental year both on and off the pitch, under the management of Tim Clancy and Kevin Doherty and their new chairman Conor Hoey.
Hoey stepped into the role following the resignation of Fiachra Kierans in the off-season and the lifelong Drogheda United fan spoke to Pundit Arena about the numerous innovative ways the club plan on celebrating their 100th year in existence.
“We have a lot planned for our centenary year,” began Hoey.
“We have launched the new jersey which is black and red and will be our home kit. 10% of all online sales will go to the Gary Kelly Cancer Support centre in Drogheda which is a big thing for us and it’s one of the big charities we want to work with this year.
“I think that’s really important to put something back into the community. It’s really about establishing ourselves as a community-based club. I think Bohemians are terrific at this and you can see it around a host of League of Ireland clubs who are really starting to do much more around their communities which is great.”
Along with the new centenary jersey, there is also the “Bring A Drog Home” campaign, in conjunction with Drogheda’s newest sponsors Turkish Airlines.
The Drogheda chairman outlined what the campaign entails and explained that it was centred around the “diaspora” element of their fanbase.
“We also have this deal where one of our new sponsors is Turkish Airlines which is terrific for us,” said Hoey.
“They are helping us a lot with our ‘Bring a Drog Home’ competition. This is a competition for anyone who buys our new centenary shirt, they will be in with a chance to win business class flights for two to anywhere in the world where Turkish Airlines fly and they fly to more places than any other airline in the world.
“For example, if you have a sister in Tokyo and she buys a jersey and we get a picture of her wearing it in Tokyo or a brother in Sydney, wherever it may be. It’s trying to internationalise the sale of the jersey and run a bit of a diaspora element to it globally.
“We’re hoping to sell a significant number of jerseys which is good for us and good for the Gary Kelly Cancer Centre. It’s good promotion for the town as well as the club which is important. We’re trying to do something which promotes the town globally as well and brings people back into the club.”
When speaking about the year ahead Hoey is keen to get the community element of the club across, something he feels is incredibly important to its growth.
The chairman outlined that they also have a centenary dinner planned for later in the year which will “celebrate the club and all its unsung heroes.”
“We’re also going to have a centenary dinner in October with around 250 or 300 people in the West Court Hotel in Drogheda to celebrate the club and celebrate all the unsung heroes of the club, the people who volunteer and make the club functional on a week to week basis.
“With all sporting organisations, you rely hugely on volunteers so that’s going to be a big celebration in the club and in the community again and we’ll have various other activities going on over the year as well.
“It’s pretty amazing to know that a League of Ireland club has survived for 100 years, the ups and the downs.”
In addition to the numerous events and campaigns that the club are planning, there is also the added excitement of progression on Drogheda’s proposed new 3,000 seater stadium.
Hoey outlined that the plans for the new stadium, which would have scope to be extended to 10,000 capacity, are in a good place and that he hopes a few years down the line it will become “the centre of football for the northeast.”
“Two or three years down the line we’re hopefully going to have our new stadium and all the signs are that it is in a good place. I was with the FAI a few weeks ago and they are very optimistic about everything, Louth County Council are extremely optimistic as well, all the partners who are trying to make this happen seem to be believing that it’s going to happen.
“I spoke to John Delaney and he said ‘we’re going to make this happen,’ so we’re on the right track.
“When we look three or four years down the line and we think that there could be a three to five thousand seater stadium with expansion capabilities in Drogheda with multiple other pitches around it, it really becomes the centre of football for the northeast of the country. Off the back of that, we’re going to have a terrific facility for fans and families to come to.”
On the pitch, there is also a certain buzz about the upcoming season. In the last campaign, Drogheda were narrowly defeated in the playoffs by Finn Harps but exceeded many people’s expectations by getting there in the first place.
This year, the First Division is as strong as it arguably ever has been with the likes of Shelbourne and Bray both frontrunners for a return to the top flight, however, full-back Conor Kane feels that the Drogs should certainly have cause for optimism ahead of the season opener.
“The vibe is great since the team came in last year we have such a tight group and the team spirit is great everyone gets along great.
“We have a lot of young lads mixed with older lads, a few of them are 25, 26 and 27 so we have a good mix. The standard is very good and we got the players that we wanted so it should be a good season.
“It’s very very special I’m going into my third year with Drogheda and we had the launch of the new jersey obviously earlier in the week so that’s great
“It would be nice to get more fans out to the games because when they are out they are loud so it would be good to see them more often especially because of the 100 years. So we will try and give something back to the community this year and try and have a good season.”
Drogheda begin their 100th year in the league against Cobh Ramblers on Friday, with kick-off 7:45 at United Park.