I’ll put my hands up and admit to going out on Saturday last to watch Manchester United against Manchester City. Actually I went out to watch Manchester United against Manchester City and Celtic against Rangers concurrently. I was meeting friends, some of whom support United, some City and some Celtic. We won’t mention who supports Rangers.
In the pub the two tellies were showing the two games. They were at right angles to each other. The two sets of supporters were looking through each other, like a woven lattice. I swivelled between the two matches.
Why should I feel guilty? The Manchester derby was a good match. It pitted not just United against City but Mourinho against Guardiola. The Glasgow derby was more one-sided, as Rangers were welcomed back to the SPL with a battering in this term’s first Old Firm. Onwards and upwards for Celtic as they head for Camp Nou.
Well, I should feel a bit guilty because they are all foreign teams. I pride myself on supporting the League of Ireland, Bray Wanderers in particular. And Bray was playing later that day, in Longford. I was unable to travel to it due to family commitments, for that I feel guilty too. I had to be content with following the game on the web.
Manchester United actually reminded me of a Bray versus Longford encounter more than twenty years ago, in the spring of 1996. Wanderers were on their way to winning the First Division with 55 points from 27 games, ahead of Finn Harps [Longford finished that season second from bottom]. It was my first trip to Longford for a soccer match.
We didn’t know where Strokestown Road was so stopped in the town and asked in a pub for directions. The assembled crowd were watching a live Manchester United game [it was a Sunday lunchtime game in the time before most LOI grounds had floodlights. It may even have been a Manchester derby]. Nobody seemed to know that Longford Town were playing that day, much less had any intention of going to cheer them on. It was like pulling teeth trying to get out of them the location of the pitch even. When we got there we just parked and walked right in, nobody even asked us for money. We had to go to find someone and insist on paying in.
Bray’s 2-0 win on Saturday night capped a remarkable week for Wanderers. Coming back from a goal down away against Pats on the Tuesday to win 2-1. Local lad Ger Pender scored in both that and the Longford games. Bray had gotten over the 4-0 loss to Cork that had stopped their 9-game unbeaten run. That game was even put into perspective when you consider the 5-0 mauling Cork handed out to Rovers at Tallaght in the Cup quarter-final on Friday.
Realistically Bray should be afraid of nobody in their run-in. Galway, Bohs and even Pats can be caught and overhauled in the table. That in theory gives Bray a top-6 finish to aim at. Who would bet against them achieving this on current form? Mind you, you would probably have got similar odds to the 5,000-1 on Leicester winning the Premier League if you had tried to bet on Bray for top 6 back in April or May.
Roll on next Saturday. I’ll be back in my seat at the Carlisle Grounds when Sligo comes to visit. I’ve had my fill of televised foreign soccer for a while. I want the real thing.