Most years the return of the football season has a back-to-school-after-summer-holidays feeling to it. Not this year. It doesn’t feel like it has been away at all, at least for me.
Maybe it’s because we didn’t really have a winter. Summer soccer has the winter for its break but there doesn’t seem to have been a winter this year. Yes it got dark early every evening like it should in winter but it certainly hasn’t been overly cold or wet. I think we got 10 minutes of snow where I live; you get more added time in a lot of soccer matches.
Maybe it’s because we had Dundalk’s Europa League exploits to focus on until well into December. That brought us up to Christmas almost and sure once you’re into the New Year you’re looking at fixtures and friendlies and getting the lowdown on your team’s new signings and generally getting into the groove for the new campaign.
Bray’s first competitive game will be against St Patrick’s Athletic on Tuesday week January 31st, in the Leinster Senior Cup. We’ll already have our first friendly under our belt by then – we take on Longford Town this Friday January 27th. Two more friendlies [against Waterford United on February 4th and Athlone Town on February 10th] have also been penciled in ahead of the opening SSE Airtricity League Premier Division tie on February 24th.
That opening league tie will also be against St Patrick’s Athletic. We seem to play them an awful lot in my opinion. Last year we kicked off against them with a Leinster Cup tie, just like we will be doing this year. We also played them in the League Cup as well as the three times in the league. The Bray and Pats balls must have some sort of secret magnetic link in the draw drum. It could be worse – imagine if we pulled Dundalk all the time!
Our first two away games don’t involve long trips. Pats and then Bohs, not too bad. The next two away ones see us hitting the road with a vengeance, as we head to Sligo and Derry. At home we entertain Finn Harps, Drogheda, Limerick and Galway in our first four home games. We’ll need to be getting points from them games if we want to show our intent to stay clear of the lower reaches of the table from the word go. It will be too dangerous a place to inhabit, given the chopping of the league down to 10 at the end of this campaign.
A standout date for me from reading the fixture list is the visit of Sligo to the Carlisle Grounds on May 26th, my birthday. It’s always a bonus for me when Bray is playing on my birthday. It’s the small things like this that fans look out for when they scan fixture lists!
Bray have kept together the squad that achieved so much in the second half of last season. No mean achievement given the superior money other teams in the league have to offer. Time and again Bray’s best players have been spirited away from us at the end of a season. Not this time, which gives us a chance of aiming for the top half of the table. A squad and management team already bedded in too. The only way is up!