As well as being the League of Ireland ground that has been in continuous use for sport for the longest period of time [since 1862], Bray Wanderers’ Carlisle Grounds can also probably lay claim to being the ground that is best supplied with public transport. Buses go by the ground. The DART is across the road. In future the LUAS could even be coming to Bray.
That’s a lot of transport. A recipe for bumper crowds? Well, it certainly allows for big visiting support when Dublin sides come to town, where fans can leave the car at home and enjoy a drink before or after the game.
But wait for it, there’s more. Back in the dim mists of League of Ireland time the Carlisle Grounds even played host to a club called Transport FC. Essentially the works team of Coras Iompair Eireann, Transport played in the League of Ireland from 1948 to 1962, the first four of those seasons as tenants in the Carlisle Grounds [they moved to Harold’s Cross for the remainder of their League of Ireland stint].
Under the management of Matt Giles [John Giles’ father] Transport achieved their finest hour in 1950 when they lifted the FAI Cup. So 1950, not 1990 [when Wanderers won it] was the actual first time the FAI Cup was brought back to the Carlisle Grounds in triumph. Transport’s best league placing in the League of Ireland was 5th – achieved in 1949 and again in 1957.
Transport’s journey into and back out of the League of Ireland saw Sligo Rovers go along for the ride as travelling companions. Both sides were elected to the League in 1948 when it was expanded from 10 to 12 teams, and the same 2 sides failed to get re-elected in 1962 when the League decided to slim back down to 10.
Sligo [along with Bohemians and Waterford] were also among the sides Transport put out en route to the 1950 final, where they beat Cork Athletic after 2 replays. The only other FAI Cup finals that went to 3 games were 1970 [between Bohemians and Sligo] and 1999 [when Bray Wanderers eventually prevailed over Finn Harps]. Sligo also were the opponents when Transport recorded their biggest League of Ireland win [6-0 in 1958].
In the early days of the League of Ireland works teams like Jacobs, Fordsons, St James’ Gate and Transport made up a significant part of the membership. This was a phenomenon common enough elsewhere in world football at the time, and still is in many countries.
Perhaps it’s an idea that could be revisited at League of Ireland level rather than lower-league level? Imagine if we had works teams for Pfizer, Intel and Google? They’d certainly have financial backing behind them. There would have to be rules about a certain split of the squad being staff members, but this wouldn’t be an impediment to making the idea work.
Such teams would naturally draw support from the area they are based in, as well as from the large numbers of staff based at these sites. It could be a way of expanding the League into regional areas it hasn’t been in before or for some time. If you don’t try something new [or revisit an old idea in a modern environment] how do you know it won’t work?!