You often hear and read language associated with battles and war peppered through soccer coverage. Such and such a team are difficult to beat at home, their ground is ‘a fortress’. Sides ‘battling it out’ for the title or to avoid relegation. A top of the table ‘clash’. An opposition laying ‘siege’ on their opponent’s goal. A cup-tie settled by a ‘shoot-out’.
The perennial favourite phrase to describe a gutsy Bray Wanderers performance down through the years was ‘Battling Bray’. I certainly hope the Carlisle Grounds can be a fortress this season. In years gone by when we have done really well it is often as much on foot of getting good results on the road as doing well at home. If we are to challenge for top six again this year we need to be tough to get any change out of at home.
The Carlisle certainly knows a lot about battles. It has been through many scrapes in its long history. The first sport played there in 1862 was archery, certainly a sport with battle overtones. The ground is watched over at its front end by Bray’s War Memorial, built to honour the town’s dead from the two World Wars [my own great-grandfather Michael Kinsella amongst them].
The pitch itself was turned into allotments during the First World War, to help the people of the town feed themselves. The International Hotel directly across from the stadium was destroyed by fire in 1974, and was then flattened by the wrecking ball. An earlier fire ruined another hotel on another side of the ground, behind the railway tracks. The ground is close to the sites of the old gasworks on Seapoint Road and electricity works at the Maltings, both of which were the scenes of accidents and incidents down through the years.
Maybe we can stock up on Irn Bru this year to prepare for battle. It’s a drink associated with strength, if you are to believe the ads on television. Or maybe not. Not really the stuff for modern athletes. But we’ll happily take our place in the 2017-2018 Irn Bru Scottish Challenge Cup. That was a nice bonus to get, when it was announced during the week. Earned on merit too, ourselves and Sligo having won the battle for fifth and sixth last term. We put Bohemians and St. Patrick’s Athletic to the sword and won out during an exciting run-in.
Talking of St. Patrick’s Athletic they are our first opponents when the league gets under way this Friday. They are always a tough opponent for us. They gave us a hiding in a Leinster Senior Cup tie recently so we will be out for revenge. Let the battle commence!