As I drove into Bray last Friday to see Wanderers host Galway United, I marveled at how green everything was. The trees, the mountains, the grass in the fields. It was as if I had never noticed it before, even though I lived in Bray until I was 33 and have been back hundreds of times over the following decade and a half. Then the penny dropped. This was the first night this season when I wasn’t arriving in the town under the darkness of night. The clocks had sprung forward. Summer soccer was here. The weather was majestic.
Of course the only green I was really interested in that night was the green of the Wanderers jersey. There was a threat of green being usurped by maroon when I got to the ground, as a couple of Galway fans put up a ‘Maroon Army’ banner on the DART side of the Carlisle. I had visions of an invading horde out-colouring us, both on and off the field.
The invasion never materialised. No army showed up; in fact the few Galway fans in attendance could best be described as a small platoon. When the teams took to the field Galway weren’t even wearing maroon, having opted for their change strip of white.
Bray started the brighter and Gary McCabe’s goal just after the half hour was no more than we deserved. Galway were playing well though, defending solidly and creating some good moves. Any that made their way all the way to Peter Cherrie met with a goalkeeper in fine form, confident and commanding. He was on his way to keeping his first clean sheet in the league this season.
The teams went in with just the McCabe strike separating them. I didn’t know what to do at half time. Normally I have some or all of my children with me and they dictate what’s happening, whether it’s a walk around the ground or a trip to the club shop.
I found myself playing ‘Ghost’, a game the kids invented and one that can only be played at the Carlisle Grounds. It revolves around counting the number of Dublin Bus upper-decks you can see whizz past the front wall of the ground, where the War Memorial is, and which is only tall enough to obscure the lower saloons. Invariably these buses are empty as they are making their way to the terminus on the seafront or the one at the DART station, hence the gang christening them ‘ghost’ buses. We once counted a dozen at half-time alone and our record for a whole match is 39. I’d rather you kept your eyes on the match though rather than trying to play ‘Ghost’ if ever you visit the Carlisle!
Bray could have added to their tally in the second period but Galway were hanging in, aware that at only a goal down they were still in the game. When Bray’s captain Conor Kenna was dismissed with half an hour to go they were given even more hope, but they failed to convert it into a point and remain deep in trouble. As for Bray they climbed to third on the night.
As if to fit with the title of the album I was listening to on the way to and from the game [Bob Dylan’s new effort ‘Triplicate’], Wanderers face a run of three tough games next. Away to Dundalk; home to Shamrock Rovers; away to Cork City. It’s tough to see how we can get anything out of those games, but I’m sure the lads will fancy their chances. Our away form has been good – we beat Pats and Derry on the road – and Rovers are nothing to fear based on their mediocre start to the season.
That trio of games will end the first set of 11 games this season. We will have played everybody. Worst case scenario will still leave us with our present tally of 15 points, which isn’t bad at all. Hopefully we will have added to it though!