It was Easter weekend, so Bible stories were on the radar. Another one came to mind on Good Friday, as Bray Wanderers prepared to take on Dundalk at Oriel Park – the story of David and Goliath. In the Bible passage David won, and Bray as David won on what turned out to be a very good Good Friday for The Seagulls.
In the Bible Goliath was a giant Philistine warrior, defeated by the young David, the future King of the ancient Israelites. The phrase ‘David and Goliath’, or ‘David versus Goliath’ has of course come to symbolize in modern parlance any contest where a smaller, weaker opponent faces off against a much stronger adversary. Bray Wanderers, a team more used to battling relegation, travelling to Europa League veterans Dundalk’s Oriel Park fortress, certainly fitted the bill.
As towns Bray and Dundalk are hardly David and Goliath, both having populations in the 30,000 to 40,000 bracket. But as soccer clubs, Dundalk have a far-superior roll of honour. 12 top-flight league titles and 10 FAI Cups, compared to our 2 FAI Cups. The ending to Friday’s game fitted the romance of the myth too, with Wanderers running out 3-1 victors to ascend to the same points total as The Lilywhites.
Oriel Park is certainly a fortress. The first time I ever went there, in the early 1990’s, I arrived late and inadvertently went in amongst the home supporters. Cheering wildly after a Bray goal [in a game we ultimately lost] I was rounded on by one hard chaw and asked if I was ‘looking to be knee-capped’. I beat a hasty retreat with a flea in my ear and eventually found where the Bray fans had congregated.
Friday’s win didn’t come out of nowhere. Bray beat Dundalk in the Carlisle 2-1 last August, and only lost 1-0 at Oriel last May. Going back a bit further, to the end of the 2014 season, Wanderers produced a gutsy performance in gusty conditions at the Carlisle to draw 1-1 with the champions-elect. I wasn’t at the Carlisle that night, I was at a school reunion elsewhere in the town where Bill O’Herlihy [sadly to pass away the following year] was our guest speaker. I fed Bill a note during his speech asking if he could give Wanderers a shout out for having ensured Premier Division survival that night by drawing with Dundalk [Bill duly obliged, gentleman that he was].
I wasn’t at Oriel on Friday, I was working night shifts through the Easter weekend. Rather than try to follow the game on the internet I decided I’d just check the score at a time I knew the game would be over. When I looked up the score I had to stare hard at the screen to get my brain to absorb the information that had flashed up. A 3-1 Bray away win. Gary McCabe had scored twice from the penalty spot. He was now the top scorer in the league. Ryan Brennan had added the third. Needless to say I skipped through the rest of my night’s work with a spring in my step. Actually, I skipped through the rest of the weekend with a spring in my step!
After Bray’s win last week over Galway I had looked at the fixture list and seen our next three were Dundalk away, home to Shamrock Rovers and away to Cork. I don’t mind admitting I felt a bit sick at the time. You could play well in those three games and come away with nothing, and it would be no disgrace. Now we can’t wait to take on Rovers on Friday next. Bring it on.
Image Credit: RTÉ