I brought the family to see 2 Bray games last week, and both were thoroughly enjoyable. Usually I just have one or other of the children with me, depending on who wants to come or who hasn’t got anything else on. Last week saw us all free to cheer on the Seagulls though.
First up was a trip to Inchicore on Easter Monday to see Bray take on St Patrick’s Athletic in the EA Sports Cup. It had been a few seasons since I was in Richmond Park and the children had never been, so when we saw the family-friendly kick-off time of 5pm we piled into the car and off we went.
The reduced ticket price of 10 euro was a nice gesture, and with U12’s going free we got into the match with an 11, 9 & 6 year-old for just 20 euros – great value that turned out to be even-greater value when the game went all the way to penalties!
There was a relaxed atmosphere at the match. Sandwiched between league games the EA Sports Cup match was a bit of a diversion, and both sides fielded teams where some regular first-choice players were rested. That’s not to say both teams weren’t trying to win – quite the contrary, it was an entertaining match, despite the 0-0 scoreline after 120 minutes.
The children loved Richmond Park. The way the pitch is sunken from street level, and the compact feel of the ground. The club shops that looked to be set into the backs of the adjoining houses. They said it reminded them of Avenir Beggen’s stadium in Luxembourg [a ground we have visited because my sister lives in Beggen]. I had to agree, that was quite perceptive of them. I wonder why I never noticed that before – possibly because I have always been at Richmond in the night whereas Monday saw us there on a bright afternoon.
We sat in the sun of the Patron’s Stand for the first half, until the gang got worried the Easter eggs they had brought for food would melt in the heat. So we moved into the cover of the main stand to eat. Normally a choice between Yorkie, Kit-Kat and Mars is a pick between chocolate bars, but on Easter Monday it was Easter eggs. I told the guys not to demolish the lot in case the game went to extra-time. You have to ration your provisions accordingly.
As full-time approached the guys were hoping for a draw, as they had never been to a live game that had gone to extra-time. As full-time extra-time approached they hoped the stalemate would continue even further, so they could witness a penalty shoot-out in the flesh. They were not to be disappointed, although my son Blaise would have preferred if the penalty shoot-out had gone all the way to sudden death. In the event, Bray missing their first kick made the difference. Good luck to Pats in the next round.
The guys left Inchicore wanting to go to the ‘Easter Cup’ next season [the fact that it was an Easter Monday game and that the competition has EA in the title presumably got them confused!] but in the meantime they settled for coming out to Bray on Friday for the Rovers game.
Arriving on Friday the children were faced with the biggest crowd they had ever seen in the Carlisle Grounds, a big change from the sparse attendance that had been in Inchicore on Monday. A healthy home support and travelling support in abundance swelled the ranks, and the atmosphere was great.
Having fallen behind to Rovers early on, Bray went on to dominate the rest of the game. Three quick-fire strikes in the run up to the interval and a fourth after the break left Rovers battered, bruised and shell-shocked. A late consolation goal for them was really no consolation at all.
My own kids apart it was great to see the invited children from Wicklow side Ashford Rovers at the game. They got to witness Wicklow’s premier soccer side bowling over the most successful club team this country has ever produced, in front of a big crowd. They will have been inspired by that, just like the way Bray’s players on Friday were inspired by their enthusiastic support.
Wanderers are heading to Cork next Friday knowing that at worst they will have a massive 21 points from the first series of 11 matches, well ahead of where they have ever been at this stage of an SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season. What’s more, Wanderers are doing this in style. They are playing lovely attacking football that is a joy to watch. They have scored 24 goals in their 10 league games this season – only Cork have scored more. Games involving Wanderers are averaging four goals a match, offering excitement, entertainment and value for money.
Value for money is the phrase I’d choose to sum up Bray’s season so far. Much has been made of the investment into the club and the funds that have been made available to build a decent squad and attract and keep quality players. Well, the ownership and management of the club have been vindicated in their ambitious strategy because the team are delivering on the pitch. Long may it continue.