Bray’s 2-1 win away to Galway on Friday meant many things for us Seagulls fans. It meant we kept our place in the top four, the other members of which all won as well. It meant we kept up our bright start to the second half of the season, banishing memories of the sluggish run we had coming up to the break. It meant we can enjoy staying up late for Soccer Republic again this Monday.
It meant we set ourselves up for the visit of Dundalk this Friday. As well as all that, though, it meant we reached a point tally of 33 for the season so far.
33 points. That’s a number I’m always anxious to reach. The difference is, most years we only reach it at the very latter stages of a campaign, if at all. We never reach it with just 20 match days played.
33 points over a complete SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season signifies a points-per-game ratio of 1.0. So what? Well, a points-per-game ratio of 1.0, in any league where there are three points for a win, usually draws the borderline between relegation and survival. It’s a formula that held true in about 80% of Europe’s leagues last season. Trust me – I checked this out!
If you look at the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table after this weekend’s results, there are five teams with a points-per-game ratio of less than 1.0. Galway sit on the bottom of the table with 15 points from 19 games, a ratio of 0.8. St Patrick’s Athletic, Drogheda United, Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps also are in the relegation scrap, with ratios of 0.8 or 0.9. Harps, in eighth place with 18 points from 19 games, are a good distance behind Limerick, who may sit just a place above in seventh, but with 24 points and a ratio of 1.3, it’s clear where the relegation scrap begins.
There is extra pressure on the teams in the scrap to avoid the drop this year, given that three go down. All five down there currently have as good a chance as the others to stay up, they are that closely bunched. Get on a bit of a run, especially towards the end, and you pull clear. You get out of the quicksand. You make the cut. You escape the Sword of Damocles.
Damocles was a courtier in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse, a fourth century BC tyrant in Sicily. He didn’t hide how much he coveted his master’s position. To his surprise, Dionysius gave him the crown and throne, but arranged for a sword to be placed precariously over his head. This freaked out Damocles so much that he begged to be let go back to his former role as courtier.
The story is relevant because it is an allusion to the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those at the top – in this case those in the top division of our football pyramid. Your time there could end any season, if things don’t go well.
I didn’t make Galway last week due to family commitments. I was at home looking at Glastonbury on television and following the soccer scores on my phone. Glastonbury on the Friday was great – Elbow were good, and Radiohead were outstanding. When I heard Bray were winning I found myself wishing I could somehow be both in Glastonbury and Eamonn Deacy Park at the same time. Life is good when you have the 33 points with 13 games to spare, no Swords of Damocles hanging over you!