My week’s holiday meant I missed 2 Bray Wanderers games. I was away Saturday to Saturday and sandwiched in between were the visit of Cork to Bray on the Sunday and a trip to Richmond Park to face St Patrick’s Athletic on the Friday.
The current troubles at Bray aside, I thought we would get a draw with Cork and at least a draw with Pats. We put it up to Cork when we played them earlier in the season and I thought home advantage might swing it for us this time. I was following the game on the internet and it looks like we played well despite the defeat.
Losing to Pats really hurt though, especially as we had been leading. Even at 2-1 down with time running out I thought a late goal would come our way and was willing a 2-2 to flash up on my screen every time the website I was following refreshed. A point would have stopped the run of defeats and started to pull us out of the nosedive. A late goal did come, but it went Pats’ way. Finn Harps this coming Friday in Bray is a must-win game for Bray. They need to get back on track.
I was in East Clare for my holiday and it’s a very peaceful and scenic part of the world. I was able to switch off from work and unwind but I wasn’t able to switch off from football. That would be hard for me anyway – I always wear football tops when on holidays. This year I had a Roy of the Rovers / Melchester Rovers tracksuit top which I wore for a few of the cooler days. If you’re familiar with the exploits of this comic-book side then you’ll know that their tracksuit top resembles a lifeguard’s apparel. Having spent a morning watching my children kayaking on Lough Derg, another parent thanked me for lifeguarding as he felt reassured about the safety of his own children. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was not a lifeguard – I can’t even swim!
Whatever about switching off from football in general, switching off from Bray Wanderers is something I don’t think I ever really do, not even in the close season. Much to my surprise, I ended up spending the Friday of my holiday on a local radio station talking about Bray Wanderers, not something that was on my agenda at all.
The interview was mainly about music and writing but when I said I was a Bray Wanderers fan a fair portion of the interview was given over to talking all things Bray and League of Ireland. I told the famous story of ‘The Gandhi Train’ and Wanderers’ first-ever FAI Cup semi-final, in 1989 against Cork, which went down well.
I came out of the interview and looked up the FAI Cup draw for 2017 which had taken place while we were on air and wasn’t a bit surprised to see that Bray had pulled … Cork! Perhaps I jinxed Bray again, or perhaps not – we have home advantage, and I definitely think we have the beating of Cork in our power. Perhaps the Cup will be the place we achieve the victory.
One of the places I visited in Clare was Ardnacrusha power station, which the ESB have very kindly opened up for public tours this summer. My daughter Elizabeth came with me. In between learning about hydro-electric power, head-race and tail-race canals, penstocks and Kaplan turbo-generator units, we got to climb to the highest point on site which afforded an excellent view across all of nearby Limerick City.
I asked the engineer giving the tour where the Market’s Field was, home of the closest League of Ireland side to where I was staying. He told me to ‘just follow the floodlights’ [that brought a smile given the great book on League Of Ireland football of the same name] and started me off at a point that I could pick out the lights of not only Market’s Field but also Limerick’s GAA ground and Thomond Park rugby stadium.
When we drove home on Saturday I seemed to be ‘following the floodlights’ as every village in Clare on the way to the motorway seemed to have a GAA stadium equipped with stand and in some cases training lights. I’m not much of a GAA person but it struck me how well the grassroots are looked after by the organisation, something that isn’t done to the same degree in soccer in this country. Am I jealous? Well, yes.
The biggest floodlights in the GAA are in Croke Park. I live in Drumcondra so am right beside this fine stadium. I was lucky enough to get tickets for U2 so I literally arrived back from holidays, parked on the drive and headed for a date with Bono’s crew. High up in the Davin stand at what was a brilliant concert in a fantastic stadium, it did cross my mind a few times how strange a country we are. We can have one of the finest stadiums in the world, one of the biggest bands in the world, yet when it comes to our domestic soccer league we let it trundle along on rickety wheels.
Finally, I’d like to thank Lakeside FC in Mountshannon for the use of their pitch last week. Most evenings were spent there playing soccer with my son Blaise who this week will be doing his first-ever football camp, run by Drumcondra AFC in Clonturk Park. A stone’s throw from Tolka Park, where Drumcondra themselves used to play. Tolka itself is a stones-throw from Croke Park, yet in reality it’s half a world away.