When I was at school I remember the class being brought to Drogheda for a school trip to see St Oliver Plunkett’s head. I doubt if you could palm schoolkids off with such fare nowadays, but then I was brought up in simpler times.
The visit came back to me from the depths of memory last Friday. We’d just learned of our trip to Elgin in the second round of the Irn Bru Scottish Challenge Cup. I googled Elgin and the first thing that came up was that it was a cathedral city. That made me think of Drogheda, possibly because I always remembered that school visit as being to a cathedral [apparently St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, which houses the relic, isn’t actually a cathedral but just an ordinary church]. Drogheda springing to mind was probably helped along the brain synapses by the fact that they were our opponents that night in the Carlisle Grounds.
In the ground there were lots of conversations about booking trips to Elgin. This was something to look forward to, a reward after the tough summer we have had. People don’t want to miss Elgin. It’s not often Bray get to play competitive games outside Ireland. If you didn’t get to Turkey or Switzerland in the 1990’s after our FAI Cup wins, or up to Northern Ireland a few years back when we were in the Setanta Cup, then Elgin is a must, if at all possible.
I think everyone was happy with the fact that we got the away game, not Sligo. Some people would have preferred a trip to Edinburgh or Glasgow, but others lwere delighted to be given the chance of something more exotic. Elgin is certainly that – it’s up in the Scottish Highlands, well off the beaten track [it’s actually the most northern football league ground in the UK]. They play in Scottish League Two, the nation’s fourth tier, se we have a realistic chance of beating them and pulling a big fish in the third round.
Elgin is a town [sorry, city!] similar in population to Bray. As an aficionado of minor leagues I remember the name Elgin City from the days before their elevation to the Scottish League [in 2000, when they were elected with Peterhead]. They were stalwarts of the Highland League, where their local rivals were Forres Mechanics and Lossiemouth [the Elgin-Forres-Lossiemouth triangle is famous for having RAF stations as its main source of employment]. Apparently it’s one of the dearest places in the UK to buy a house. Bray fans will only need a hotel room for the night, thanks.
In the same way that all the big bands in the 1960’s came to Bray to play in the iconic [and now defunct] Arcadia Ballroom, Elgin in the 1960’s hosted The Beatles, The Who, Dusty Springfield and Pink Floyd [all at the Two Red Shoes dancehall], not to mention The Kinks [at Elgin Town Hall].
Bray will be playing in the Borough Briggs stadium, Elgin’s home since 1921. Some famous players have played for them in their day – Andy Goram and Jimmy Johnstone to name two. Goram is actually from Elgin, as is former Scotland international Steven Pressley. Trainspotting actor Kevin McKidd also hails from the town [sorry again, I mean city! Apparently in the UK you can call yourself a city if you have a cathedral, even if you’re only a town!].
Back to Friday’s game and if the recent draws against Sligo and Bohemians stopped the rot, the win over Drogheda saw us turn the corner. It’s onwards and upwards from here to the end of the year as we fight to stay in the top six. Goals from Hughie Douglas and Aaron Greene put us in a comfortable position but I liked Drogheda’s attitude and play and they deserved to get back into it with their goal. An equalizer even looked on the cards for a while. They certainly didn’t look like a side that has now lost four in a row. Hopefully they can pull out of the nosedive.
A good evening in the Carlisle was rounded off with the late introduction of 16-year-old Jake Ellis to become Bray’s youngest-ever player in a League of Ireland match. I went home with the song ‘Itchycoo Park’ in my head. The jukebox that is the brain serves up appropriate music for all occasions. Sometimes you can’t see the link. I’m sure the line in the chorus ‘under dreaming spires’ and its cathedral connotations was the trigger for this song.