Saturday was a marathon session of League of Ireland football for me. I took in two games from two divisions, in two different counties and with two of my children accompanying me [but a different one for each match]. I saw 10 goals, including one by a veteran striker many may have forgotten is still playing, some fine goalkeeping and ended the day listening to Phil Collins.
I don’t normally listen to Phil Collins. But he came to mind as I legged it back to Drumcondra from Bray Wanderers versus Galway to watch Shelbourne versus Cabinteely FC. I thought of Phil legging it from Wembley to JFK Stadium in Philadelphia to play on both sides of the Atlantic for Live Aid in 1985. Whereas Phil had the assistance of helicopters and supersonic Concorde jets to bridge his gap, I only had my beat-up Mazda 6 to bridge mine, but I made it!
Perhaps there’s another reason I ended the day thinking of Phil Collins. He made his name as the drummer with Genesis. My favourite musician in any band is always the drummer. My favourite position in soccer is goalkeeper. I saw some fine goalkeeping on Saturday, including a penalty save from Bray’s Peter Cherrie and a point-blank save from Shelbourne’s Dean Delany [deservedly presented with Shelbourne’s Player of the Year award before the game]. If I was a footballer I’d be the goalkeeper. If I was in a band I’d be the drummer. There are similarities. Both are at the back, largely out of the limelight. Safe pairs of hands; anchors.
Swapping out two of my children between games was bizarre. Blaise came to Bray but did not want to come to Tolka Park because he wanted to watch Strictly. He never watches Strictly. Elizabeth, who always watches Strictly, decided to forego it to come to Tolka. She hadn’t made it to Bray because she’d been dancing all afternoon at a Feis. Strictly Irish Dancing.
Bray’s 3-3 draw with Galway was entertaining. It could very easily have ended with a victory for either side but a draw was a fair result. Peter Cherrie saving a last-minute penalty was certainly a moral victory for Bray, who would have been really hard done by if they’d succumbed to such a sucker punch, having led three times in the game. Both sides played well – Bray looking for the win that would keep the pressure on Shamrock Rovers and Derry, Galway looking for a win to ease their relegation fears.
With three rounds to go it looks like the weekend draw leaves Bray trying to hold onto fifth spot ahead of Bohemians as a best outcome – their loss to Sligo helped Bray’s cause. Harry Kenny’s departure at the end of the season was confirmed at the weekend, but all at Bray suspected this would be the likely outcome for the man who has brought us two top-half finishes in successive seasons. The implications and politics of the situation are for another article – suffice it to say that all at the club, while sorry to see Harry go, understand why he feels he has to.
There’s no sign of Owen Heary leaving Shelbourne, or Pat Devlin leaving Cabinteely, which is good to see. Shelbourne are making progress back towards the top flight, and Cabinteely are getting stronger year-on-year as a League of Ireland club. The sides served up an entertaining game on Saturday evening, with Shelbourne running out 3-1 victors to leapfrog Cabo in the final standings and finish in the top half of the Division One table. The game was perhaps a bit closer than the score-line suggests, with Cabo creating many fine chances only to be denied every time by Delany, who pulled off an array of top-drawer, acrobatic saves.
Jason Byrne came off the bench to get Cabinteely’s goal [it was going to take something special to beat Delany]. 40 in February, it is great to see Jason still playing. I hope he continues on for another season, especially now that he is 1 nearer Brendan Bradley’s all-time League of Ireland goal-scoring record. Jason has provided so much entertainment for so many people over the years. He helped Bray win the FAI Cup in 1999 [in Tolka Park]. He was top-scorer in the League four years in a row between 2003 and 2006 while playing for Shels [Tolka Park again!]. He’s been with UCD, Bohemians and Dundalk also. He’s played for Ireland, and in the Championship with Cardiff City. A legend.
Saturday night was a special one in Tolka. There was a celebratory mood in the stadium, with 5 pieces of silverware on parade and a group visiting from Germany [who took over the tannoy at one stage!]. A real end-of-term feel, with optimism and hope in abundance for 2018. Something special in the air tonight, as Phil Collins would say.