I got to two League of Ireland games this weekend; Bray on Friday for the visit of Limerick in the Premier Division and Cabinteely on Saturday for the visit of Athlone Town in the First Division. The two games were both meant to be on Friday night but Cabinteely rescheduling meant I could take in both. I have to admit that I was expecting to see a Bray win and a Cabinteely win but in the end I saw neither, and to complete a miserable footballing weekend my English team Rochdale lost at Oxford to slip back into the League One relegation zone with one game to go.
The sun was shining down on the Carlisle Grounds when I arrived, as was the moon, strangely enough, but its assistance wasn’t needed as the sun had things in hand. The floodlights weren’t really needed either but they were on anyway. The scene as the teams took to the pitch was a real advertisement for summer soccer, and would only look better on Monday night on Soccer Republic, I imagined. But then, the sun always shines on TV, as A-Ha once said.
Actually, they said this back in 1985, just as Bray had begun their League of Ireland adventure. Staying with A-Ha, a piece of football trivia I learned during the week was that Bournemouth’s manager, Eddie Howe, who has taken them from League Two to the Premier League, de-stresses by listening to A-Ha. It obviously works a treat because he’s one of the best young managers working in England’s top tier.
Graham Kelly for his part has overseen some good performances since he took over at Bray, even though the only points on the board during his tenure have come from the win over Shamrock Rovers. I though Bray played well on Friday night and deserved at least a draw but things just didn’t go their way. The sun may have been shining on the Carlisle Grounds but Lady Luck wasn’t smiling on it. A missed penalty. A couple of efforts striking the woodwork. When your luck’s out then you’re clean out of luck. I think Clint Eastwood said that in one of the Dirty Harry films, although he may have used slightly stronger language.
This works the opposite way too though, and I still expect things to turn for Bray and if they get some luck too then they could come back and mount a challenge for survival. Graham has them playing good football and if he can keep them believing they can survive then they can. Cory Galvin was a pleasure to watch and I thought Gary McCabe – the penalty miss aside – did well too. Gary’s had his critics this year but I’m not one of them, I think he’s done well for us. I’d take that further; if we are to survive then it will be through Gary playing a key role. At the back Aaron Dillon has settled in between the nets and the defence looks like it has settled too. I still believe this team can come good and survive.
Cabinteely on Saturday was also a sunny affair and like Bray the night before the floodlights, when they came on, looked like unnecessary spectators. Little did the real-life spectators know what a crucial role they would play on the night – half-way through the second half, with the home side leading 1-0 thanks to a Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters goal, the floodlights failed.
Most people didn’t notice at first, because the natural light was still so good. The game continued for a while before the referee stopped play. I got the impression that both sides and their coaching staff were happy to continue without the floodlights, and if they had they would have finished the game in reasonably good natural light, but the referee wanted the lights back on. Perhaps his hands were tied, I don’t know what the rules are and I respect his judgement in the situation, to abandon the game. It was certainly a first for me; in all my years going to football matches I’ve never been to an abandoned game before. Every week is an adventure in the League of Ireland!