Tolka Park looked brighter than usual to Blaise and myself as we approached it from Drumcondra Road last Friday night; we later heard from the lads that had come over from Bray for the friendly against Shelbourne that it seemed to shine brighter from the Clontarf side as well.
The mystery was solved when we got inside and were shown the new floodlights, which were superb. It’s great to see money being spent on Tolka, even if its days are numbered. While it stays open there is always the slim chance that it might never actually close. Maybe the new government can intervene!
The Riverside Stand will house the away fans this season, while the newest stand at the Drumcondra end remains closed due to safety issues. Hopefully these issues can be sorted soon – it will certainly be a tight fit for some of the Dublin derbies, with the capacity little more than 3,000 without the new stand open.
Blaise was initially confused as to why Shelbourne and Bray were facing off. He knew the game was a friendly, but thought that you could only play friendlies against teams in your own division. I was happy to put him straight. You learn something new every day.
The game was a decent affair, decided in Bray’s favour by a Brandon McCann strike early in the second half. As always with friendlies, a raft of changes disrupted the contest but it was important for Ian Morris and Gary Cronin to give as many lads as possible a run out.
For Shelbourne it was a final workout before the Premier Division kicks off tomorrow. With Cork away and Dundalk at home as their first two outings, they couldn’t have been handed a more difficult start – these are the two most successful teams of recent years. As for Bray, the lack of clarity as to who will actually be in the First Division means their fixtures are still not set in stone [congratulations to Wanderers on being awarded a Premier Division licence].
Even though the game was a friendly it was our first match of the season so it had that special ‘back-to-school’ feeling about it. It is always good to catch up with people you haven’t seen for months. You realise how much you have missed that live match feeling, the football banter. Predictions for the season are shared, ranging from the wildly optimistic to the doom laden; I’m expecting Shels to safely avoid relegation and Bray to comfortably make the play-off spots.