Lockdown has inflicted on us endless repeats of past games. The archives of the English Premiership have been well and truly plundered at this stage. Nostalgia is fine if it’s something you can dip into at your own free will, but when it’s the only thing on the football menu it just doesn’t taste the same.
I decided I’d had enough, and was going to compile a piece of nostalgia of my own – my top 20 Bray Wanderers games. The 20 that made the final list included a mix of the historic and the personal, the record-breaking and the sublime. I’m sure every Bray fan would have some of these games in their own top 20, but definitely not them all. I’m sure all League of Ireland fans would enjoy investing some time in coming up with a top 20 for their own club.
So here’s my list. It includes games from 1985 to 2020 [although I was attending Bray games throughout the 1970’s during the club’s Leinster Senior League days, I’ve limited myself to games that happened since we joined the League of Ireland]. I’ve relived the games as best I can from my collection of programmes, footage of some of the bigger games and archive reports. The list is done in sequential order.
01.Bray Wanderers v Longford Town, Carlisle Grounds, 20 October 1985, First Division. This was the club’s first home league game in the national divisions. We had already had home games that season in the League Cup, which included a draw with Dundalk and wins over Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United, so expectations were high. The result may have been disappointing [a 0-1 defeat] but the occasion was truly historic.
02.Bray Wanderers v EMFA, Carlisle Grounds, 10 November 1985, First Division. EMFA remain [even though they are long-since defunct] one of the most exotically-named soccer clubs I have seen. This was a fixture that stood out as a ’must see’ for me during our first season. We won 3-1, thanks to goals from O’Brien, Cooper & Mahon. EMFA morphed into Kilkenny City a few seasons later, a fine club but a bland name in comparison to EMFA!
03.Bray Wanderers v Cork City, Carlisle Grounds, 19 October 1986, Premier Division. Our first home league match in the top flight. We won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Cormac Breslin.
04.Cork City v Bray Wanderers, Turners Cross, 09 April 1989, FAI Cup. This was the club’s first-ever FAI Senior Cup appearance. We won this first leg 1-0 thanks to a Eugene Davis goal, but with Cork winning the second leg in Bray the tie went to a third game which we lost. This first-leg game is immortalized in the story of ‘The Gandhi Train’ at this link:
05.Bray Wanderers v St Francis, Lansdowne Road, 13 May 1990, FAI Cup. Our first FAI Senior Cup win. A 3-0 win thanks to a John Ryan hat-trick. 30,000 in Lansdowne Road. The perfect 21st birthday present for me!
06.Bray Wanderers v Trabzonspor, Tolka Park, 22 August 1990, European Cup Winners Cup Preliminary Round. Bray in Europe, who could have predicted that?! We acquitted ourselves well, drawing 1-1 thanks to a Martin Nugent goal [we went out on aggregate].
07.Bray Wanderers v Waterford United, Carlisle Grounds, 01 October 1995, First Division Shield. Bray were losing 3-0 from the first leg, but overturned the deficit to level the tie and then take the Shield on penalties. This game epitomised a very special time in the history of the club for me. Pat Devlin had just returned and would go on to build the definitive Wanderers squad. This was the last time I saw Graham Coughlan play for Bray – probably the greatest League of Ireland player you never saw:
08.Bray Wanderers v Cobh Ramblers, Carlisle Grounds, 17 October 1997, First Division. Bray recorded their record win, a 7-0 trouncing of a sorry Ramblers. Apart from an OG, the goals were scored by Richie Parsons, Alan Smyth, Ray Kenny, Jody Lynch, Ray Kenny, Philip Keogh and substitute Willy Smyth.
09.Bray Wanderers v Finn Harps, Tolka Park, 20 May 1999, FAI Cup. This was our second FAI Cup win. This game was the second replay, and a brace from Jason ‘Jayo’ Byrne saw us finally fell Harps 2-1. Another memorable game that coincided with the week of my birthday – my 30th.
10.Bray Wanderers v Grasshopper Zurich, Carlisle Grounds, 26 August 1999, UEFA Cup. We lost this and the away leg both by 4-0, but the game was a memorable and historic one because although it was our second time in Europe it was the first [and still only] time we have played a European game at the Carlisle.
11.Bray Wanderers v Dublin City, Carlisle Grounds, 19 September 2003, First Division. We drew 1-1, with our goal scored by Eamon Zayed. The crowd sang his name. They also sang mine – I got married the next day so was treated to a rendition of ‘He’s getting married in the morning’ by the Bray fans!
12.Shelbourne v Bray Wanderers, Tolka Park, 29 April 2005, Premier Division. We lost 4-1, but I don’ remember the game, because I left midway through the first half [the only time I’ve ever left a Bray game before the final whistle]. My wife Carol-Ann was with me at the game. We were expecting our first-born, who decided to start her journey into this life in the Riverside Stand. We made it to the Coombe in time, and Elizabeth arrived safe and healthy!
13.Bray Wanderers v St Mochta’s, Carlisle Grounds, 17 June 2007, FAI Cup. It is one thing to be able to say you saw your club achieve their record win on one occasion, but to see them do it twice is sublime. Mochta’s were dispatched 7-0 thanks to a Paul Dunphy hat-trick, an OG and strikes from John Broderick, Gary McCabe and Colm Tresson.
14.Bray Wanderers v Monaghan United, Carlisle Grounds, 04 November 2010, relegation play-off. Possibly the greatest game for thrills and spills, drama and a roller-coaster of emotions. This was the game of the collapsing wall and the sudden-death penalty shootout win. Incredible stuff.
15.Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United, Carlisle Grounds, 24 May 2013, Premier Division. A game memorable for lots of reasons. I saw Jason Byrne score a hat-trick [Jayo scored 72 league goals in his two spells for Bray between 1998 and 2014 and I was lucky enough to see 50 of these strikes]. We won 3-2 although Drogheda finished with 9 men. It was another ‘birthday present’ win as I turned 44 that week. The game’s programme also marked the debut of my still-running column ‘Quigley’s World of Football’, stories from which have also found a home in the Shelbourne programme [2018 and 2019 seasons] and the Rochdale programme [2017 to date].
16.Bray Wanderers v Longford Town, Carlisle Grounds, 01 November 2013, relegation play-off. We survived again thanks to a 3-2 win. The last game of the second Pat Devlin era.
17.Bray Wanderers v Manchester United XI, Carlisle Grounds, 20 July 2014. This was a great game to be at. My son Blaise [then almost five] was thrilled to be getting to see United, albeit a reserve side. We won 1-0 thanks to a Jake Kelly goal. I got to write a lengthy piece about the ‘Class of 92’ for the programme. United were coached that day by Warren Joyce, whose father Walter managed my favourite English club Rochdale back when I was Blaise’s age. Then there was the half-time entertainment – actually there was none but the Bray Air Show was on that day and you could see it from the stand and I told a group of United fans who were impressed by it that it was the half-time entertainment. They believed me and said it was better than what was served up at Old Trafford!
18.Bray Wanderers v Limerick, Carlisle Grounds, 21 September 2018, Premier Division. We lost 2-0. It was a miserable staging post on a journey to relegation after 14 continuous seasons in the top flight. What saved the day and made it memorable? It’s a personal thing. ‘Quigley’s World of Football’ celebrated its 100th instalment. My piece that day was about Blaise, who was at the game with me, as was my father, three generations of Wanderers fans flying the flag.
19.Bray Wanderers v Wexford FC, Carlisle Grounds, 24 May 2019, First Division. Derek Daly scored twice as we won 2-1. It was the week of my 50th birthday, and again Wanderers came up trumps with a winning present!
20.Bray Wanderers v Wexford FC, Carlisle Grounds, 28 February 2020, First Division. We won 2-0. This was the last Bray game I was at before lockdown hit.
So, a trip down memory lane, a bit of indulgence in nostalgia in the absence of any actual football. Things will move on and get back to normal, and this strange time will itself become a piece of nostalgia!