I’ve never spent Culture Night at the Carlisle Grounds before. Technically I didn’t this year either, even though it felt like I was there as I watched the live stream of Bray versus Longford through the club’s Facebook page on my phone.
What a night it turned out to be. Any top of the table clash has the potential to be a banana skin for the side in the lead, a game that can derail title ambitions and shunt you into the siding that is the play-offs.
Having scored three goals in their previous three games [all wins], Wanderers looked confident in the early stages that the streak would continue. Chances were created but not converted. Never mind, there was plenty of time, even when half-time arrived with no goals yet.
Normally I’d be doing a poetry reading on Culture Night and I made use of the interval in the match to send a brief contribution into the ether that is social media. Job done, it was back to the game and the goals that must surely come, sooner or later.
It turned out to be sooner. I had barely poured my second-half beer before Sean ‘Super Mac’ McEvoy had the ball in the Longford net. A lead that was no less than Bray deserved, and one that went a long way towards settling the nerves.
The Half Man Half Biscuit song ‘Friday Nights And The Gates Are Low’ came to mind as I looked at the almost-empty main stand in the ground. Normally a goal would be greeted with plenty of noise and activity. Players would rush over to celebrate with the fans. Not these days, unfortunately. Unlike the song title, which documented a low turnout at Tranmere Rovers due to lack of interest, the paltry attendance these days is COVID-19 related.
Talking of COVID-19, Friday saw the announcement of a return to lockdown for Dublin and in one stroke of a politician’s pen my weekend was wrecked. A planned dinner out with my wife for our wedding anniversary – gone. Bringing my son to his soccer game – gone. By the time the Bray game came on my spirits were seriously in need of lifting. The club were happy to oblige, as further goals from ‘Super Mac’ and Gary Shaw saw the three-goal and winning streaks extended to four games.
Wanderers’ form is that of title winners. The Longford win was followed up by a tremendous 2-1 win in Cobh on Monday night. Eleven games into the restarted season and only one defeat. There have been two draws and eight victories. With only five games left, the game this Friday at home to Drogheda will be crucial. Drogheda are in title-winning form too, and recorded a fine win over UCD at Belfield while Bray were beating Longford.
So, an exciting run-in ahead in the First Division. My faith in football is something that has never waned, and the game came through for me again on Friday when I needed cheering up. The fact that it saved Culture Night for me too was an added bonus!