The Vertigo of Bis

Nyköpings BIS were formed in 1966 when two struggling clubs, Nyköpings SK and Nyköpings AIK pooled their resources. Since then the club have predominantly played in the third and fourth tiers of Swedish football, although the Bissarna enjoyed ten seasons, in two spells, playing in the second tier between 1971 and 1984. They are not related to IFK Nyköping who play at the truly wonderful Folkungavallen (http://wp.me/p2DKc8-8I) across town.

The club are in something of an vertiginous upward trajectory of late as they won Division 2 Södra Svealand in 2012, winning by a ten point margin from runners up Carlsbad United. The club were agonisingly close to making it two successive promotions when they finished a point adrift of the promotion play-off place in Division 1 Norra. The title was won by IK Sirius with the fast rising, predominantly Kurdish, Dalkurd FF taking the play-off spot.

The club play at a modest athletics stadium called the Rosvalla Idrottsplats which opened in 2003. It has one large stand on the east side and grass banking all the way around the remainder of the ground. Despite having a small band of ultras the club is not well supported and the official capacity of 1,000 is rarely tested. The stadium is part of a much larger sports centre which caters for skating, tennis and bowling and also has a multi-purpose hall which holds 5,500 people and currently plays host to Nyköping’s ice hockey team.

Nyköpings BIS are the most southerly club currently completing in the northern section of Division One. They have some hellishly long journeys to the likes of IFK Luleå and FC Umeå in the far north. Even today’s visitors, Skellefteå FF, have a 540 mile journey south to play this fixture. This season has not been so kind to the hosts and after sixteen rounds they lie tenth in the table (of 14 clubs) while the visitors are a place below having an inferior goal difference.

BIS take an early lead when a speculative shot from Gillström clips the inside of the post and finds the net. The killer blow came when the lively Eid scored an excellent second just as the half entered stoppage time. The hosts double the score in the second half and in truth should have had several more. This visiting keeper will have had better days and his side barely mustered a shot on goal during the whole game. Survival for them will be tough in the third tier.

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Sunday August 31st 2014 – Division 1 Norra

Nyköpings BIS 4 (Gillström 6,82, Eid 45, Djoković 61)
Skellefteå FF 0

Attendance: 326 (at Rosvalla)

BIS:

23. Anton Fagerström, 13. Lennart Johansson, 14. Simon Esséus, 3. Per Pettersson, 6. Ishmael Koroma, 25. Adis Djoković, 16. Yousef Yousef, 8. Suad Gruda, 22. Ethan Gage (c), 9. Andreas Gillström, 11. Mahmoud Eid.

Subs: 4. Emil Larnesjö (for 3,74mins), 19. Ludvig Hellman (for 22,71 mins), 20. Alen Ahmetović (for 11,79 mins), 26. Andreas Guillén, 24. Alexander Lind, 1. Pontus Lindh, 7. Sagvan Abdulsakar.

Skellefteå:

1. Frederik Enberg (c), 2. Daniel Söderström, 24. Linus Marklund, 5. Joakim Vikberg, 17. Alexander Brinkmann, 10. Jonas Desai, 7. Krister Andersson, 15. Robin Nilsson, 19. Patrik Broman, 45. Petter Thelin, 25. Chika Francis Ezeh.

Subs: 6. Kevin Forss-Nordlund (for 15,74 mins), 9. Andreas Bergström (for 7,61 mins), 18. Yosif Ayuba (for 10,65 mins), 22. Alexander Sorgić, 31. Johan Sjöberg.

Yellow cards: Gruda (BIS); Marklund, Ezeh, Ayuba, Forss-Nordlund (Skellefteå)

Gallery

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The Rosvalla features a giants’ lost front door key. No reason.

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BIS Prog

Goat Town

Gefle Idrottsförening, or GIF, were formed in December 1882 as Gefle SK although the current name was adopted only months later. Gefle itself is the ancient spelling of Gävle a port town around 110 miles north of Stockholm. The port and town thrived on exports of copper and iron and remains a busy hub for sea transportation. The town is renowned internationally for the Gävle goat, a huge straw goat that is erected and burnt every yuletide.

As with many clubs in Sweden the GIF club was originally a multi sports club that then created a football offshoot. In the case of Gefle, football was introduced to the town by an English accountant called Robert Carrick. Carrick would manage the club until 1907. During his tenure the club gained early success in the short lived Rosenska Pokalen winning the first three tournaments defeating AIK twice and also Djurgårdens IF in the finals. At the time the club refused to participate in the Svenska Mästerskapet which was a cup tournament held to decide the best team in all of Sweden with the final alternating between Gothenburg and Stockholm. This meant probably the best side in the east of the country at the time never tested itself against Gothenburg’s Örgryte IS who were the dominant side in the early years of this competition.

Since those early successes Gefle have mainly been a second and third tier club with three short spells in the Allsvenskan in the 1930’s, 60’s and 80’s. The 1950’s were a dark period for the club and having sunk to the fourth tier the board actively discussed folding the club altogether. In 1979 the club briefly merged with Brynäs IF although this lasted only three seasons. Gefle enjoyed a renaissance under Kenneth Rosén gaining promotion to the top flight in 2004 as runners up in the Superettan to BK Häcken. The club have done exceptionally well to remain in the Allsvenskan ever since and finished 12th last season. On three occasions during their top tier tenure Gefle had qualified for the UEFA Cup/Europa League. They lost to Llanelli in the first qualifying round of the 2006/07 tournament, and to Georgians Dinamo Tblisi in the second qualifying round in the 2010/11 competition. Two years later they defeated Estonians Narva Trans and Anorthosis of Cyprus before succumbing to Azerbaijanis Qarabağ FK in the third qualifying round.

The club have played at the site now occupied by Strömvallen since 1903, prior to this the town had no set sports ground and games had to be staged in the courtyard of Läroverket school. Strömvallen with its wonderfully ornate wooden grandstand, opened in 1923 and was designed by Erik Vestergren. Extensively modelled on Torben Grut’s iconic Stockholm Olympic stadium the Strömvallen is classical 1920’s design. However, other than the ground of newly promoted Falkenberg, the Strömvallen has the smallest capacity in the top flight at a little over 6,700.

In May 2013 it was announced that the club and the municipality had agreed to build a new, modern stadium in the Sätraåsen area of Gävle, so this is the last campaign at the old stadium. For the 2015 season the club will play at their new stadium, currently known as the Gävlehov Arena. Sadly for the old Strömvallen it does not meet the stringent ground grading rules set by the Swedish FA in 2013 and its days were really numbered from that point.

The area had been a running track since October 1900 and was then known as Strömdalen and was built on the site of the derelict Rettigska orphanage. The football pitch was laid in 1903 and shared with athletics until 1984 when it became a football only facility. It was athletics that bought world wide attention to the Strömvallen in the 1940’s when it was the home track of legendary middle and long distance runner, Gunder Hägg, who was virtually unbeatable for a decade. Strangely it is another athlete, Olof Ahlberg, who is honoured with a bronze statue outside the stadium. Hägg, however, does have an athletics stadium named after him in another part of town.

The stadium was extensively remodelled in 1966 and floodlights were also erected at that time. The stadium still has extensive standing room and only gained seating outside of the grandstand after the turn of the 21st century.

This evening’s game sees Åtvidabergs FF visit the Strömvallen for the last time. While both sides are in the lower reaches of the table both should survive unless either Mjällby of Brommapojkarna pull of a miracle escape act from the bottom two places. The game is played in surprisingly hot conditions and is not the greatest of spectacles. A late goal from Åtvidabergs’ substitute Victor Sköld seals the points for the visitors. He had been on the pitch barely three minutes when he slotted home a ball optimistically drilled across the penalty area.

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Saturday August 30th 2014 – Allsvenskan

Gefle IF (0) 0

Åtvidabergs FF (0) 1 (Sköld 83)

Attendance: 3,270 (at Strömvallen)

Gefle:

1. Emil Hedvall, 4. Anders Wikström, 14. Jens Portin, 6. Jesper Florén, 16. David Fällman, 17. Jonas Lantto, 19. Marcus Hansson, 7. Robin Nilsson, 12. Anders Bååth-Sjöblom, 8. Simon Lundevall, 9. Johan Oremo.

Subs: 3. Jonas Olsson, 10. Dioh Williams (for 17,81 mins), 13. Johan Bertilsson (for 19,86 mins), 15. Skuli Jon Fridgeirsson (for 4,43 mins), 20. Emil Bellander, 24. Erik Olsson, 30. Oskar Larsson.

Ådvidabergs:

1. Henrik Gustavsson, 2. Alan Arenfeldt Olesen, 3. Månz Karlsson, 24. Tom Petterson, 5. Daniel Hallingström, 6. Mohammed Abubakari, 16. Pontus Nordenberg, 32. Martin Christensen, 7. Kristian Bergström, 11. Ricardo Santos, 19. John Owoeri.

Subs: 9. Victor Sköld (for 19,80 mins), 10. Daniel Sjölund (for 2,76 mins), 13. Alberis Silva (for 32,86 mins), 14. Simon Skrabb, 18. Joel Rajalakso, 20. Gustav Jansson, 23. Emmanuel Ageymang-Boakye.

Yellow cards: Bååth-Sjöblom, Lundevall (GIF); Petterson, Gustavsson (AFF)

Gallery

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Gefle Prog

Misty Mountain Hop

The Welsh Alliance League sits at level three of Welsh football and takes in clubs from Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire and even into Flintshire to the east. Formed in 1984 it promotes into the Cymru Alliance and relegated to the Anglesey, Gwynedd and Clwyd leagues. The second of three groundhops taking in the league’s clubs took place over the long August bank holiday weekend.

Friday August 22nd 2014

Halkyn United 0 Greenfield 2

Attendance: 219 (at Pant Newydd)

Halkyn United were formed in 1945 and played in the evocatively titled Mountain League, a pre-cursor to the Clwyd League. They originally played on a pitch adjacent to Village Park in Pentre Halkyn before moving to the field next door to Halkyn Cricket Club at Pant Newydd. On a clear day the elevated view takes in sights as far as Blackpool but today a chemical works, Widnes Power Station, the Wirral and the River Dee proffer a varied backdrop to the game. The game itself is won very comfortably by the visitors with a goal in each half. This is a shame for the hosts who were in the Cymru Alliance only eight years ago.

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Saturday August 23d 2014

Pwllheli 5 Llanrug United 4

Attendance: 328 (at Recreation Road)

Football in this famous Welsh seaside resort dates from 1879, the first match being against Porthmadog. The club initially played on a field next to the railway station but in 1899 the town’s new recreation grounds were opened by Solomon Andrews an entrepreneur synonymous with the development of the town as a tourist resort. Nowadays the pitch is adjacent to the town’s leisure centre and it is a very decent facility. The hosts win a thrilling end-to-end game by the odd goal in nine thanks to a brace of quality goals from Carl Jones and a hat-trick from substitute Rhodri Scott.

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Nefyn United 0 Llanllyfni 4

Attendance: 286 (at Cae’r Delyn)

Weeks before the hop Nefyn had announced that they had no choice but to step down to the Gwynedd League due to struggling to attract players. It seemed a shame to miss out on such a scenic ground so the right thing to do was just watch a Gwynedd League match instead. Cae’r Delyn is a scenic wonder with stunning vistas of the Iron Age hill fort Garn Boduan to the west and the peaks of Gwylwyr Carreglefain to the east. The match highlighted the host’s inadequacies in terms of playing strength but it was nice to see a hefty handful of banknotes being gleefully counted at the end of the game. Just as long as Mickey Thomas hadn’t been in they will have done just fine out of the occasion.

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Barmouth & Dyffryn United 6 Llanrwst United 2

Attendance: 294 (at Wern Mynach)

The club has archives dating back to 1863 which makes the club one of the oldest in Wales. The club play at Wern Mynach which nowadays has a nature reserve at the north end which has been developed out of a disused landfill site. The club have played in a variety of leagues over the years including the Cambrian Coast League and the Central Wales League. The club won the Gwynedd League in 2006/07 but were denied promotion to the Welsh Alliance on ground grading issues. To their consternation the following season’s champions, Llanllyfni, were promoted with inferior ground facilities. Barmouth appealed to the FAW and were granted a belated promotion. The current team play some excellent football and were far too strong for the visitors from Llanrwst, a super hat-trick from captain Paul Lewis leading the way to comfortable three points.

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Sunday August 24th 2014

Blaenau Ffestiniog Amateurs 4 Penmaenmawr Phoenix 2

Attendance: 320 (at Cae Clyd)

Probably the ground most people were looking forward to lies in the heart of the slate mining area of this mountain town. Football had been introduced to the town in 1885 and clubs like Ffestiniog Town, Blue Stars, Ffestiniog Juniors and Ffestiniog Athletic played regular friendly matches. The original Blaenau FC being formed four years later in 1889. With flat land at a premium the club lead a nomadic existence playing at Holland Park, Manod Recreation Ground, Newborough Park, Oakley Park, Haygarth Park, and later still at Tanygrisiau’s Y Ddôl ground before the council provided land at a former refuse tip at Congl-y-Wal in Manod in 1956. The club had a policy of signing semi-pro players from the Liverpool and Wrexham areas and this became unpopular locally and the club floundered. In 1980 a new club was formed in the North Western Hotel and notably called Blaenau Ffestiniog Amateurs. The club progressed through the Vale of Clwyd and Gwynedd leagues gaining promotion to the Welsh Alliance in 2009. Even though the Cae Clyd ground has long lost its railway platform canopy as cover against the elements, the modern replacement on the opposite side serves its purpose admirably as the second half is hit by mountain rain. The precipitation seems to galvanise the home team as they overturn a 1-2 halftime deficit in a one sided second half. A truly magical ground and cradle of the game football.

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Penrhyndeudraeth 1 Gwalchmai 1

Attendance: 394 (at Maes Y Parc)

Penrhyndeadraeth have a bit of a problem, the on field success of the team has seen them outgrow their relatively basic Maes Y Parc ground. Winning Division 2 of the Welsh Alliance last season has seen them enter into a season of “grace” for required facilities like hard standing and a post and rail pitch surround. Formed as recently as 1981 the club has dashed through the Caernarfon and District and Gwynedd leagues. The club has certainly exceeded the town’s previous pre-eminent club, Cookes United, the successful works side of the Cooke’s Explosive Works who competed in the Cambrian Coast League. The company became part of ICI and the club and works closed in the 1990’s, their Cae Cookes ground became derelict. An somewhat attritional draw is played out with Gwalchmai and the proceedings are pleasingly interrupted but the distinctive horn and smoke of the Ffestiniog Mountain Railway passing the ground.

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Nantlle Vale 3 Amlwch Town 0

Attendance: 344 (at Maes Dulyn)

The day ends in the small village of Pen-y-groes in the heart of the Dyffryn Nantlle slate quarrying area. Nantlle Vale FC have a rich heritage dating back to 1920. The club won the prestigious Welsh League (North) in 1960. In the 1970’s the club gained notoriety for its robust play under the guidance of player manager Orig Williams, who was a professional wrestler known as El Bandito! The Maes Dulyn site had become very run down by the mid 2000’s so in 2007 the club embarked on an impressive series of improvements and now boast one of the best grounds in the league. The team is equally impressive tonight dispatching Amlwch Town with some ease.

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Monday August 25th 2014

Holywell Town 3 Llandyrnog United 0

Attendance: 377 (at Halkyn Road)

The club traces its’ heritage back to 1893 and the formation of the Holywell FC team who sported the same red and white stripes as the modern club. Holywell United and Holywell Arcadians were pre-cursors to the post World War II reformation of the club. Prior to then the various town clubs played at Ffordd Fer. With a school having been built on the land, a new ground off Halkyn Road was opened in 1946 and Holywell Town became one of the biggest clubs in Wales. Such was their record they became founder members of the League of Wales in 1992 although they were relegated from that league for a second time in 1999. The present day team has some steel to it though, galvanising under the motto “refuse to lose” they brush aside a workmanlike Llandyrnog side.

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St.Asaph City 3 Mochdre Sports 1

Attendance: 254 (at Roe Plas)

The St.Asaph club has risen rapidly in recent seasons overtaking St.Asaph based neighbours Y Glannau as the (now) city’s highest ranked club. In November 2012 the clubs’ Roe Plas pitch was seriously flooded when the adjacent River Elwy burst its banks. The club successfully applied to UEFA for a £10,000 grant to repair the damage and this was a catalyst for elevation to the Welsh Alliance for the 2013/14 season. The facilities are still basic, the away dugout moved alarmingly when a Mochdre sub leaned against it! The hosts dominate the game and should have been more than three goals up when Mochdre (which translates as “Swinetown”) grab a late consolation as the forecast rain began to get heavier.

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Kinmel Bay Sports 2 Glan Conwy 2

Attendance: 221 (at Y Morfa)

In scenes redolent of The Brittas Empire the match was originally cancelled following a dispute between the football club and the leisure centre management. It centred over soil mixed, as it turned out, with sizable pieces of aggregate being strewn over the Kinmel Bay pitch. Patently it could not be used in that condition and an eleventh hour meeting saw the game take place on the back pitch. The onslaught of predicted monsoon weather saw the elements triumph as the sides played out a 2-2 draw. Kinmel Bay had ironically moved to the venue having dominated the Clwyd League under their previous guise of Abergele Rovers. Rovers’ Parc Pentre Mawr had scant facilities and the move to Kinmel Bay Leisure Centre gave the club an opportunity to progress. Hopefully the ground dispute will be settled amicably in the not to distant future.

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What a great weekend of football in the mountains and coasts of North Wales. It was truly lovely to stay in Barmouth, a frequent holiday destination as a young football watcher. When the Welsh sing of “Bread of Heaven” I have often wondered what they mean but I believe weekends like this give an outsider just a small slice of it! Next years’ hop will be the last in this excellent league, you really ought to come.

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Linking Parks

Montrose FC were formed in 1879 and initially played on the local golf links before moving to the original Links Park. This venue was close to the current ground on Dorward Road. This venue had very spartan facilities and the club hankered after its own ground. In 1887 the club obtained the site in Wellington Street now known as Links Park having raised capital by hiring out their old pitch to travelling circuses and for grazing animals.

While the new venue was certainly a step up for the club, being enclosed meant admission charges could be levied, it was still fairly rudimentary. It wasn’t until 1920 that Links Park had any form of spectator accommodation when a small wooden grandstand was acquired from the a local Highland Games venue for a princely sum of £150.

Soon after the ground improvements Montrose were elected as founder members if the new Scottish League Third Division for the 1923/4 season. Joining them in the 16 team competition were near neighbours Brechin City. In fact aside from these two only two other founder members remain in League membership, these being East Stirlingshire and Queen of the South. Long gone are the likes of Clackmannan, Helensburgh, Dumbarton Harp, Galston and Solway Star.

Montrose finished fourth in that inaugural campaign although the competition itself would only last a further two season before being disbanded due to the financial hardships suffered by most of the member teams. For the 1929/30 season Montrose were re-elected to the Scottish League as members of the Second Division.

One of the clubs’ finest hours came in 1938/39 when they knocked reigning Scottish Cup holders East Fife out of the competition, thumping the men from Methil 9-1 on their own Bayview Park pitch. A great day indeed for the Gable Endies of Montrose, a nickname derived from the heyday of the town as a working port. The rich merchants and sea captains would augment their already ostentatious homes with a gable on the roof which would face the street as if to advertise their wealth and status, hence the name “Gable Endies”.

Links Park was further enhanced in the 1960’s when the Wellington Street end was covered with an unusual stand that was cranked at the far end. Links Park remained relatively untouched until the modern era when improvements have transformed the venue. A new 1,300 seater grandstand came first in the late 1995 followed by a 3G pitch laid in 2007 thanks to a £250,000 grant from GlaxoSmithKline. Links Park also boasts natty modern floodlights with a unusual circular configuration of lamps. These replaced the old set of pylons which had stood since 1971.

Aside from a few brief stints in the second tier, notably in the 1970’s, the Gable Endies have been used to life in the lower tiers of the Scottish League. In fact the club now begin their 19th straight season in the bottom tier and on the evidence of today it might be another long season of struggle for them. Today’s visitors are Peterhead now of Division One following play off success last season. Peterhead race into a three goal lead inside half an hour. If this League Cup wasn’t already over after that, the hosts ensured their own demise when both Graham Webster and Garry Wood were red carded for overly robust challenges.

The final whistle was greeted with much gnashing of teeth and head shaking by the majority of the 347 hardy souls in attendance. It seemed scarcely conceivable that this compact little stadium once shoehorned nearly 9,000 people into its confines for a Scottish Cup quarter final with Dundee. But then again they were undoubtedly better days for the Gable Endies.

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Petrofac Cup 1st Round – Saturday July 26th 2014 

Montrose (0) 0

Peterhead (3) 3 (Rodgers 5,26, McAllister 17)

Attendance: 347 (at Links Park)

Montrose:

1. Stuart McKenzie; 2. Graham Webster; 3. Craig Bell; 4. Steven Robb; 5. Ross Graham; 6. Alan Campbell; 7. Stephen O’Neill; 8. Ross McCord; 9. Garry Wood; 10. Scott Johnson; 11. Paul Watson.

Subs: 12. Terry Masson (for 7,62 mins); 14. Danny Cavanagh (for 4,77 mins); 15. Bryan Deasley (for 10,83 mins); 16. Stephen Day; 17. Kieran Sturrock.

Peterhead:

1. Graeme Smith; 2. Graeme Sharp; 3. Steven Noble; 4. Ross Smith; 5. Scott Ross; 6. Reece Donaldson; 7. Andy Rodgers; 8. Jamie Redman; 9. Rory McAllister; 10. James Stevenson; 11. Ryan Strachan.

Subs: 12. David Cox (for 6,52 mins); 14. Jordan Brown (for 5,56 mins); 15. Ryan McCann (for 7,77 mins)

Yellow Cards: Johnson (Montrose)

Red Cards: Webster and Wood (Montrose)

Gallery

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Athlone Alone

The Midlanders are one of Ireland’s oldest clubs with their history being traced back to 1887 and a formation meeting reported by the Westmeath Independent. Town gained admittance to the Free State League in its’ second season expansion to twelve clubs in 1922. They became the first non-Dublin club to compete in the new competition. In 1924 the newcomers won the FAI Cup defeating Fordsons 1-0 in the final at Dalymount. Incredibly they achieved the victory without conceding a goal in the entire competition defeating Midland Athletic, Shelbourne and Bohemian without their goal being breached, a truly remarkable achievement.

Athlone resigned from the League of Ireland in 1928 following a disastrous season which was highlighted by a humbling 9-3 FAI Cup 1st round defeat to then non-league Drumcondra. The club also had a perilous financial position and opted to return to provincial football. As if to rub salt in the wounds, Drumcondra took their place in the League. The club had to wait until 1969 for re-election when the membership was once again expanded, joining them in the League of Ireland were Finn Harps from Ballybofey, County Donegal.

Having built momentum the club enjoyed a few sorties into Europe their best season being 1975/76.The club had finished as runners-up to Bohemian and gained entry to the UEFA Cup. Norway’s Vålerengen were overcome in the first round and Town drew mighty AC Milan in the second round. Athlone obtained a goalless draw in front of a record crowd at St.Mel’s Park variously estimated at 9,000 to 12,000. Famously the Milan manager Giovanni Trapattoni was quoted as saying “Is this some kind of joke” as the luxurious Milan coach pitched up outside the ramshackle venue.

Town then won the championship twice in 1980/81 and 1982/83 and further European campaigns followed. In 1981/82 they lost on away goals to KB Copenhagen and two years later they again went out at the first hurdle, losing 4-11 on aggregate to Raymond Goethals’ Standard Liege. After the heady days of the 1970’s and early eighties Athlone spent most of the 1990’s yo-yoing between the Premier and First Division.

The club’s last top flight season was 2000/1 and in 2007 the club decided their future was best served at a new stadium out of town in Lissyowen. St.Mels was demolished and sold for redevelopment which to date has still not happened. Athlone had moved into St.Mels in 1929 after two seasons spent at Ranelagh Gardens. Prior to then the club played at the town’s Sportsground. St.Mels was practically falling apart by the turn of the 21st century, it had a huge covered terrace and banking around the ground augmented by a modest seated stand at the dressing room end. It was a truly intimidating place to visit. The new ground had one large stand and vitally a second pitch to allow youth development.

However, the move was not without its challenges and December 2008 and EGM was called to address the clubs financial state. A patron scheme was adopted which garnered support from 350 locals. Athlone are alone in the League of Ireland in that aside from players and the manager all positions are filled voluntarily. The financial rebirth of the club and the focus on youth development bore fruit in 2013 when Athlone won the First Division title and long overdue promotion back to the top flight.

The club have struggled in the Premier Division and currently prop up the table with only eight points to date. New manager Keith Long has a job on his hands to keep the side up based on this afternoon’s showing. Athlone went behind to Derry on 20 minutes with a superb free kick from Pat McEleney and despite dominating possession they just could not fashion a real goalscoring opportunity. Approach play was excellent but the need for a goal poacher was all too evident.

A very welcoming club with a fascinating history, and no Mr Trapattoni, they are certainly no joke.

 

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Sunday July 6th 2014 – League of Ireland Premier Division

Athlone Town (0) 0

Derry City (1) 1 (P.McEleney 20)

Attendance: 354 (at Athlone Town Stadium)

Athlone:

1. Paul Skinner; 3. Sean Byrne; 4. Derek Prendergast; 6. Alan Byrne (c); 7. Kealan Dillon; 8. Mark Hughes; 9. Philip Gorman; 10. Sean Brennan; 15. Graham Rusk; 16. James O’Brien; 24. Stephen Quigley.

Subs: 21. Ryan Coulter (for 15,81 mins); 18. Declan Brennan; 19. Thomas Mulroney; 22. John Mulroy; 14. Barry Clancy; 23. Jason Monks; 11. Ian Sweeney (for 10,81 mins).

Derry:

1. Gerard Doherty; 4. Barry Molloy (c); 5. Ryan McBride; 6. Shane McEleney; 7. Barry McNamee; 8. Danny Ventre; 10. Patrick McEleney; 11. Rory Patterson; 14. Michael Duffy; 18. Philip Lowry; 30. Aaron Barry.

Subs: 9. Nathan Boyle (for 10,75 mins); 12. Josh Tracey; 3. Dean Jarvis (for 5,46 mins); 20. Ciaran Gallagher; 23. Ryan Curran (for 18,87 mins); 15. Tony McNamee; 17. Cormac Burke.

Yellow Card: Prendergast (Athlone)

Gallery

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Strokestown Mind

Longford Town were formed at a meeting convened in the town’s Temperance Hall in 1924. The set up kitty totalled £24 and a kit of red and black was agreed in deference to the mighty Bohemian club in Dublin. Initial games were played at Longford Park which was the prelude to a somewhat nomadic existence. The town of Longford itself is a quiet Midland town with no great pretensions. Its wonderful neo-classical Cathedral is under renovation following a devastating fire in 2009. Their derby matches with Midland rivals Athlone Town are among the fiercest in the country.

After Longford Park the club used the local greyhound stadium in Park Road until the early 1970’s before a brief stint at a ground in Water Street. The next move was to Abbeycarton which was home until 1993. During this time the club were elected to the League of Ireland in 1984. The competition expanded to two divisions the following season and the Reds found themselves relegated to the new Division One.

The club were then offered a patch of land three miles west of town on the Strokestown Road. The ground was initially called Mullogher but when it caused confusion with visiting clubs the name of Strokestown Road was adopted. Subsequently the stadium has been sponsored, a long term deal with logistics company Flancare saw locals calling the venue the “Flan Siro” for a period. It is currently known as the City Calling Stadium.

Initially the stadium had a small covered terrace adjacent to the clubhouse and a small cover at the top of the bank. Three small covered stands were then installed on the far side of the ground. It remained a modest ground until the end of the 2000/01 season when assisted by Government and FAI grants Mullogher was transformed into an all seated stadium with a big elevated grandstand. This lofty structure affords fantastic views of the rural land between Mullogher and the edge of town. Despite its relatively recent vintage the stand behind the south goal is currently cordoned off with broken seats and eroded concrete. The current capacity is just shy of 7,000.

The club’s honours lists includes two back-to-back FAI Cup wins in 2003 and 2004 defeating St.Patricks (2-0) and Waterford United (2-1) respectively. In this decade the club qualified for the UEFA Cup on three occasions but went out at the preliminary round stage on each occasion. Liteks Lovich (2001), FC Vaduz (2004) and Carmarthen Town (2005) all pitched up to this quiet part of central Ireland.

Tonight’s game is a big deal, fallen giants Shelbourne lead the table with Longford just behind but with a game in hand. The first half is a tense affair with few chances, it is halted for a little over eight minutes while a severe head injury to Adam O’Connor of Shelbourne was dealt with following a clash of heads with his own team mate, Jake Donnelly.

The second half though sees the hosts take charge, the prolific Davy O’Sullivan opened the scoring just after the hour before both sides were reduced to ten men. Ben O’Connor of Longford went for a forceful but seemingly well timed challenge before in the ensuing melee, Shels’ William McDonagh injudiciously threw a punch to earn himself an early exit. Longford’s impressive striker Gary Shaw notched the vital second before O’Sullivan sealed an emphatic win for the hosts.

Longford finished third in the First Division in 2012 and second a year later but lost the play off final to Bray Wanderers over two legs. On tonight’s imperious showing this year could well for “De Town”.

 

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Saturday July 5th 2014 – League of Ireland First Division

Longford Town (0) 3 (O’Sullivan 64,81, Shaw 79)

Shelbourne (0) 0

Attendance: 780 (at The City Calling Stadium)

Longford:

18. Paul Hunt; 3. Ben O’Connor; 6. Stephen Rice; 8. Mark Salmon (c); 10. Gary Shaw; 11. Kevin O’Connor; 14. Pat Sullivan; 15. David O’Sullivan; 16. Jamie Mulhall; 17. Don Cowan; 20. Pat Flynn.

Subs: 2. Noel Haverty; 5. William Tyrell (for 17,65 mins); 7. Lorcan Shannon (10-84); 9. Peter Hynes (for 15,82 mins); 19. Etanda Nkololo; 24. Rhys Gorman; 1. Chris Bennion.

Shelbourne:

12. Gregg Murray; 2. Brian Gannon (c); 3. Philip Hand; 4. Adam O’Connor; 7. Conor Murphy; 10. Jordan Keegan; 14. Jake Donnelly; 16. Dylan Connolly; 18. Lee Desmond; 21. Dylan Cashin; 28. William McDonagh.

Subs: 33. Nathan Murphy; 17. Gareth Coughlin; 9. Lee Duffy (for 3,82 mins); 23. Simon Dixon (for 2,56 mins); 26. Ryan Robinson (for 4,34 mins); 19. Matthew Taylor; 6. Gareth Brady.

Yellow Cards: Cashin, Donnelly, Robinson (Shelbourne)

Red Cards: B.O’Connor (Longford), McDonagh (Shelbourne)

Gallery

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Longford prog

Bray Watch

Bray Wanderers were reformed in 1942 and have only been League of Ireland members for thirty years or so since the competition was expanded to two divisions. Prior to that they played in the Athletic Union League and later still the Leinster Senior League.

The club had originally been formed in 1922 out of St.Kevin’s GAA club but failed to hit the the heights and folded after ten years. Part of the problem was the town already had a pre-eminent team. I have always like the self deprecating name of the club, Bray Unknowns. They had been elected to the League of Ireland in 1924 playing at Woodbrook in south Dublin before returning to Bray to play at the Carlisle Grounds.

The Unknowns dropped into the Leinster Senior League at the end of the 1942/43 season, prompting the hasty reformation of the dormant Wanderers club. By 1973 the Unknowns were flagging badly and the two clubs joined forces under the Wanderers name.

Upon the expansion of the League of Ireland in 1985/86 Bray were elected to the new First Division and promptly won it at the first attempt. They won the FAI Cup in 1990 defeating then non-leaguers St.Francis, becoming the first second tier side to lift the trophy. This meant European Cup Winners Cup football came to the Carlisle Grounds the following season but the Seagulls fell at the preliminary round stage having been handed a tough draw against the Turkish side Trabzonspor.

The club won the Cup again in 1999 defeating Finn Harps in the final. Wanderers have also won the First Division title twice more in 1995/96 and 1999/2000. They have been runners up a further three times highlighting the yo-yo nature of their existence. The club should have been relegated in 2009 but retained their top flight place when Cork City imploded. The club have remained in the Premier Division ever since.

I first visited Bray in March 1998 and the Carlisle Grounds still had one of a pair of old barrelled roof stands as seen in the last picture of the gallery below. It’s companion stand on the other side had just been demolished and seats were being installed. The venue now boasts over 3,000 seats with a tarpaulin covered stand replacing the ageing barrelled roofed terrace in 2006.

The Carlisle Grounds however pre date any other ground in the League of Ireland. Opened in 1862 as the Bray Athletic Ground it was renamed as the Carlisle Cricket and Archery Ground later that year when it was officially opened by the 7th Earl of Carlisle. Aside from the two Bray clubs the venue also hosted Dublin club Transport FC for three seasons from 1948 before they returned to the capital and a stint at Harold’s Cross Stadium.

The Carlisle Grounds also had its own Hollywood moment when it was used for scenes in the 1996 film Michael Collins which starred Liam Neeson. However, the ground had some negative press in 2009 and 2010 when perimeter walls collapsed during matches against Shamrock Rovers and Monaghan United. Around this time the club unveiled bold plans to redevelop the whole ground although this has yet to see the light of day.

Today’s game sees Bray and visitors Drogheda United precariously positioned in the two places immediately above the dreaded drop zone currently occupied by UCD and Athlone. In truth though there was only one team in this game and the team from County Louth take the points thanks to two goals of extremely high quality from Gavin Holahan and Cathal Brady. The home sides task was not helped by the red card to Adam Mitchell for a needless challenge having already been booked in the opening moments of the game.

Drogheda are noisily supported from start to finish by a small band of ultras, the Famous45 Ultras, who have been involved in controversy recently when one of their flags was removed in a recent home game against Dundalk. The F45U subsequently boycotted home games. Bray’s own ultra group “Na Fánaithe” (The Rovers) sadly have precious little to cheer about tonight.

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Friday July 4th 2014 – League of Ireland Premier Division

Bray Wanderers (1) 1 (J.Kelly 19)

Drogheda United (2) 3 (Brennan 4, Holahan 37, Brady 90)

Attendance: 495 (at the Carlisle Grounds)

Bray:

32. Stephen McGuiness; 24. Graham Kelly; 5. Adam Mitchell; 6. Eric McGill; 7. Shane O’Neill; 8. David Cassidy; 9. Ismahil Akinade; 11. Adam O’Hanlon; 15. Shane O’Connor; 16. Dean Zambra (c); 10. Jake Kelly.

Subs: 1. Shane Redmond; 22. Robert Maloney (for 15,23 mins);18. Ciaran Byrne (for 8,75 mins); 3. Jamie McGlynn; 19. David Scully (for 9,62 mins);17. Michael Browne; 21. Gary Curran.

Drogheda:

16. Michael Schlingermann; 2. Michael Daly; 3. Shane Grimes (c); 5. Alan McNally; 7. Cathal Brady; 8. Gavin Holahan; 10. Gary O’Neill; 11. Gavin Brennan; 13. Stephen Maher; 14. Carl Walshe; 18. Daire Doyle.

Subs: 40. Dylan Connolly (for 16,90 mins); 19. Declan O’Brien (for 10,85 mins); 6. Paul Crowley; 17. Sean O’Connor; 20. Dylam Harding; 22. Ciaran O’Connor; 24. Roy Kierans.

Yellow Cards: Mitchell, J.Kelly (Bray), McNally, O’Neill, Maher (Drogheda)

Red Card: Mitchell (Bray)

Gallery

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The old stand at Bray Wanderers

Bray old stand