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.
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)
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.
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)
The old stand at Bray Wanderers