Saturday, October 14, 2006

TSA Report: Bray Wanderers 2-1 Cork City

The latest in an occasional series in which TSA descends from its ivory tower to walk among the plain people of the sports world. This week, the eircom League champions travel to North Wicklow attempting to revive the pulse of their expiring title challenge...

Logistically, the Carlisle Grounds must be one of Ireland's best located venues. A leisurely trundle out the southside Dart line (which would be all the more pleasant of a Sunday afternoon, when domestic soccer fixtures were formerly scheduled, rather than Friday evening last, with its blanket of darkness over the splendid vistas of Killiney and Bray Head) and the floodlights of Bray Wanderers' home ground greet you as the train pulls in.

The trickle of fans into the ground announces the presence of eircom League soccer... right, I've had it with the small 'e' in the name of league's sponsor. No more. It's confusing. I don't know whether the 'league' bit should be similarly lower case too, but I ended up putting it in the upper case because I felt the country's national soccer league should have a capital letter somewhere; I mean, for the sake of its self-esteem, you know...

Anyway, the trickle of fans announces the presence of domestic soccer. Enough souls that give a damn to make you notice; nowhere near enough to constitute an event. The Eircom League scavenges for scraps from the table of this nation's voracious sporting appetite, the unloved mongrel that never receives the juicy bones thrown the way of the pedigree hounds of the GAA and provincial rugby, and the coiffured poodles of the Premiership. Tonight, its belly rumbles.

The fact that the faded seaside town of Bray welcomes the nation's soccer champions, Cork City, this evening, is marked to some degree: TG4's broadcast is the first time that a match at the Carlisle Grounds has been beamed live to the nation. But the miserable attendance - which admittedly seems to gradually grow as the evening wears on, the town popping its collective head around the corner at what would transpire to be a good evening for its team - says little for the local estimation of the visitors' status or, more pertinently, the home team's bottom-of-the-league form.

Cork, understandably, put a better foot forward. They bring a couple of hundred noisy supporters with them, and the braggadocio of their songs is built not just on the clubs' respective league positions, but also on the fact that this season's reverse fixture between the two ended in a 6-0 victory for the Leesiders. "We want seven", indeed.

The home support constitutes a doughty, orchestrated hardcore, housed down the way in the same stand as the Cork support, an arrangement which somewhat dilutes the potential for true adversarial combat: I'd gesture threateningly to you if I could get a good look at you. Then there are the disparate, scattered sympathisers populating the rest of the ground who amble from the tea and hot dog stand, chattering in that incredulous sounding, up-and-down Wicklow accent and expecting little from the evening.

Cork City also have Squad Numbers! and Their Names On The Back Of Their Shirts!, which makes them more like proper stars than the poor old Bray fellows, who have - snigger! - the humble 1 to 11 on their backs, as if the shirts were tossed out from a black bin liner in the dressing room by the manager whose wife had just taken them off the washing line that very afternoon.

But, then, it wouldn't be football if it wasn't these humbly attired, relegation-fodder toilers who would scupper Cork City and, most probably, their title ambitions.

Two goals from Wanderers’ Romanian winger Andrei Georgescu did the job, in a contest in which the home team belied their lowly status with a gritty, courageous performance.

Georgescu scored in the 51st and 54th minutes – the first a composed, if deflected left foot shot following a Wanderers counterattack, the second a close range finish after Cork goalkeeper Michael Devine had spilled a David Tyrrell cross.

Bray’s goals followed a first half in which Cork’s superiority in class was evident – as, however, was their continuing inability to turn domination into goals. Aside from a 10 minute spell early in the match which yielded Bray a pair of corners and a couple of efforts from outside the box by John Broderick and Tyrell, Cork were firmly in control.

For all that, the champions’ chances were hard wrought. On 25 minutes Admir Softic had a snapshot saved by Chris O’Connor, with Billy Woods curling a shot just wide from the resulting corner.

City came closest to a goal on 31 mins when Roy O’Donovan, returning from suspension, gathered a long ball, allowed it to bounce, then volleyed on the turn from 25 yards, only for O’Connor to save acrobatically.

Georgescu’s intervention early in the second half seemed to drain the spirit from Cork for a time. Their efforts at salvaging their title challenge were feeble, with Paul Caffrey subduing the hitherto dominant Joe Gamble in midfield.

What response they did muster came through Woods on the left wing, and it was his cross in the 80th minute which provided City with a lifeline, captain Dan Murray sidefooting home.

Cork were roused anew and for the final ten minutes laid siege to the Bray goal, coming closest to equalising when Woods crossed once again for O’Donovan to head just wide with three minutes remaining.

So, after soaking up all their opponents' nice, silky, Champions League-inflected shapes, stabbing them twice just after half time and just about holding off their flailing reprisals, Bray took the points that the visitors had possibly already made room on their bus for, uniting those scattered, pessimistic bystanders with their ultra colleagues, in approval of their determined team and a big, happy evening by the seaside.

Bray Wanderers - Georgescu 52, 54

Cork City - Murray 80.

Bray Wanderers:
O'Connor; Ivory, Tresson, M.Roche, O'Reilly; Georgescu, Fox, Caffrey, D.Tyrell; Broderick (O'Brien 75), O'Shea (Cousins 88).

Cork City: Devine; Lordan, Bennett, Murray, Murphy; O'Brien, Softic (O'Callaghan 71), Gamble, Woods; Fenn (Behan 63), O'Donovan.

Referee: Mr. P. Tuite (Dublin)


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