Relative to usual standards, there wasn’t a bad turn out at the Carlisle Grounds last night for Bray’s hosting of Pats in the first round of the Leinster Senior Cup. With the excessively long off-season finally nearing its conclusion, those in attendance were happy to take in their first hint of “competitive” football since November.
Going into the game as 4/5 favourites, Liam Buckley’s side were expected to build upon an encouraging pre-season which saw them pick up three wins out of three, the most recent of which being a 7-1 annihilation of Shelbourne.
Despite the underdog status in game such as this, Bray look to be the dark horses this season after a transfer window that has had many onlookers scratching their heads as they punched above their weight with the signings of Conor Kenna and Ryan Brennan amongst others.
Pats for their troubles still have an abundance of new faces to integrate themselves. That “only” four of their new signings started speaks volumes about the volume of newly-recruited personnel.
Their performance was reflective of this – although the dry surface they played on didn’t aid their cause. The Saints are commendably maintaining their identity as the “football playing” team of the league, and as such the observation that a team is struggling to gel or find their rhythm manifests itself quicker when a team does so.
Although after half an hour of ineffective possession from the visitors and defensive solidity from the hosts, Pats appeared to have played themselves into form as Billy Dennehy finished off an excellently worked passing move inspired by Graham Kelly and Conan Byrne.
This proved to be more of a flash in the pan however as Brennan returned the favour with immediacy, a speculative effort from range slipping under a disappointed Conor O’Malley in goal that had the sides level going into the break.
The second half followed suit and spiraled further for a frustrated Pats, who for all of their possession failed to find any momentum in their play, carving out little to no clear-cut chances in their search for a second goal.
Bray, meanwhile, shepherded excellently by Kenna at the back, maintained their discipline and looked to take advantage on the break. And this they did, scoring two goals in ten second half minutes courtesy of a brilliant second from Brennan before Dean Kelly compounded the visitors’ misery.
Offensive substitutions in Dylan McGlade and Dinny Corcoran were made in the faint hope of rescuing the game, but aside from a close-range volley that was fired over by Christy Fagan, Pats largely pressured without creating, their final ball leaving much to be desired.
Standard post-loss disappointment aside, this could ultimately prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Inchicore outfit, who will look to be challenging on all fronts once again this season and may welcome no longer having the extra fixtures that progression in the LSC would have provided.
Still a good omen for Bray however, who will no doubt look to carry this directly over into the league season, with (perhaps entirely unrealistic) European dreams in mind.