End of season report card 2018 - Bray Wanderers

Mon, Nov 05 2018

Credit: Al Robinson

Team: Bray Wanderers 

Manager: Gary Cronin

This has been a constantly shifting position. Harry Kenny had stepped down after the end of last season to be replaced by Dave Mackey. He resigned to be replaced by Martin Russell. He also resigned to leave Cronin in charge. In between, Graham Kelly stepped in as caretaker. The uncertainty off the field, along with lack of support from the FAI, was cited in most instances for stepping aside but Cronin is the main man in the dugout for next season.

Top Scorer: Gary McCabe and Ronan Coughlan both with 4.  

Stadium: Carlisle Grounds

Highest Attendance: 1,124 v St. Pats

Lowest Attendance: 271 v Sligo Rovers

Star Player: Gary McCabe 

McCabe generally brought an air of composure to the side from a deeper lying position. His goals and assists contributed well towards their final points tally. He left the club by mutual consent after a sending off against St. Pats.

Ronan Coughlan was brought in during the summer and was a bright spark up front. He was allowed depart for Cork City however.

Hugh Douglas generally performed well but it was Kevin Lynch who manfully tried to hold things together when all was going against them. This was also reflected in the fact he was named as supporters player of the season. 

Best Young Player: Evan Moran 

Moran had somewhat of a thankless task. He was charged with orchestrating an inexperienced defence. The 21-year-old, has done well however. Impressing many even in defeat. He has a bright future ahead of him

Best New Signing: Sean Heaney

The striker would have fitted here prior to his move to Leeside. Sean Heaney who arrived from Shamrock Rovers is my choice though. Despite playing in defence, he still managed to finish second highest scorer for the side. 

What we expected they would do: 

Bray were expected to be among the main contenders for relegation this year, following an alarming end to last season. Players leaving, a continued low support base, and off-field issues hanging over the club, left many fearful about what lay ahead. 

What they actually did: 

Gaining a point away to Dundalk on the opening night may have led many to believe in a renewed sense of organisation and a better future. Sadly, this was a rare bright moment in a season long struggle. They failed to gain another point on the road all year. It took them another 11 games to achieve even another point.

Beating Shamrock Rovers at home may have given them hope in their attempt to gain ground on the likes of Limerick and Sligo Rovers above them. Another three wins arrived but they were unable to ever really get back-to-back results at any time. 

Much has been made of their issues with ownership, financial strife and past close escapes with the drop. The reality is that the squad was lacking in experience and depth to be able to compete at this level.

They have been able to produce highly gifted players through their youth system but they have been constantly allowed to depart to other clubs. A number of teenage players made their debut during the season through necessity. 

Heavy defeats throughout the season unquestionably dented confidence for these younger players. On a number of occasions, they did take the game to the opposition, and competed quite well. They always managed to concede late on, let slip at a crucial moment or fail to take advantage of opportunities created.

Relegation was all but confirmed long before the final day of the season following a home defeat to Limerick. Defeat to Sligo in the next game condemned them to the drop. 

What they need to improve on for next year: 

It is imperative that new owners, Tim and Niall O’Driscoll, try and get the supporters back on their side and they have put in steps to do that. Proper funding is needed in order to take advantage of a crop of talented players in their underage system.

The First Division can be a difficult one to escape from – but Bray have gained promotion on six separate occasions down the years. Plenty of sides have aspirations of promotion. Limerick, for one, will be fancied by many to return back up.