3 April 2007

17/03/07 - Reality check as Bohs go down in Bray

One of the best things about following your team is undoubtedly going to away matches. Over the years Celtic Park became something of a bore. During my last few years in Scotland I tended to favour attending away games rather than going to Celtic Park. Don't get me wrong, the big games were great and the atmosphere at Champions League and Old Firm games in Celtic Park is hard to beat. However, give me singing my heart out in the away end at Easter Road or Tannadice any day over sitting with 60,000 other fans who turn up late and expect to be four up at half time so they can be back in their cars and on the way home before the game is even over.

Before this season i had never been to an away Bohemians game. My trip to Kildare for a pre-season friendly had whetted my appetite and i was looking forward to the Bray game for days beforehand.

Having finished work at six, i took the Dart down to Bray and was happy to find that the stadium (The Carlisle Grounds) was just round the corner from the train station. I followed a few other Bohs fans up to the ground and was able to buy my ticket from a portakabin beside the main gate. Kick-off was only about 10 minutes away so i decided to head in and get a good spot. Once through the turnstiles I picked up a programme and made my way in for the start of the game.

The stadium itself was something of a blast from the past. On the far side of the pitch was a fairly new, but temporary looking stand. If i'm being honest it looked like somehting you'd see at a village fair or farm show (see the pic left). This seemed to be where the Bray fans were located so i headed to my right where a fairly large group of Bohs fans had congregated in an old uncovered concrete stand. Behind the goal to my left goal was a grass bank which seemed to have a mix of home and away fans, while the area behind the other goal was simply wasteland.

During the game I got chatting to a few other fans and i was able to ask them a few questions about the history of Bohs and the upcoming local derby with Shamrock Rovers. They were also telling me about the growing number of young 'hooligans' who had recently attached themselves to the club and who were in Bray looking to cause a bit of trouble. In all my years going to games back home this is something I had never really came across and I was somewhat unsettled and disappointed by what they were telling me. Anyone i spoke to in Bray was very friendly and helpful and the club seemed to have a real family feel to it. It seemed a shame that these kids, who it seemed had very little interest in the actual game, were intent on ruining the night for everyone. But more on that later...

By the time the game kicked off I was already feeling the cold. Someone had warned me on the Bohs message board to expect a cold night down in Bray. He wasn't wrong either and the biting wind coming off the Irish sea was certainly being felt. Hopefully a few goals from the men in red and black would warm me up though.

I only had to wait half an hour for the first goal. Unfortunately though, it was for Bray Wanderers. Poor defending from Bohs allowed striker Paul Dunphy clean in on goal and he finished well from a tight angle. (It wasn't until i read my programme at later that i discovered Dunphy had been released by Sean Connor during the close-season.)
At half-time i took a trip down to the club shop which was located in a small portakabin nears the entrance to the ground. The shop didn't have too much in it but I enjoyed having a flick through some of the old programmes on sale. I also had a chat with the guy who runs the shop and he told me that the Carlisle Grounds were used in the filming of the Bloody Sunday scene in the movie Micheal Collins. The things you learn...

Anyway, history lesson over, I headed back out to have a browse of the match programme and waited for the players to come back out.
If the first half was bad, things only got worse in the second period. Bohs continued to dominate possession, however, a combination of poor passing and swirling winds prevented them from creating anything of note. Indeed, Bohs looked like the could have played all night and still not scored. Although still far too early in the season to make an assessment of the team Connor has assembled, this performance didn't seem too far removed from those witnessed under Gareth Farrelly.

I made my way out of the ground shortly after the final whistle, and i have to admit i was more than a little wary about what the lads had told me earlier about the "schooligans" as they called them. Sure enough when i got out into the street I could see tens of young kids trying to cause trouble with a group of away fans. I simply put my head down and headed for my train back to Dublin.

All-in-all a hugely disappointing night. By the time I got back home just after midnight, any optimism i had of Bohs mounting a challenge in the league this season had all but evaporated.

To make things worse, there was now a two-week break until the next game. A reality check indeed.

No comments: