Bray Wanderers A.F.C. - a brief history


Bray Wanderers club was originally established in 1922. A dispute between members of St Kevins Gaelic football club led to some members leaving and forming a soccer club to be known as Bray Wanderers. By the late 1920s, the town of Bray had Bray Unknowns in the League of Ireland, and probably the three best junior clubs in the country in Bray Wanderers, Glenview and Shamrock Old Boys. Wanderers were the oldest and most experienced of the junior sides. They won the Miller cup, which at the time was one of the most prestigious junior cups in the country, in 1927/28.

Wanderers went into decline in the mid-thirties but were reformed in 1942/43 and entered the Athletic Union League (AUL) Division 3 for the season 1943/44. Wanderers reached the semi-final of the Leinster Football Association Shield but despite winning 5-3 were expelled for fielding an illegal player. The following two seasons, Wanderers lost the League title, each time in a play-off.

With the Carlisle Grounds unavailable for the following two seasons, 1946 to 1948, Wanderers played their home games at Corke Abbey in Woodbrook.

In 1946/47 they moved up to Division 2, but towards the end of the season the club was expelled when the B-team failed to travel to an away match in snowy conditions in Balbriggan. Wanderers were re-admitted the following season and won the League in a play-off, thus gaining promotion to Division 1.

In 1950/51 Wanderers won the FAI Junior Cup, defeating Drogheda United 2-1 in the Final at Dalymount Park. Wanderers also reached the Leinster Junior Final that season, but were defeated by Rathfarnham in the final. It proved to be a good cup season for the town of Bray, as Transport, playing at the Carlisle Grounds, had won the FAI Senior Cup.

Wanderers repeated their Junior Cup triumph in 1953-54 by defeating Ierne 1-0 in the Final. The attendance for the semi-final at the Carlisle Ground against Waterford Bohemians set a new competition record. They also secured the League title that season, to complete the double.

The following season Wanderers were affected by a new FAI ruling which prevented players who had previously won FAI Junior Cup medals from playing in certain other cup competitions. The management of the club felt that this ruling was aimed at Bray Wanderers' success in the competition, and therefore decided to leave the AUL and join the Leinster Senior league (LSL).

Wanderers' new goalkeeper at that time, Alan Kelly, was later to represent Ireland 47 times at senior level and is the father of Irish international goalkeepers Alan junior (Sheffield United) and Gary (ex-Newcastle and now Oldham).

In 1955/56 Wanderers won the Intermediate Cup, defeating Workmens Club 2-1 in the final. They repeated the feat two years later defeating Chapelizod 2-1 in the final. In 1958/59, Wanderers clinched the Leinster Senior League, setting a new club and LSL record for the highest number of goals scored in a season.

The following season, Wanderers completed three League titles in a row, reached the FAI Senior Cup 1st Round and finished runners-up in the Intermediate Cup.

In 1960-61 Wanderers withdrew from the LSL and returned to the AUL. From 1963, however, they once again went into decline, as a result of difficulties concerning the ownership and leasing of the Carlisle Grounds to local teams.

By 1973, Bray Unknowns were representing Bray in the LSL and, in a bid to bring senior soccer back to Bray, the management changed the name to Bray Wanderers. In 1975/76 Wanderers won the Metropolitan cup for the first time since 1924, with help from Paul McNaughton (the future Irish rugby international) and John Holmes, who was later to manage the club from December 1990 to March 1995. Despite continued ground problems the club remained in the LSL until 1985 when it moved up to the League of Ireland.

They made an immediate impression by winning the new First Division, suffering only one League defeat, thus gaining promotion to the Premier Division. Despite suffering relegation in 1988, the club bounced back immediately, reaching two Leinster Senior Cup finals in succession, and the FAI Cup semi-final.

In 1990 Wanderers secured their most prized trophy ever by winning the FAI Senior Cup, defeating St. Francis 3-0 before a crowd of 30,000 people in the first ever Lansdowne Road final.

John Ryan became only the second person to score a hat-trick in an FAI cup final. In an earlier round, when Shelbourne were defeated on a penalty shoot-out, Wanderers became the first club to win an FAI Cup tie on penalties. They also became the first ever First Division side to win the trophy.

By winning the FAI Cup, Wanderers had qualified for the European Cup Winners Cup and were drawn against Turkish Cup winners Trabzonspor in a preliminary round, with the winners due to face Barcelona in the first round proper. Wanderers put up a good show by drawing 1-1 at Tolka Park in the home leg, with Martin Nugent's second half goal equalising Trabzonspor's first minute goal. Bray were defeated 2-0 away in the return match and lost the tie 1-3 on aggregate.

Wanderers returned to the Premier Division at the end of season 1990/91, and remained there for two seasons before being relegated in 1993 to the First Division, where they remained for a further three seasons.

Pat Devlin returned for his second spell as manager when he replaced John Holmes in March 1995. Wanderers began the 1995/96 season in fine style by reaching the League Cup semi-finals for the first time in the club's history, and winning the Shield. The Shield victory was more remarkable, as Wanderers were beaten by Waterford United 3-0 away in the first leg on a Friday evening and reversed the scoreline in the second leg two days later to force extra time and capture the Shield on a penalty shoot-out.

In October that year, in a close season signing from Cherry Orchard, Graham Coughlan was transferred to Blackburn Rovers for a club record fee without ever playing a league game for the club.

The First Division title was secured for the second time at the end of that season.

The Premier Division campaign of 1996/97 ended in relegation.

In the 1997/98 season, Wanderers fought out the First Division title with Waterford United but had to settle for the runners-up position, nonetheless earning promotion back to the Premier Division.

Wanderers finished 11th in the Premier Division in 1998/99, and were relegated. However, Bray defeated Finn Harps in the FAI Cup Final, to become the first club to win the Cup and be relegated in the same season. The Cup Final needed two replays to decide the outcome. The sides drew 0-0 and 2-2 before Jason Byrne scored twice in the second replay to win the Cup on a 2-1 scoreline.

1999/2000 saw Wanderers win the First Division championship on the final day of the season with a 2-1 defeat of Limerick FC to earn a third title. However, they lost their grip on the FAI Cup when they were controversially beaten 2-1 by Bohemians in the semi-final at Dalymount Park.

Lying second in the Premier Division going into the closing weeks of the 2000/01 season (following a four-week long lay-off as a result of outbreaks of Foot & Mouth Disease), the Seagulls were cruelly robbed of what had seemed an assured place in European football by a combination of last-day results, most notably shoo-in favourites Shelbourne falling to Cork City and losing the Championship in the process. But Bray's 4th place in the Premier was nonetheless the club's highest ever finish, and a number of other records fell in the course of that season.

The following season fell short of the heady hopes 2000/01 gave rise to, but Bray survived the 'three down, one up' relegation trap to remain in the new, reduced Premier Division for the Transition Season between winter and summer soccer - the first time they were to play top-flight football for three seasons in a row.

2002/03 was something of a disaster, with Wanderers dumped out of the Cup by Bohemians for a third year in a row and, in a season riddled with horrendous injury problems, going down to relegation yet again.

Bray looked liked bouncing right back in the following season, starting with three wins and a draw, and eventually went to Whitehall to face the now-defunct Dublin City in their last, top-of-the-table match with promotion within their grasp.

A win would have done it, but referee Anthony Buttimer spoiled the party by awarding a penalty against them that even the home side (and eventual Champions) conceded was given for no reason, and the Seagulls had no heart for the Play-offs against Finn Harps.

They earned their return to the Premier in 2004, celebrating in Monaghan United's hospitable clubhouse after a comfortable 4-1 victory there in the final fixture, and after a good opening run the following year finished comfortably in the Premier's mid-table in 2005.

Long-serving Manager Pat Devlin was appointed Ireland 'B' Manager by Steve Staunton early in 2006 and his former Assistant, Tony McGuirk, succeeded to the hot seat.

Compiled by Michael Duffy incorporating material by Jim Tobin; updated Summer 2006 by Mícheál Ó hUanacháin

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