The 1976 Metropolitan Cup
John Holmes Recalls
by Colm Keane
In 1976, two cracking goals, scored by Irish rugby international, Paul McNaughton, brought the coveted Metropolitan Cup to Bray for the first time in 52 years.
That victory – achieved with a 2-0 win over fellow Leinster Senior League side, Parkvilla – laid the foundations for Bray Wanderers’ successful run in Leinster League football and their subsequent elevation to League of Ireland status in 1985.
The 2-0 victory – achieved at Dalymount Park – marked the first appearance of the Metropolitan Cup in the seaside town since 52 years before, when it was won by Bray Unknowns. And, to this day, it remains Bray Wanderers’ only victory in this premier cup competition for Leinster league sides.
“Parkvilla were the favourites, we were the underdogs”, John Holmes, the Bray Wanderers’ captain on the day and Bray’s current reserve team manager, told me this week.
“They had a few ex-League of Ireland players playing for them. They had Sean Core, who played with Shamrock Rovers. They had another guy, called Charlie Hendricks, who also played with Shamrock Rovers. And their centre forward Larry Corbally, became the coach of Bohemians.
“We thought we had scored in the first-half. Fintan Davitt put the ball in the net with a flying, diving header, but it was disallowed. So, we went nil-nil at half time.
“In the second-half, Gerry Kelly got to a ball at the back-line and he knocked it back. Paul McNaughton scored with a header. Paul also scored the second goal. It’s a bit more vague, because the first one was so important. But, I’m really sure it was a header.
“It was a great day and we had a great week out of it. It was like winning the FAI Cup. Every pub wanted to have us. We got free beer everywhere we went.
“We had a function, the night after the final, in The Mellifont Hotel. They were queuing down the street to get in. The doors were actually locked; so many people were trying to get in.
“The council also gave us a civic reception in the council chambers. They presented all of the players with a scroll, which I have to this day, describing Bray Wanderers’ outstanding achievement. It was unbelievable, really”. That Metropolitan Cup victory, in 1976, marked the culmination of John Holmes’ playing career with bray Wanderers – a career beginning after his graduation from youth team football and (barring one season with TEK) stretching right through to his appointment as first team coach in Bray’s first season in the League of Ireland.
“We had some very good players in that cup-winning side”, John recalls. “Paul McNaughton was actually playing rugby with Greystones, at the time. He just came and played with us on Sundays when the cup games were on, but he seldom turned up for League matches.
“Gerry Chester played in goal. He was a great shot-stopper from six or twelve yards. But, if anyone had a shot from twenty-five yards, it went into the back of the net. He was an excellent goalkeeper, but he needed contact lenses.
“Ger Mahony, who is now the groundsman down at the Carlisle Grounds, played at right-back that day. We had Michael Carroll at left back, who comes from the well-known Carroll footballing family.
“Pat Vance, who became the famous councillor, was in the middle of the back four, with Aidan Cullen. And we played three in the middle of the park – Fintan Davitt, Jimmy Stalton, who is living in Florida now, and I played midfield as well.
“Up front, we had Gerry Kelly, Brendan Jordan and Paul McNaughton. Unfortunately for Ray Hammond, he wasn’t playing that day. He was normally in the team when McNaughton wasn’t there. But he stepped aside to let ‘Maccer’ in.
“Finally, there was Tom Troy, along with Dessie Jones, who is a saw-doctor out in Canada now, looking after the trees. And then there was Ray Eves, which is basically our squad.
“In 1977, the year after we won the cup, we got to the final of the Intermediate Cup, when we were beaten by Pegasus. We also played Shelbourne in the first round of the FAI Cup proper, but they beat us two-nil, with one of the goals being ironically scored by Paul McNaughton who had, by then, joined Shelbourne.
“Then, the next year, we won the Gilligan Cup and we were runners-up in the Leinster League. So, we had a really good four or five seasons and I suppose our success helped lay the foundations for what was to come”, John Holmes concluded.
Award-winning broadcaster and writer, author of A Cut Above The Rest (Townhouse, 1999), as well as Tales of the Wanderers (Colado, 1998; this article is included in that volume) and More Tales of the Wanderers (Colado, 2000), together with other volumes based on his work for RTÉ Radio.
Copyright © Colm Keane 1998; all rights reserved, no re-publication without the author's permission