Bray Wanderers 1 Finn Harps 1
Amid near biblical weather, Bray ended the 2023 SSE Airtricity First Division season with a draw.
Despite the torrential rain, the impressive playing surface at the Carlisle Grounds stood up to the wet conditions on Friday evening as Storm Babet took hold.
The pitch passed two inspections before kick-off.
Huge credit must go to groundsman Seanie O’Shea and the ground staff for their tremendous efforts in ensuring the playing surface – which we take great pride in being one the best on the island – was match ready.
It was an historic night as Billy O’Neill entered the field of play in the 84th minute.
In doing so, he became the club’s youngest first-team player – at the age of 15 years and 22 days – taking 85 days off the previous record set by Andrew Moran back in February 2020.
The player pathway within the club structure continues to produce.
The 16-year-old duo of Alain Kizenga (for his home debut) and Philip Cooney along with 18-year-old Daniel Chukwu finished the tie after coming off the bench.
Just days after his 18th birthday, Thomas Morgan was an unused substitute.
They have now all followed first-team starters Jack Hudson and Conor Knight who come through the underage system.
Reaching the play-offs – mathematically – was still possible.
Bray had beat Finn Harps, and hope Longford defeated Athlone – with an eight-goal swing over the two games.
Plus, Treaty must not get the better of Waterford.
With the wind advantage – which played havoc throughout the whole contest – the Donegal side took a 25th minute lead.
From a quick corner on the right, Tony McNamee evaded an endline tackle. And pulled the ball across were Matthew Makinson side-footed low through a crowded area into the net at the near post.
The visitors went close to doubling that cushion on the 39th minute as Noe Baba was denied by Matt Connor’s push around the post save.
The Green and White’s deployed defender Cole Omorehiomwan as a make-shift front man before the hour mark.
He helped bring about the equaliser in the 62nd minute.
From Dane Massey’s ball forward, Omorehiomwan won a looping header. Chris Lyons got into the box and was upended by the challenging Baba.
Lyons converted the penalty past Republic of Ireland U17 goalkeeper Oisin Cooney – on his debut – to join Ben Feeney on ten goals in all competitions this season.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Harps’ Aaron McLaughlin broke free in off the right of the penalty area. He squared for Sean O’Donnell who seemed certain to score close in. But the covering Max Murphy (on the goal-line) somehow diverted the ball over the bar.
Wanderers went in search of a late winner. Darren Craven’s 77th minute free was touched round the upright by Oisin Cooney.
Then three minutes later, Lyons flashed just wide from 16-yards out.
The result means Bray finished seventh overall, three points behind Athlone in the last play-off place.
Bray Wanderers: Matthew Connor; Max Murphy, Jack Hudson (David Webster 54), Cole Omorehiomwan, Dane Massey; Harry Groome, Guillermo Almirall (Alain Kizenga half time); Conor Knight (Daniel Chukwu half time), Darren Craven (Phillip Cooney 79), Callum Thompson; Chris Lyons (Billy O’Neill 84).
Subs not used: Conor Crowley, Conor Davis, Thomas Morgan, Alex Moody.
Booked: Lyons 29, Almirall 38, Kizenga 56, Lorcan Fitzgerald 57.
Finn Harps: Oisin Cooney; Jamie Watson, Noe Baba, Matthew Makinson, Kevin Jordan; Stephen Doherty, Max Hutchison; Ryan Rainey (Billy Banda 80), Tony McNamee, Sean O’Donnell; Aaron McLaughlin.
Subs not used: Max Johnston, Daniel Stokoe, Seamas Keogh, Caoimhin Porter, Darragh Coyle, Damian Duffy, Antonio Tuta.
Booked: Rainey 34, Kevin McHugh 57, Baba 62, O’Donnell 82, Makinson 88.
Referee: Daryl Carolan.
Pictures: Dermot O’Brien.