Shamrock Rovers II match preview and articles

Bray Wanderers continue their 2020 First division league season with a home game against Shamrock Rovers II at the Carlisle Grounds on Tuesday, 18 August. Due to Covid restrictions the match will be played with only 200 people allowed into the ground on the evening. This includes staff, players, media and a very limited number of spectators.

Due to the limited attendance there will be no match day programme printed. Instead our regular match day programme articles from Michael Duffy, Brian Quigley and Mícheál Ó hUanacháin will appear as part of our match preview on the website.

Tuesdays game will be the first ever meeting between Bray Wanderers and Shamrock Rovers second team. Both sides recorded wins in their last outings. Sixteen year old Darragh Lynch scored twice against UCD on Friday night to give Wanderers a 2-0 win. Shamrock Rovers II recorded their first win of the season with a 2-0 home win over Wexford FC on Saturday.

‘Wark On’ Brian Quigley

I introduced my nine-year old-son Blaise to the ‘Escape to Victory’ film during lockdown. I pointed out John Wark to him, a bit-part player in the film but a major star of my own footballing landscape growing up. What a great footballer he was and what a long career he had.

The most amazing thing about Wark though has to be how close he has come to resemble Bruce Grobbelaar later in life! Put the two of them together now and you couldn’t tell them apart – identical moustaches, grins and balding patterns. They could almost be twin brothers; indeed they are the same age having both been born in the autumn of 1957. The fact that Bruce is from Zimbabwe and John from Scotland kind of scuppers that theory though!

Bruce and John were teammates during Wark’s stint at Liverpool between 1983 and 1988. Wark had many famous teammates in that side, and played his part in the title wins of 1984 and 1986; he even managed to upstage Ian Rush by finishing as Liverpool’s top scorer in 1984-85, a feat all the more amazing when you consider the fact that Wark was a defensive midfielder!

Wark’s most famous teammates though didn’t line up with him during his time at Anfield, or any of his three stints at Ipswich Town. No, they played with him for the Allied Forces team in the aforementioned ‘Escape to Victory’ film in 1981, where Wark’s companions included Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Pelé, Osvaldo Ardiles and Bobby Moore! A good few Ipswich players featured in the film – the side had just won the UEFA Cup under Bobby Robson and had finished as runners-up in the English top-flight on two occasions in the preceding seasons.

Wark was born in Glasgow and lived in poverty in the Partick tenements. He had to sleep in a drawer from a sideboard as an infant because his family couldn’t afford a cot. Football was his salvation and he excelled in schoolboy teams and played teenage football for Drumchapel Amateurs (his manager was David Moyes’ dad) from where he attracted the attention of several professional clubs, including Celtic, Bristol City, Manchester City and Ipswich (he opted not to sign for Celtic as he had grown up a Rangers fan; of the English clubs Ipswich and Bobby Robson impressed him the most).

Wark played professional football for 22 seasons and the majority of that time was spent at Portman Road, broken into three spells. Apart from his time at Anfield, he also played for Middlesbrough during the 1990-91 season. He would have stayed at Ayresome Park longer (Middlesbrough’s home before the Riverside Stadium), only new manager Lennie Lawrence wanted all of his players to live within an hour of the ground; Wark was still living in Ipswich so he returned there for his final spell.

As I’ve mentioned, Wark was a defensive midfielder but an ability to get forward and score goals (with teammates dropping back to cover for him) meant that he was sometimes used as a striker (he was also sometimes played in central defence). His first spell at Portman Road )from 1975 to 1983) yielded 134 goals in 354 games in all competitions, figures a centre-forward would be delighted with! Throughout his professional career Wark played more than 800 games for club and country (he won 29 caps for Scotland, and netted 7 goals).

Unlike a lot of players of his generation, Wark managed to keep playing right into the Premier League era. He played for Ipswich for several seasons in the Premiership in the 1990s, and was used in the competition’s advertising during its first season.

Wark’s career included the above-mentioned UEFA Cup win with Ipswich and League titles with Liverpool, as well as an FA Youth Cup winner’s medal with Ipswich in 1975, and an FA Cup winner’s medal with them in 1978 (they beat Arsenal in the Final). He won four Player of the Year awards at Ipswich.

These days Wark works in corporate hospitality at Portman Road. He published his autobiography in 2009, entitled ‘Wark On’ – a great title, and a decent read. One for a pub quiz – if you’re ever asked what Wark’s character was called in ‘Escape To Victory’, the answer is Arthur Hayes.

Enjoy the game (whether you are watching via stream or lucky enough to be in the Carlisle) as we entertain Shamrock Rovers II for the first time. Friday’s win over UCD was massive; let’s hope we can maintain the momentum.


Moving Statues

Mícheál Ó hUanacháin finds little of value in the current demand for removing symbols of the past

Nelson stump

At half past one on the morning of March 8th 1966, as I was walking by the railings of the Bank of Ireland in College Green, I heard a huge dull thud. It was difficult to pinpoint the source, as the buildings reflected the sound in various directions, and it wasn’t immediately obvious that it had come from O’Connell Street.

Around the curve and into Westmoreland Street, and across the bridge there was an immense cloud of dust obscuring the city’s main thoroughfare, and any view of what had, for a century and a half, been its principal monument, as recognisable in its own way as the Eiffel Tower was a symbol of Paris, and the Statue of Liberty was New York.

But Nelson Pillar (or “Nelson’s Pillar”, as all true Dubs called it) had been reduced to half its size by a cleverly planned necklace of explosives, and the stump would not survive another week. It was the biggest and the last significant piece of Irish Republican iconoclasm, which means literally breaking images.

Blowing up Nelson was highly symbolic, and the thinking behind it both easily understood and fundamentally mistaken. For centuries, if not millennia, new regimes have tried to buttress their own legitimacy by erasing the memories of the previous ones. In Egypt, the Pharaoh Akhenaten Amenhotep IV (in the 14th century BC) ordered the destruction of the statues of the old gods, only to suffer the same fate himself after his death.

Carlisle statute

Many religions – or to be more exact, sects within many religions – have strong views about the use of imagery in places of worship, and examples abound; the Israelites were to destroy all Canaanite images as soon as they entered the Promised Land; in Rome, under Constantine, the newly legitimised Christians destroyed the images of the Roman Empire’s previous state religion; there were several waves of the defacing of paintings and sculptures during the Reformation; in the New World, the Europeans destroyed not only the images but the records of the Aztecs and Incas.

But none of those episodes, nor the widespread blowing up of British Empire-related statues in Ireland (almost all of them in the 20th century, it is worth noting) had any significant effect on the conflicts they arose from.

Among the Irish victims before Nelson was John Foley’s statue of George Howard, 7th Earl of Carlisle, who officially opened the New Bray Recreation Grounds on October 9th 1862, and after whom it has been named ever since. That statue in the Phoenix Park was partially destroyed by a bomb in 1956 (oddly, its plinth and pedestal are still there, in the People’s Garden). Foley, by the way, also sculpted Daniel O’Connell for O’Connell Street, Prince Albert for the Albert Memorial in London, and Father Mathew for Patrick’s Street in Cork.

Carlisle damage

Other vanished monuments in Dublin include all of the Royal memorials: George I by the old Essex Bridge (where Grattan Bridge is now), George II in St. Stephen’s Green, William III in College Green and Victoria in front of Leinster House. Did their removal improve anything? No.

Why not? Because you may erase icons, but you cannot thereby undo the history they represent: we can’t un-enslave the slaves, un-massacre the massacred, un-live the imperfect lives of the once-famous.

“We are where we are” is a current meme, and implicit in it is that we would not be where we are but for our history – all of it, the bad bits as well as the good.

Under the impact of an initiative founded in 2013 and called Black Lives Matter, by 2018 the US Southern Poverty Law Center was reporting that 110 Confederate statues and monuments had already been taken down. BLM gained worldwide traction in the aftermath of the highly public killing of George Floyd this year, and the targets of the iconoclasts got wider: anyone involved with the slave trade, anyone involved in the discovery of Africa, anything representing people from places where slavery was accepted – like Egypt.

Carlisle memorial

And the justification got broader, too. It was enough for one commentator that she was offended by objects in the street. Does she want to create a new human right? Is it possible to identify a common right “not to be offended”, when some people’s buttons are so easily pushed? Is it sufficient that people are offended on behalf of others, or would that bring us to the brink of cultural appropriation? Do we need to redefine behaviour capable of giving offence as something that results in even one person being slightly offended?

There are episodes in history that should give offence. They were improper, immoral, illegal and unsupportable. In Dublin Castle on May 18th 2011, Elizabeth II said “With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently – or not at all.”

When I first got involved with Bray Wanderers in the mid-1990s, casual comments could occasionally be heard about changing the name of the Carlisle Grounds – because it was a relic of British Rule in Ireland. And the outdated state of the stadium’s facilities then was underscored when Neil Jordan identified it as suitable for filming events that happened in Croke Park 75 years previously.

The fees earned from Michael Collins allowed the club to source second-hand terrace seating and turnstiles in Bolton – and with a fine irony the new perimeter wall involved a careful restoration and renewal of the Great War Memorial, a reminder of the sacrifice made by many Bray men, and many footballers of the time, in a cause that had lost its popular support by the time their comrades in arms came home.

We may not like parts of our past, but we own it, all of it, the good and the bad, the patriots, the traitors, the warring Irish kings, the Vikings and the Normans, King James and King Billy, the Famine and the Irish RMs.  We would be unlikely now to raise statues to many of the people who were thus honoured in the past, but that’s no excuse for trying to cancel history.