Treaty United Opposition Watch: Bray Wanderers

Treaty United begin their 2023 League of Ireland First Division campaign on Friday night when they welcome Bray Wanderers to the Markets Field (7.45). Both sides have engaged in close battles for the past two seasons and Tommy Barrett will face a third different head coach in three seasons. In this piece, we focus on the opposition from the Carlisle Grounds.

Head Coach: Ian Ryan

Home Stadium: Carlisle Grounds, Bray.

Captain: Dave Webster

New Signings: Alex Moody, Conor Crowley, Luka Lovic, Harry Groome, Ger Shortt, Conor Davis, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Len O’Sullivan, Eoin Farrell (All Wexford), Dave Webster (Finn Harps), Dane Massey and Chris Lyons (Both Drogheda), Joe Power (Longford), Jake Walker (Crumlin)

It has been a turbulent 12 months in Bray with supporters clearly unhappy with the merger of Bray Wanderers and Cabinteely. One of the results of the merger was the arrival of several Cabinteely players and the club were managed by Pat Devlin last season. Devlin remains at the club as Head of Football but former Wexford manager Ian Ryan has taken over as Head Coach.

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, Carlisle Grounds, Wicklow 21/9/2018 Bray Wanderers vs Limerick A view of Carlisle Grounds ahead of the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

His former side Wexford fell three points short of a play-off place last year under Ryan’s guidance in his first foray into senior management. Following a disappointing season in 2022 which saw Bray finish in 8th place on 27 points, it was unsurprising to see a sea change in the playing personnel. Even less surprising was Ryan’s decision to avail of his contacts built at Wexford and no fewer than 9 players following the Dubliner to the Carlisle Grounds. The likes of goalkeeper Alex Moody and midfielders Harry Groome and Conor Crowley caught the eye at Ferrycarrig Park and will be hoping to make a similar impact at their new club.

Furthermore, experienced and former Bray Wanderers pair Dane Massey and Dave Webster return to the club for the 2023 season. Massey has spent the last decade in Louth where he enjoyed huge success with Dundalk before signing for rivals Drogheda United last season. Webster spent the last two seasons at Finn Harps and the centre-back will captain the side for the new season. Both men will add invaluable experience to the club.

Overall, Bray have confirmed 26 players will be part of the first team squad so finding out his best 11 could be a challenge for Ryan. Pre season results have certainly been mixed with the Seagulls who shipped 10 goals in two encounters with Shamrock Rovers and Saint Patrick’s Athletic. In their most recent outing, they defeated New Oak Boys 0-3 in the Leinster Senior Cup with Guillermo Amiran, Ger Short and Conor Crowley scoring.

Key Players:

Chris Lyons: The striker returns to Bray after a five-year spell with Drogheda which included a First Division league winners medal in 2020. Lyons has earned a reputation as a feared striker at League of Ireland level in recent years with his pace and finishing ability causing plenty of problems for opposition defenders.

In 2021, Lyons scored 9 goals in 27 appearances in the Premier Division. His most prolific season was in 2019 when he scored 14 goals in 25 appearances at First Division level. There is plenty of competition in the striking department at Bray with former Wexford duo Ger Shortt and Conor Davis also signed but Lyons is one of the first names on the team sheet when available.

Dave Webster: Unfortunately for his new club, Webster is not expected to return to full fitness until mid March and therefore will miss at least the opening three games. However, his leadership at central defence will be pivotal for Bray. The only issue is that Webster has been absent since April 2022 so it may be difficult for Webster to regain match sharpness quickly. He is a threat from set-pieces and an ultimate professional who Bray fans will be hoping can drive the club to a promotion push.

Harry Groome: Groome was the creative link man for Wexford FC last season and made 32 appearances at Ferrycarrig Park. He is an energetic midfielder with great vision and a great range of passing who will be a danger to many defences in 2023.

Soccer Scene Prediction: Both Noel and Adrian have predicted a third place finish for Bray Wanderers

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