For the return of Pat Devlin to the Carlisle Grounds, the photos of his glory days with Bray Wanderers were hastily restored to the portakabin behind one of the goals.
Out on the pitch, the RTE cameras rolled on Friday as Devlin laid out his plans for a club that has never left him, nor has he ever left it.
Even while he was stoking away at Cabinteely, Devlin kept a wee interest in events down the N11 at Bray Wanderers, where he remained a shareholder. He recalled his first day as manager in 1985 when Bray had just joined the League of Ireland.
‘I thought “Oh my God, what am I letting myself in for here?”’ You wonder might a part of him think the same, more than 35 years later, only Devlin is tripping over himself with enthusiasm for the possibilities ahead with Bray Wanderers.
‘I’ve never been as busy in all my life. It’s been fantastic. But we need to get it right on the pitch,’ he said.
From the outside, Bray appears the winner in the merger with their next door neighbours from South County Dublin. For they are keeping their name as the League of Ireland entity, and will also field teams as Bray Wanderers in the league’s underage divisions, while Cabinteely take their leave of the senior ranks after six seasons and will focus on the DDSL.
Any talk of Bray-Cabinteely FC or Cabinteely-Bray FC leading to East Coast FC down the road has been shredded. That’s a relief to supporters of The Seagulls, for whom retaining the name was sacrosanct.
There would have been bonfires of protest dotting Bray Head if the dual FAI Cup winners of 1990 and 1999 had been shunted into the sidings.
‘The Bray name was never in doubt,’ insisted Devlin, adding ‘and neither was Cabinteely because they would continue at schoolboy level.’
Devlin has returned to the Bray helm as director of football, with loyal right-hand man Eddie Gormley as his No 2. Gary Cronin, who managed Bray to the play-offs last season, has left. While no one was saying it, there could only be one chief. Much needs to be done, on and off the park.
The pitch isn’t great, hospitality is non-existent and the Carlisle Grounds are very much that – grounds, not a stadium. It still has bucket seats from the old Lansdowne Road and could do with an overhaul.
Maybe one day it will be a modern 4,000 all-seater stadium serving senior football on the east coast, with the DART chockers with fans every other Friday night.
As Christmas approaches, Dublin businessman and Cabinteely chairman Tony Richardson, 57 yesterday, is prepared to dip into his sack of goodies and help out as the chief shareholder in the new venture.
‘I think I know what I’ve got into. I’m going to focus on the business and Pat will focus on the football side,’ he said. ‘We need to get to grips with the income streams. I’m happy to fund things to a point but ultimately you need to get a business that is sustainable.’
The League of Ireland has sucked millions from owners with deep pockets before. Just ask Pat O’Sullivan and Lee Power. So, how far is Richardson prepared to go?
‘I’m happy to invest, with a couple of other guys with me. There’s money out there for football. I’m very comfortable with the approach we are going to take. I’m not in a rush.
‘We will remain a part-time set-up with volunteers, but down the road we will look at a full-time set-up. There are things in the pipeline.’
Richardson revealed the Bray budget for 2022 would be a third bigger than it was in 2021, when the club reached the play-offs. Never before higher than sixth in the top division, how far can Bray climb?
‘I think it’s time for us to try and compete with Shamrock Rovers and Bohs permanently but first we have to get out of the First Division,’ said Devlin, who knows the trenches better than any.
Devo’s at the wheel again and Bray are back on track.Internet Explorer Channel Network