2023 Season Review: Bray Wanderers
Team: Bray Wanderers.
Head Coach:Ian Ryan.
Top Scorer: Ben Feeney, Chris Lyons (9).
Stadium: Carlisle Grounds.
Highest Attendance: 1244 (v Kerry, February 24)
Lowest Attendance: 344 (v Treaty United, September 15)
Star Player: Ben Feeney
One of the few remaining faces from Bray’s 2022 campaign, Ben Feeney showed exactly why he is an important player for his club.
The former Cabinteely youth missed the end of the season through an ankle injury.
But when he was fit and firing on all cylinders, he was quite the talent.
The Dubliner even ended the season as Bray’s joint-top goalscorer alongside experienced League of Ireland hitman Chris Lyons.
And at just 20, Feeney has many of the attributes required to be a pivotal player once again in 2024.
Best Young Player & Signing: Cole Omorehiomwan
The former Shamrock Rovers defender was part of a very leaky Wanderers defence, but his goal contributions at the other end of the pitch often helped to make up for it.
Omorehiomwan, 21, scored six goals for Ian Ryan’s side in 30 games - with most of those coming from set-piece routines.
Physical in stature, the centre-back proved his worth on several occasions with important goals at key moments.
However, he was sent off twice and did receive 12 bookings so that is something he will no doubt be looking to improve upon.
But the signs are good for a defender who enjoyed his first full season of League of Ireland football.
What we expected they would do:
The extratime.com team tipped Bray Wanderers to miss out on the play-offs and finish 7th.
What they actually did:
The Seagulls failed to reach the top-five but there were significant signs of progress.
The 2022 campaign was a low point in Bray’s recent history - but they managed to improve on their points total this term by a whopping 17 points, rising from 27 to 44.
And while they missed out on a play-off position, they were just three points off securing one.
But they should have made the top-five after an impressive start to the season before falling away during the summer months.
In fact, they were in the top-five from February until July before their campaign fell apart.
From July until September, they claimed just one win in 10 games, only defeating Kerry.
But with youngsters like Max Murphy, Feeney and Omorehiomwan all impressing in patches, there is plenty to work on.
Elsewhere, Bray also reached the second round of the FAI Cup for the first time since September 2015 when they beat Ulster Senior League side Cockhill Celtic.
They were defeated by Dundalk in the next round, however.
What they need to improve on for next year:
Bray Wanderers will look back on the 2023 campaign with a sense of what should have been.
They were well in the hunt for a play-off spot until their wretched run over the summer months before rallying late on to get back in the mix.
And while they missed out on it, they can take some positives from their spirited end to the season.
But they must strive to be more consistent next season, despite the injuries that beset them at the worst times.
Experienced defender David Webster missed vast swathes of the season, with Feeney missing the entire end of the year with similar injury issues.
Once injuries and suspensions gripped the Wanderers, they often looked light in terms of squad cover - which cost them.
However, if they manage to build a robust squad ahead of next season to deal with those inevitable setbacks, they could be onto a winner.
There were also defensive issues that were laid bare throughout, highlighted by the fact they conceded 62 goals in just 36 league games.
Only Finn Harps (74) and Kerry (91) conceded more.
But once again, that boils down to the lack of consistency that was present in Ian Ryan’s squad this term as a result of injuries.
Outside of Chris Lyons, Dane Massey, Stephen McGuinness, Darren Craven and Webster, Bray had a very young and inexperienced side.
And while that is not a bad thing, it may explain their deficiencies to an extent.
But should they add more experienced match-winners to their starting XI for 2024, they could be onto a winner - and maybe end their frustrating lack of consistency.