Ian Ryan ready for ‘wide-open’ First Division as Bray Wanderers eye play-offs
Bray Wanderers Head Coach Ian Ryan knows where his side fell short in last season’s play-off hunt - but is ready for the battle again.
The Seagulls missed out on a top-five finish by only three points last term despite a wretched run after the mid-season break, winning just once in 10 league games.
But new arrivals look to have put Wanderers in a strong position to contend for promotion.
Kilian Cantwell and Shane Griffin have both joined from Waterford, while striker Cristian Magerusan has joined the club from Longford Town.
Freddie Turley and Kieran Cruise also link up with Ryan’s troops from Shamrock Rovers.
And Ryan is keen for the season to start after a strong pre-season campaign.
“It has been really positive for us and the important bit for us is to make sure that we have got everyone fit come the UCD game on February 16th and we’re almost there,” he tells extratime.com.
“We had a brilliant weekend as a club last week with numerous launches and sponsorships off the pitch.
“That’s testament to the work that Pat Devlin and Tony Richardson have been doing and it shows what has been going on.
“There’s probably some learning to be taken from last year and we’ll try to rectify it. Killian was a big part of that and we have managed to sign some established First Division players.
“We probably have less established players than last season but we are giving our young players a chance with our academy players too.”
Like many sides in the second-tier last season, Bray were often beset by injuries with Dave Webster one of many who was reduced to playing a bit-part role.
But Ryan is hopeful that those issues are behind his side.
“Injuries had a factor last season,” he admitted. “We struggled to get everyone fit and on the pitch at the same time so that was disappointing but we take a bit of reflection on it and try to rectify it. But that is just a memory now that we have to put a line through.
“We were only three points off it and we had some really bad spells throughout the year.
“We know what we have this year and we are not really concerned about last year and we’ll just look forward to it.”
With only one full-time outfit in the First Division this year, there is an opportunity for the Seagulls to push on and compete for honours.
But recently relegated - and full-time - Cork City are likely to be Bray’s biggest threat according to Ryan - alongside Wexford.
“We’re the same as the rest of the teams - take out Cork and Wexford, who are the standout teams,” he explained.
“Everyone else wants a play-off spot and we are in that mix. We’ll aim for that. I think it’s wide open to be honest, bar the two that I have spoken about.
“You couldn't call who is going to come after that. A lot of it will depend on the form of individuals, injuries and hopefully we can stay on the other side of that.”
And on the opening night, Ryan will reacquaint himself with one of his former clubs as Wanderers host UCD at the Carlisle Grounds.
For Ryan, it will also see him reunite with his close ally on the Irish Schools circuit Willie O’Connor.
“We would have worked closely together with the Irish Schools team and when I left UCD to take over Wexford, Willie took my job so we speak every so often,” Ryan adds.
“We had a bit of craic at the League of Ireland launch and will do before the match and then we’ll roar the head off each other for 90 minutes on Friday.
“It’s like that throughout the league. Everyone knows each other and has respect for one another.
“We’re all professional but when the games start, we want to win.”
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