The nearly never-ending saga when Bray Wanderers last won the FAI Cup

The FAI Cup final of 1999 can't be described in the singular

Bray Wanderers, Pat Devlin,

Bray manager Pat Devlin celebrates ©INPHO/Andrew Paton

On this week's Team 33, we were joined by Harry Kenny.

A Shamrock Rovers legend from their four-in-a-row side of the 1980s, he is currently at the helm of Bray Wanderers.

The 2016 season proved to be a positive one for the club ultimately when it came to the league table.

The Seagulls were 11th in the 12 team Premier Division when Kenny took charge in June.

But by season's end, the North Wicklow club had risen into the Top half with a strong sixth place finish.

Harry Kenny

Home form was particularly impressive during the second half of the season with wins over champions Dundalk, runners-up Cork City, 2013 title winners St Patrick's Athletic, Bohemians and Sligo Rovers.

Ahead of the 2017 season, Bray have strengthened with the signings of Keith Buckley, Gary McCabe and Aaron Greene as they look to push on.

While Kenny acknowledges it will be challenging, he told us that Bray and other clubs chasing Dundalk in the league can't rule anything in or out: "If we get off to a good start, or anyone else for that matter, you can be up there competing".

Patrick McGrenaghan of Finn Harps and Bray Wanderers's Colm Tresson ©INPHO/Tom Honan

The FAI Cup also adds another target for clubs and it's a competition Bray have won twice. The last time however was 17 years ago.

But it certainly wasn't one to forget... even if one is not the accurate number in this case.

Nine years on from their first FAI Cup success in 1990 when they defeated St Francis FC 3-0 in the final at the old Landsdowne Road, Bray returned to the showpiece when it was staged at Tolka Park.

Facing them were 1974 FAI Cup winners Finn Harps back in the days when replays were still a thing (extra-time and penalty shootouts have become extremely common in FAI Cup finals over the past decade). 

A replay would be required in 1999 after a scoreless draw on May 9th between Wanderers and their Donegal opponents.

 

Bray manager Pat Devlin and goalscorer Jason Byrne celebrate ©INPHO/Andrew Paton

So the sides met again on May 15th to decide the direction the trophy would take that year... down to the footsteps of the Wicklow mountains or up Ballybofey way.

Neither side had probably factored on another draw.

The sides couldn't be separated again as a 1-1 not just after 90 minutes but another half hour of extra-time kept them locked together.

Another game was required, although the FAI had decided that a fourth encounter would be avoided with extra time and/or penalties to conclude the third final in the event of another draw on May 20th.

Fortunately for Bray, sharpshooter Jason Byrne's goal touch proved decisive.

Bray celebrate in the dressing room after the match ©INPHO/Andrew Paton

Despite going down 1-0 to Finn Harps when Jonathan Speak tapped in a rebound after 12 minutes, Byrne flicked in a header from a floated free-kick, before latching on to a curved through ball that evaded the Harps defence and gave him the chance to beat the keeper to score the winner and put an end to what could fairly be described as a "saga" - indeed it was also the first time that Bray had led during the entire three-match series.

And funnily enough, it wasn't the only three-game epic of their 1999 cup run. They needed a trio of fixtures in the quarter-finals to get past Sligo Rovers with fixture three ending 1-0 to send them through to a semi-final against Shelbourne.

Unfortunately, there was a sting in the tail for Bray that season as the 1998-99 ended with relegation from the Premier Division before winning the cup. 

Harps by contrast would finish fourth in the Premier Division in 1998-99.

The sting in the tail for Bray would fade quickly as promotion at the first attempt and matching Finn Harps' fourth place finish in 1999 by doing so themselves in 2000-01.

You can listen to the interview with Harry Kenny below on the podcast player or also on iTunes: