Southend-on-Sea, 27th November, 2021.
Following our extremely successful trip to Naples, where the Ballybrack Seagulls defeated the Caserta Lions, it was time to set out sights on our next adventure. So the Ballybrack Seagulls, aka the “Neapolitan Dynamites”, set themselves up for a first and “The Only Way” that could be done, was for the Seagulls to make a trip to Essex, to take on St Pauli On Sea, from Southend on Sea.
Having had our flying wings plucked for almost two years, due to the Covid – 19 Pandemic, the Seagulls had a lot of travelling to make up with and a lot of games to play, so our first game on Sasana Soil, came quickly after our Italian Job, as we gathered in Dublin Airport for our short hop across the pond on the 26th of November 2021, following receiving an invitation to take on St Pauli on Sea, from Ben Bray (who happens to be a big Bray Wanderers fan for his sins, as well as the Canaries from Norwich)
Travel arrangements for this game should have been pretty straightforward, travelling Dublin to Southend but unfortunately, Ryanair suspended flights into Southend, so our arrival Airport to England became Luton, with a Team coach hired to transport us to our hotel for the weekend, the Radisson Park Inn.
Adding to the travel logistics was the necessity to split travel arrangements over two days, to facilitate travelling supporters and playing personally around work and family commitments.
The larger of the travelling group assembled early doors on the Friday morning of the 26th of November in Dublin Airport, with so many familiar faces, once again joining us, to play and support the Seagulls.
Our ever-present Management Team of the Gaffer, “Uncle” Ray Downer and his assistant Noel “Nipper” Finn, were there to lead the Seagulls into battle once again.
On the playing front, we saw some ever-present and previously capped players return, along with a couple of first-time players, which is so important to keeping the Seagulls on the Road.
Unfortunately due to unexpected work commitments, the “Fab Four” of ever-present players got reduced to the “Three Amigos”, after Mark “The Chiropractor” O’Sullivan had to withdraw his playing services on the morning of departure.
This left the remaining ever-present players Carl “The Brack Pearl” Breen, George “Skiddely” Downer and Martin “The Captain” Hewitt, to take up the “Three Amigos” mantle!
Also on board for the early morning flight were some experienced travelling Seagulls in form of Rhys “Little Twinkle Toes” Lacey, Josh “The P.T. O’Reilly, Gary “Gazza” McNabb, Ian “Chendo” Henderson, Tadhg “T-Bomb” Henderson, the man who scored the Seagulls first ever goal, way back in 2016, versus Manhattan Celtic, in NYC and was returning for his 3rd cap, and his first game in the Seagull colours since Saas Fee, Switzerland.
Making up the “Henderson” dynasty of Ballybrack’s finest was Sam “H-Bomb” Henderson, alongside Craig “The Toon” Kavanagh, and Conor “Jordan” Lanigan, who were all in line for their second Seagull caps.
Joying the team for their first caps was Colin “The Wicklow flyer” Reynolds and Jay “The Cat” Keogh.
As ever our loyal fan base was on hand to travel and support us on the road.
So once again we saw our loyal band of Shegulls, Pauline Byrne, Angela Campbell, Michelle Hewitt, Katie Hewitt, Sharon Armstrong, Deribhle Geraghty, plus first-time travelling Shegull Brigid Reynolds along with supporting stalwarts Paul Byrne and Tyrone McNabb.
Having safely landed at Luton Airport, the Seagulls gathered their belongings and boarded the Team coach for our road trip via the M25 to Southend on Sea.
On arrival at Southend on Sea, we linked up with Ray “The Somerset Pirlo” D’Arcy and Shegull Jo Robson at the Hotel.
The Christmas spirit was high and very evident around Southend on Sea, and after checking into our accommodation we enjoyed the delights of some local hostelries, as we celebrated the “Captain’s” Birthday that day.
Later that night we visited The Alex, for some fine food and drinks before, burning the midnight oil at Southend’s alternative music venue, Annie’s Attic.
Saturday morning, saw the arrival of the second travelling group, ahead of the match which was due for a 12:30hrs kick-off, at the Waterside Farm venue on Canvey Island, a place name, synonymous with FA Cup giant-killing and BBC Saturday afternoon Pools results.
Arriving on Saturday morning, the 27th of November, we had Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan, the leader of this great group, along with Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly, Robert “The Camino Grifter” Murphy, Kevin “The Gardener” Fitzpatrick and Rob “The Rock” Davitt, who was making his competitive return to a Seagulls jersey for the first time since our triumphant victory over Molloy’s of Amsterdam in 2017.
Along with the playing personnel arriving on that Saturday morning, we had some veteran Shegull supporters, Lesley O’Sullivan, Claire O’Kelly and the young Gulls, Bobby O’Sullivan, Abaigeal O’Sullivan.
So when the above arrived at the Park Inn Hotel at 11:00hrs, there wasn’t much time before we were all on board the team coach and travelling through Essex, en route to the match venue on Canvey Island.
On arrival at the match day venue, it’s fair to say weather conditions were pretty horrendous, with driving sleet, rain and a howling wind, which were going to make playing conditions troublesome for both teams.
Proving difficult also, was the selection of the Seagull’s starting line up, for our Management team of “Uncle” Ray Downer and Noel “Nipper” Finn as we travelled to Southend without a recognised “Goalkeeper”.
In a “Team first” decision, Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan, volunteered to play in Goal for the Seagulls that day.
(Little did we know that day, that some months later, the decision by the Ballybrack Seagulls to play an outfield player in Goal would play an influence on the World Footballing stage, when Comoros played their left back in Goal during the AFCON championship)
Ahead of Wayne in goal, a solid back four of Gary “Gazza” McNabb, Carl “The Brack Pearl” Breen, flanked by Craig “The Toon” Kavanagh and Martin “The Captain” Hewitt line up, with the centre of the park marshalled by George “Skiddely” Downer, and Rob “The Rock” Davitt, with Rhys “little Twinkle Toes” Lacey and Kevin “The Gardener” Fitzpatrick providing the width out on the wings, with Ian “Chendo” Henderson dropping in the pocket behind Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly, who was spearheading the Seagull’s attack.
St Pauli on Sea, sporting the traditional and iconic St Pauli Browne Jersey, won the coin toss and chose to kick off.
With St Pauli on Sea, sporting an impressive record of being unbeaten at home to an “overseas” travelling team, they started the game in a confident way but were meeting a Seagull’s team, also strutting with an air of confidence as they went into this game unbeaten and on the back of an impressive victory in Naples.
This was evident in opening exchanges between both teams, as the ball was moved around the pitch with no lack of skill, despite the worsening weather conditions that both teams had to endure.
Both teams line ups, similarly matched each, with St Pauli utilising one man to lead the line and Ben Bray, proven to be the key man in the midfield with all things that were good on the St Pauli side coming through him.
On the Seagull side of things, Ian “Chendo” Henderson was starting to take command of the game in his number 10 role and League of Ireland experience (not sure if many people know, but Chendo was one of Pat Devlin’s finest) was coming to the fore, with some beautiful link-up play between himself Rhys and Shane O’Kelly.
The platform for this link-up play was provided by “The Rock” Davitt and “Skiddely” Downer. The Seagulls were getting some joy up the right flanks with both the “Captain and Kevin “The Gardener” Fitzpatrick providing some excellent combinations and finding the ever-willing runner up front Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly, who was causing all sorts of problems for the St Pauli defence.
At this stage it was looking like the Seagulls were starting to dominate the game by the middle of the first half when completely against the run of play, the Seagulls went behind the home team.
A through ball caught the Seagull defence flat and square, as the St Pauli centre forward, aptly nicknamed “Ronaldo” slotted the ball into the back of the net, to take a 1-nil lead.
From the restart, the Seagulls once again took control of the game, with Gaffer “Uncle” Ray introducing Josh “The P.T. O’Reilly for the “Brack Pearl”.
This change saw Craig “The Toon” Kavanagh step across to partner “Gazza” McNabb and Josh take up the left full role.
Time was moving on in the first half and Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly had a couple of sighters on the St Pauli goal and warned up the St Pauli goalkeeper’s hands.
Not long after this, Rob “The Rock” Davitt played a superb ball ahead of Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly, who composed himself before placing the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the St Pauli net.
The equalising goal was nothing more than what the Seagulls deserved as the first half grew in age.
Some freshening up of the playing personnel saw the introduction of Conor “Jordan” Lanigan on the left, and not long after his introduction, “Chendo” released him with a beautiful through ball, only for a last-ditch challenge from the big St Pauli central defender, which prevented a shot on goal and lead to a Seagull’s corner.
Despite the howling Gail blowing hard in on the St Pauli goalkeeper, the Seagulls didn’t capitalise on this corner, shortly after this the referee brought the first half to a halt. Half-time score line, St Pauli 1 Ballybrack Seagulls 1
Half time, saw the Management team of Uncle Ray and Noel “Nipper” Finn, cover some basics that we needed to tighten up on, which saw George “Skiddely” Downer tasked with a man-marking job on his opposing number but all in all, the message from the management was to keep doing what we’re doing.
Halftime also saw the introduction of Robert “The Camino Grifter” Murphy for Kevin “The Gardener” Fitzpatrick. The Seagulls tipped off the second half playing into a stiff breeze, which strangely enough seemed to be suiting the Seagulls better than it had the St Pauli team in the first half.
The pattering of the game was continuing in a pretty similar vain for the Seagulls in the second half with Chendo really running the show at this stage, with Rhys “Little Twinkle Toes” Lacey and Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly wreaking havoc on the St Pauli defence.
At the other end of the field the Seagull defence was holding out the St Pauli attacks quite comfortably but for one or two rare salvos into the Seagull 18-yard area, where our stand-in Goalkeeper Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan wasn’t found wanting and pulled off a stunning save to keep the game level despite seemingly losing the flight of the Ball in the strong breeze.
Time for the introduction of the Ballybrack Seagull’s first-ever goal scorer, Tadhg “T-Bomb” Henderson, who took up residence out on the left wing in place of Conor “Jordan” Lanigan. It didn’t take “T-Bomb” long to get up to speed with the game, and following some lovely controlling football between, Craig “The Toon” Kavanagh, Chendo and “Skiddely” Downer, Ian “Chendo” Henderson released Martin “The Captain” Hewitt down the right side of the St Pauli defence, who then delivered a telling cross, to which Tadhg “T-Homb” Henderson, volleyed the Seagull’s into the lead.
This was nothing more than what the Seagulls deserved and before St Pauli restarted the game the Seagull’s management team made some changes to the line, with Josh “The P.T. O’Reilly suffering a strained hamstring, which saw the reintroduction of Kevin “The Gardener” Fitzpatrick to left back, Ray “The Somerset Pirlo” D’arcy coming in for Robbie “The Camino Grifter” Murphy, along with a Seagull debut for Colin “The Wicklow Flyer” Reynolds.
From St Pauli restart, the Seagulls could smell blood and the introduction of the fresh players saw the Seagulls push on harder, with the “Somerset Pirlo” showing all his footballing guile to slip Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly through on goal with his additional attempt spurned by the St Pauli goalkeeper before O’Kelly reacted the quickest to grab his second goal of the day and the Seagull’s third.
Well and truly in the driving seat now the Seagull’s pressure was relentless, from the third restart of the game by St Pauli, with Rhys “Little Twinkle Toes” Lacey, now operating down the right-hand side of the Seagull attack, he was tormenting the St Pauli left full, with a masterclass in wing play, which came together beautifully in a moment of pure footballing magic.
A St Pauli salvo into the Seagull defence saw a hacked clearance take off into the wind, as the ball came down from the sky, Ian “Chendo” Henderson, took it down beautifully, and nutmegged his opponent before playing a one-two with Rhys to get himself in a better position to dictate the play and spread the ball out wide to the “The Captain”, who clipped a perfectly waited left football just over the head of the onrushing St Pauli, left full-back, allowing Rhys to get to the bye line and cut back the perfect ball for Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly to net his hat trick and the Seagull’s fourth.
While all this was happening, we had George “Skiddely” Downer, professing out loud, “it’s my pleasure to share the same pitch as you Chen”.
St Pauli on Sea 1 Ballybrack Seagull’s 4, no way back for the home side now.
The Gaffer took this opportunity to take the hat trick hero off and introduce another Seagull debutant in the form of Jason “The Cat” Keogh, to help the Seagulls see out the game but Jay’s introduction still caused some further concern to the St Pauli defence.
It was coming more and more evident that the home side needed a break and that break came in form of the Referee blowing his final whistle.
This result brought an end to St Pauli on Sea’s unbeaten record against overseas opposition to end and extended the Seagull’s unbeaten record to four.
On their way back into the dressing room, the triumphant Seagulls were warmly created by their loyal supporters who had taken refuge in the Waterside coffee dock to shelter from the inclement weather conditions outside.
All credit to Ben Bray and his St Pauli on Sea, teammates who played their part in a pretty special game of Football and proved to be brilliant hosts, as arrangements were made to sample further the delights of what Southend on Sea had to offer on a Saturday night before we boarded the team bus to head back to the Park Inn Hotel.
A great buzz was in the air as the celebrations for the Seagulls kicked off in the Hotel bar before we adjourned to The Alex Bar to meet some of the opposition but the celebrations went on in the Premier League/Champagne Football league, when the travelling Shegull and Seagull’s, lead by Tadhg “T-Bomb” Henderson, hired a VIP boot in the MooMoo Clubrooms Nightclub, to sample the delights Ciroc Vodka, fireworks and Ring Girls, as we saw out the 2021 playing season in some style, as the Seagull’s partied into the early hours of Sunday morning, with Round 6 being reached on the Ciroc Vodka, entertainment show!
With Sunday being our final day in Southend on Sea, we said a fond farewell to Ray “The Somerset Pirlo” D’arcy and Jo Robinson as they made their way back up to the North of England, while others enjoyed the delights of the Worlds Longest Pier, by climbing on board the Sir William Heygate, Southend Piers, light Railway, to travel the length of the Pier.
After getting off the train at the far end of the Pier we enjoyed a coffee and cake in a small restaurant located on the Pier, which turned out to be the venue of Jamie Oliver’s “Fright Night Feast” TV show and which was just “Pukka”!
Not long after we returned to the Hotel to finalise our Hotel check out and then boarded the coach for the trip back up the M25 to Luton Airport and onto Dublin from there.
Next up for the Seagulls, is another trip Stateside in March 2022, to play Harper’s AFC Detroit.