Soccer Scene recently caught up with Shelbourne fan Brannock back on his home turf in Ringsend, Dublin.
On the league race Brannock commented: “Cork City players are a bit light. But if you make a mistake they’ll punish you.
“We still have to play Cork twice and I think we can beat them. We just bought Waterford United player coach Alan Reynolds and I think if we have to kick our way through the league he’s the man to do just that. He’s a very good and experienced player. He’s what we need.
Brannock was just back from his holidays in Spain and was looking forward to seeing his beloved Shels take the field. However, he had some mixed feelings going into this week’s crucial Champions League game against Glentoran in Belfast.
“I just landed a new job with a building contractor but I don’t think I can push getting off for the game up North.”
So Shels might have to do without Brannock — he thinks they’ll win without his cheering anyway — but there will be others ready to make the bus trip to Belfast.
Taking the bus is a means of getting a ticket and, more importantly, a safety measure the club undertakes for fans.
In the game at Glentoran’s Oval Ground, Shels will wear their new away strip for the first time. They might need to employ a few novel tactics to boot.
The Belfast outfit will likely try close down their southern opponents with aggressive physical play from the get go.
That means Glentoran getting their bodies on the Shelbourne players, especially out wide and in particular around the middle of the field where Cameroon star Joseph Ndo operates.
The silky midfielder pulls Shelbourne’s strings but at times he overdoes it on the ball. Glentoran will want to catch him in possession and at the same time man-mark him when possible.
Flashy Shels winger Richie Baker will have to be on his best behavior.
Baker was booked in the recent loss to Derry City after he showed frustration with the referee — who was, it has to be said, not necessarily protecting him. The winger lashed out at his marker and received a silly yellow.
In a more recent league game — when Shels beat St. Patrick’s Athletic — Baker received his marching orders. He was booked for dissent after being denied a penalty by the referee. Then in injury time he lost the cool with Pats’ John Frost and received the red card.
No doubt Shels manager Pat Fenlon will expect some serious discipline from
his winger and indeed the entire team in the Glentoran clash. There’s little doubt that Glentoran will look to upset their Dublin opponents on and off the ball.
So chances are it’s not going to be a beautiful game of football. Glentoran will be far too wise to try and match the pace of Shels. They will be even wiser when they try to destroy an open game.
Shels are in for one very tough physical game where temperament and discipline may see them through, or let them down. Still, many expect Shels will prevail.
Lack of match fitness may take its toll on Glentoran. But Shels better be prepared to get their new uniforms dirty.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are also in action in the Champions League at Anfield this week against Welsh minnows Total Network Solutions.
Liverpool will be even hungrier than usual under the influence of captain Steven Gerrard who finally decided to stay at his boyhood club after much speculation about his future. At one point Gerrard appeared to be on the move but overnight night he announced he couldn’t do it. He signed on again to the joy of thousands of supporters and Anfield will be pumped to see their leader back in CL action.
Solutions may find Gerrard alone too much to handle never mind several other players who will want to continue to prove their worth as Liverpool stars.
For Martin O’Neill, meanwhile, family has been more important than football of late.
While the Eircom League and Champions League has been our main focus for the last few weeks one of the biggest stories was the departure of the Celtic manager.
We can only wait and see how his replacement Gordon Strachan will do. But we can look back and see one more time what O’Neill meant to Celtic, or visa versa, what Celtic meant to O’Neill.
“It’s been a great five years and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. We had 80,000 people come to the UEFA Cup Final in Seville knowing that most of them wouldn’t get in and that was just sensational. I am very sad leaving. Overall I have great, great memories of the football club. Fantastic.”
Driving into the stadium in Seville and seeing a sea of green and white shirts is O’Neill’s favorite memory.
Thousands of dedicated fans just like Gerry Brannock. The game couldn’t do without them.