Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Martin Bayly

1988 - 89 : Figueres (Spain)

Bayly is a member of a prominent League of Ireland family. His older brother Ritchie was a midfielder with Sligo in the 1980s, while his nephew Robert has played for Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians, and (as of 2013) Shelbourne.

Martin was born in Dublin in 1966, and at the age of 16 went to England to join the ranks of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Between 1982 and 1985 he made 10 appearances for Wolves before leaving the club at the end of the 1984-85 season to join Coventry. However, he failed to settle in the West Midlands, and by the time he was 20 he was back in Ireland where he linked up with brother Ritchie at Sligo.

In the 1986-87 season the midfielder was named as the PFAI Young Player of the Year before a brief and unhappy spell with Derry City in 1988. After leaving Brandywell and with no club attachments, the 22 year old left Ireland once again, and this time went south to Spain. He signed with Figeres.

Unió Esportiva Figueres hail from Catalonia in eastern Spain. Situated roughly 140 km from Barcelona, the town of Figueres is an historically significant settlement of 45,000 inhabitants. The club were founded in 1919 and their home ground, Vilatenim, holds just under 10000 fans. Having played most of their history in Spain's third tier or various regional leagues, the club were naturally in the shadow of rival Catalan sides like Barcelona, Espanyol, and Sabadell. 

In 1987 they gained promotion to the Segunda Division (Spain's 2nd tier) for the first time in their history, and were still playing at this level when the Irishman arrived a year later.

The squad around Bayly featured a number of talented footballers such as former Barcelona star Pere Gratacós, Espanyol legend Tintín Márquez, and Spanish international García Pitarch. His new coach was former Spain 
midfielder Peiró, who had played for Atletico Madrid, Roma, and Internazionale where he was a two-time European Cup winner.

Peiro, Bayly's coach at Figueres
Bayly made his Spanish football debut on September 4th away to Castellon in the league. He was an 86th minute substitute for own-goal scorer Martin Dominguez. Figueres won the match 1-2.

In October he picked up an injury that kept him out over the winter period, but once regaining fitness in spring he began to earn starting XI status as the team went on a rich run of form. Some of the bigger names that the Dubliner lined out against that season were Racing Santander, Rayo Vallecano, and Barcelona B (where he played against future Barce manager Tito Villanova in a 2-4 loss)

Bayly scored his first goal for Figueres in May at home to Mollerussa. The away side had gone up 0-3 inside the opening 36 minutes before the Dubliner ignited Figueres' comeback. His goal in the 39th minute was the first of four for the home team who went on to an incredible 4-3 victory.

His second goal for the club came less than a month later when he scored in a convincing 3-1 victory over Eibar. 

By the end of the 1988-89 season, Bayly had made 11 appearances with 2 goals to his name. Not a bad start to life in Spain. Figueres finished the league in 9th place, not good enough to compete for promotion by very much safe from relegation.

Vilatenim, Figueres' stadium
The following season saw Figueres make a slow start and record some damaging home losses. After a poor 0-1 home reversal to Recreativo Huelva and a 5-0 hammering away to Burgos, the Irishman was one of the players to pay. He lost his place in the starting XI and struggled to gain it back. He did feature as a 64th minute substitute in an October 1-0 home win over Espanyol, as well as another against Racing Santander later that month, but his days in Spain were numbered.

In winter 1989 he had his contract mutually terminated with Figueres and returned home to Ireland. His last game in Spain was a 1-1 draw with Levante (who would later have Ian Harte in their team), where he picked up a yellow card.

Figueres went on to finish in 12th that season. In 1994 they would slip back down to the Spanish 3rd tier where they remain today. 

Bayly enjoyed a successful career in Irish football over the next six years. he represented a number of clubs on the island, most notably Monaghan United and Linfield (where he won a league medal in 1993).

Martin Baly was one of a number of Irishmen to ply their trade in Spain in the late 1980s. It is curious that Ashley GrimesJohn AldridgeAlan CampbellKevin Moran, and Liam Buckley should all have chosen to try their hand in the country in a six year period, and yet in the 22 years since Aldridge left Sociedad, only a handful of Irishman have played in the country (only two in la Liga). Some of this can be explained by the ban on English clubs' participation in UEFA competitions in those days, but given the state of Irish football at the moment, perhaps we could do with a few more Aldridges, Morans, and Baylys.

Not a success, but he tried.

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