In another timeline, Ian Ryan could have been preparing for a season of SSE Airtricity League Premier Division football at the helm of Bohemians.

But one of the most impressive young managers in the League of Ireland right now will instead be looking to turn Bray Wanderers' fortunes around in the First Division.

The 35-year-old's body of work with Wexford had not gone unnoticed from the moment he took charge at Ferrycarrig Park in May 2021.

Wexford would go on to finish bottom of the second tier at the end of that year but began to gain momentum under Ryan as the season went on, including a run to the FAI Cup quarter-finals.

Better was to come in the league last year when the club from the south-east consigned past seasons of struggle to the rearview mirror and involved themselves in the race for the promotion play-offs. Former League of Ireland-winning winger Ollie Cahill was one of those impressed early on in the campaign.

Wexford ultimately fell short of the final play-off place by just three points but sealed a very creditable sixth place finish with 10 wins, 11 draws and 11 defeats and a goal difference of minus-two.

However, just after the season ended, Ryan confirmed that he would be making the "immensely difficult" call to move on, with Wexford admitting that his departure was a "setback" in their goal of building on recent progress.

Ryan is taking the opportunity to try and take Bray back to heights they have reached before

He had already been the subject of interest from Waterford earlier in 2022, before being linked with the vacancy which had opened up at Bohemians after Keith Long's exit at the end of last August.

It was an opportunity he chose not to pursue before the lengthy process ultimately ended with Declan Devine taking charge at Dalymount Park and is now fully focused on trying to make Seagulls soar in north Wicklow.

"There was interest there and it was close to happening but things happen for a reason and it didn't quite happen," Ryan told RTÉ Sport of the Bohs situation at the launch of the 2023 season at Dublin's City Hall last week.

"And now it's up to me to go and prove myself again with Bray and who knows what the future holds for myself but my concentration is with Bray and as I say to the players, you have to prove yourself every day.

"I did okay with Wexford, got a bit of attention from other clubs but that's dead now. Now I need to prove myself again and I'll do that by being successful at Bray."

And while he described the decision to join Bray as the "right time and the right club", he will have a task on his hands at the Carlisle Grounds. Last season was a difficult one in the shade of the Wicklow Mountains in the first season after they merged with Cabinteely.

'It's probably no secret that Bray didn't have the best year on the pitch, off the pitch'

On the pitch, they finished one place and a full 14 points below Wexford, well out of contention for the promotion play-offs.

Off the pitch, the club condemned the actions of a section of supporters who were involved in a heated exchange with Pat Devlin, who was serving as manager alongside his director of football duties, during a fixture at Wexford.

Ryan is under no illusion about the challenges he is taking on but believes the clouds are lifting away from the nearby peaks.

"It's probably no secret that Bray didn't have the best year on the pitch, off the pitch. It wasn't great but I'll walk into that situation now and it's changed a lot I think over the last month or two since I've been there," he said.

Ryan feels the mood music has improved at Bray before the new season

"The club are doing some great work in the community and longer-term projects. So it's not too disimmilar to the challenge I walked into in Wexford where there was a bit of disharmony and that.

"I think the message we need to get out is that everybody's together, the club are all together, the fans need to be together. We want a vibrant team and we want big attendances and what will help that is good performances and hopefully they see an exciting team, a few wins and a few goals."

Key to any success will be the relationship with director of football Devlin, whose connection with Bray, which has run the full gamut from player and manager to his current role, has run on-and-off since the 1980s. Ryan says the experience of working with Devlin has been "brilliant" including before this current spell at the Seagulls.

"I've known Pat a long time and we would have worked together in UCD before," he said.

"So that relationship is there already and he's been really good for me, really helpful. Pat has lots of experience so I can lean on that as well and it's exciting times with the club."

No targets have been set on the field for this season although Ryan says Bray are like the clutch of teams that will be hoping to follow in the wake of the division's full-time outfits Galway United and Waterford.

Putting together a revamped squad is helped by the number of former Wexford players who have followed the manager to Bray.

"It's probably a victim of the whole industry itself in the country that you've short contracts that lads can come. The lads that have followed me are really good lads, really good people, have potential to be better and that's important that everyone comes in to be better," he said.

"And we've kept lads that we've liked in Bray and brought a couple from outside as well so the blend I'm really happy with. We've got a mix of young exciting players with a few older lads as well with experience.

"But the overall theme is that everybody has to prove a point and is hungry to do something."