With the League of Ireland season having just kicked off recently, it’s high time I reflected on my trip to Dalymount Park last summer, especially as the next couple of seasons will be the last chance for groundhoppers to see it in its classic form…
The Home of Dublin Football
Dalymount Park is without a doubt Dublin’s most historic ground.
Back in the days when football in Ireland was still played on an all-island basis, Dalymount became the first ground outside of Belfast to host the Irish Cup Final (and remains one of only two to ever have done so, the other being Coleraine’s 1975 triumph over Linfield after a trilogy of games held at the Ballymena Showgrounds) and also hosted occasional Irish internationals.
After the creation of the Irish Free State and the split between the Belfast-based IFA and the FAI, Dalymount became the preferred host of FAI Cup finals and many of the new international side’s matches. But time and a lack of investment gradually caught up with the old ground. With the boom in interest caused by the Irish team’s success in the late 1980’s, more and more internationals went to the Rugby ground at Landsdowne Road to cater for increased public demand. The last fixture held there was a friendly against Morocco in 1990.
The same year saw the cup final moved to Landsdowne, though it would return for a few years in the late 1990’s, its last one being Shelbourne’s 1-0 victory over Bohs in a replayed final in 2000.
Aside from Bohs, several other clubs have called Dalymount “home” at some stage of its existence. The ill-fated Dublin City and Sporting Fingal both played games there during their brief lifespans. Even arch-rivals Shamrock Rovers would share the stadium during the 2005 League of Ireland season, as they awaited the completion of their new Tallaght stadium, having previously used it for European games when their historic home ground was deemed not to be up to the required standard.
It’s not just football teams that have made it their home though, it was also a concert venue for many years hosting iconic concerts by Thin Lizzy and Bob Marley and the Wailers, both of which are immortalised on murals at the ground.
Bohs’ away kit for the 2019 season was designed to commemorate the Bob Marley concert, with suppliers O’Neill’s coming up with a kit which incorporated a shadow print of his face on the torso. Unfortunately for them, they hadn’t realised the company they purchased the image from didn’t in fact have permission to licence it.
The kit was altered, Marley’s image being replaced by that of a clenched, raised fist representing solidarity, strength and unity, and was still one of the best kits I saw last season. In addition, a proportion of the profits from the sale of the jersey went to a fund aimed at facilitating Asylum Seekers living under Direct Provision attending games at Dalymount.
The club’s away kit this season has continued the theme – teaming up with Amnesty International to display a logo saying “Refugees Welcome” in place of sponsor Des Kelly Interiors.
❤️It is with great delight that the Bohemian Football Club, made possible by @DesKellyIE, unveil our 2020 @ONeills1918 away jersey, a partnership with @AmnestyIreland— Bohemian FC 🔴⚫ (@bfcdublin) February 12, 2020
Full launch at 11am
Available now at https://t.co/SD2ZEn0mZu pic.twitter.com/wHVMTJ8m0Q
Dalymount is located in the Phibsborough area of north Dublin, not far from the island’s biggest stadium, GAA HQ Croke Park.
You can catch the green line of the LUAS team service (Phibsborough stop, just a short walk from the stadium) or take one of a number of buses from the city centre – there are too many options to list here. Or you could do what we did, walk from O’Connell Street, stopping off in a number of the city’s finest drinking establishments along the way.
It didn’t really take us that long, although maybe the sky filled with threatening-looking grey clouds made us walk a bit faster.
It felt like we took a bit of a long way round to get in, but it at least allowed us to enjoy the displays of graffiti outside the entrance.
It was a big Dublin derby day – not the big one, that’s Bohs v Shamrock Rovers – but still a big one. St Patrick’s Athletic were the visitors in a game which would have a huge bearing on the battle for the European places.
We had seats in the Jodi Stand with the home fans, away fans were in the stand to our left behind the goal. The stand opposite us was empty while to our right, the terracing behind the goal only served as a place for home fans to display their banners.
We were sitting at the opposite end from the main singing section, but the atmosphere carried pretty well throughout the stand – not that the home fans really had much to sing about in the first half. It was almost all one way traffic as St Pat’s had almost all of the ball and created the best chances, including one which took a great save from Bohs’ goalkeeper
Just before the break, we got a goal but not at the end that had seemed most likely. Bohs’ Ryan Swann profited from a moment of indecision between the St Pat’s goalkeeper and a defender to nod the ball home and give his side the most unlikely of leads. And while I’m not the world’s biggest fan of goal music, I can certainly forgive it when it’s this good!
After a half time trip to the club shop (including the mandatory scarf purchase) and a quick perusal of the food options available, it was back to our seats for the second half. While St Pat’s still had most of the possession, they couldn’t make it count and were hit with a couple of late sucker punches. First, a penalty awarded for handball was converted by Conor Levingstone and then in injury time Swann scored his second, tapping in after another shot was deflected into his path.
And as a final treat, while we shuffled out of the ground, we heard to this song playing over the speakers. While not exactly up-to-date (the references to BSkyB and the Wimbledon move to Dublin place it firmly in the 1990’s) I had the hook stuck in my head for weeks afterwards.
All together now… “I’m a Bohs Maaaaaan”
Sadly the wet weather continued throughout the rest of the day so we weren’t able to truly make the most of the day down in Dublin but the football part of the day was definitely a success!
The old Dalymount is not long for this world. Refurbishment plans have been on the table ever since Bohs sold the ground to Dublin City Council in 2015 but have been slow to progress. The years since have seen the plans scaled down from a projected 10,000 capacity to 6,000 seats. It will also be a community hub with flexible space for public events, meeting rooms and a library.
At present, Bohemians will remain for both the current 2020 season and 2021 before sharing Tolka Park with Shelbourne in 2022 and 2023. Both sides will then move into the new Dalymount in 2024.
I look forward to visiting the new ground in the future, but I’m glad I was able to see the classic Dalymount at least once before it becomes all shiny and new. And you should too!