Tonight's match at Dalymount Park was really enjoyable. Bohemians at home to Drogheda United, the Pride of Louth, about 120 km north towards Belfast.
It was touch and go whether I would see any action. I asked for the bus to Dalymount and with the rich Dublin accents, as thick as a peat bog, they put me on the bus to Dollymont-I think. It was back in July 1968 I was last at this venerable old stadium-where Ireland also played in those days. It was a testimonial for Liam Whelan and Manchester United and George Best packed the place. Also called 'The Gypsies' they have played and won more matches in Europe than any other Irish club and lost to Red Bull Salzburg this season. Eleven League championships, including back to back wins the last two years, and seven FAI Cup triumphs are part of their rich history.
Now their home since 1901 is a shell of it's old glory. Three of the four sides are dangerous and cordened off, but the main stand was rocking as I arrived 30 minutes late. The outside is like a war zone and I had to grab a taxi when I realisd the bus was the wrong one. The main and only entrance is in a narrow alley and dangerous if more than 3,000 show up. I did get a splendid welcome when I did make it. What a friendly bunch and 120 years history. In 2006 they sold the stadium for 65,000 Euros with the intention of moving to a 10,000 capacity purpose built ground near Dublin Airport, but there have been court cases and delays.
The match was an Airtricity Premier League match and the double size programme had combined last Fridays home match vs UCD (University College Dublin) 0-0, lovingly edited by Stephen Burke. I found the shy Jim O'Connor in a tiny shed plastered with scarves and banners from clubs around the world. Please send him more. www.bohemians.ie. He is an enthusiastic fund raiser and jack of all trades for the Bohs. He also got me into the room for the half time cup of tea which I enjoyed with chocolate biscuits and lemon cream rolls.
On the cover of the programme, which he gave me, was a team photo of a 1948 'Old Cocks' game prior to Bohs v UCD, Golden Jubilee match at Belfield, The Old Bohs won 3-2. The match tonight was skillful, enthusiastic and passionate with the home team in their red and black stripes dominating as the game neared its conclusion. Midfielder Ruaidhri Higgins climbed high and mightily to head the only goal and the winner two minutes from time for the three points. I was also impressed by the refereeing of the bald headed Richie Winter who was calm, fit as a butcher's dog, and clear and precise with his calls and signals.
The couple of hundred fans from Drogheda in maroon and sky clothing chanted throughout and one banged a big drum while others waved gigantic flags in support of their lads who wore their away strip of yellow and blackon the pitch. The Windmill Road Gang and Famous 45 Ultras did their team proud, and consummed great quantities of fat, greasy chips, (french fries) at the interval.
Earlier in the day I had taken a bus to gentile Landsdowne Road, where both the rugby and football internationals were played. It is now the AVIVA Stadium, Staid Aviva in Irish, www.avivastadium.ie, and will host the 2011 Europa Cup Final.
The new National Stadium of Ireland, a 21st century steel clad birdsnest of a structure which should be completed in 3 months or so. It still has the train station outside in one corner with the tracks alongside and the River Dodder on the other. It will hold over 50,000 and will be more cozy than the wide open spaces of Croke Park, both codes temporary home for the last three years and the 80,000 capacity headquarters of Gaelic Games.
The field is much wider and longer for gaelic football and hurling with football fans too far away from the action. I was present for the first ever football match allowed there, Ireland v Wales.