Despite my heart belonging on Dublin’s Emmet Road with Saint Patrick ’s Athletic, my house is across the city and up a hill in Cabra. Walking towards the city centre, I pass the floodlights of Dalymount Park on an almost daily basis, icons of domestic football that are undoubtedly nicer on the eye than the brutalism of the Phibsboro Shopping Centre and office complex which towers over the stadium.
Dalymount Park was opened to the public in September 1901 by Lord Mayor Tim Harrington, a popular figure in the city who held the office for three successive turns. A crowd of over 5,000 watched Bohemians defeat Shelbourne on that occasion, with the game finishing up 4-2. Well over a century on, it seems that these two clubs may ultimately find themselves both as tenants of the Dublin City Council in the historic venue with a possible groundshare on the cards.
Despite its current dilapidation in places, it has witnessed some incredible moments in Irish football history and indeed in broader social history, with Bob Marley famously performing there in 1980 at one of his last outdoor concerts. Here are a selection of iconic matches played at the Dublin 7 stadium, and even a ridiculous event for good measure.
Ireland 5-2 Germany
The German football team had a perfectly pleasant time in Dublin, beyond the 90 minutes on the pitch in Dalymount. Hosted in the Mansion House by the ‘shaking hand of Dublin’, Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne, they endured something of a drubbing in Dalymount Park on 17 October 1936. The German side gave the Nazi salute as their national anthem was played in the ground. The Irish Times had nothing but praise for the Irish side, with their reporter noting that; “In my close on 40 years experience of Association football, I have not seen any Irish team play with greater verve, dash and persistency”. Copies of the match programme, complete with swastika insignia, have become highly sought pieces of memorabilia, fetching hundreds of Euros at auction.
Ireland 3-2 Poland
We’re lucky in 2015 to have an Uachtaráin who lives and breathes Irish football, but in the 1930s it was considered sacrilege for the nation’s President to attend an Association Football match, as Douglas Hyde would discover. The decision of Ireland’s first President to attend Dalymount Park in the winter of 1938 caused something of a moral panic for many in the Gaelic Athletic Association, leading to Hyde’s removal as a patron of the sporting body. His crime? Breaking the infamous ‘Rule 27’, and the promotion of a ‘foreign game’’. The Irish Times was scathing in its criticism of the GAA, following the removal of Hyde, by insisting that “the loss will be to the GAA. Their little victory over President Hyde will be pyrrhic, because the head of the State will continue to be the representative of all the people, and not of any clique, however large it may be”. The crowd in Dalymount responded to the presence of Hyde at the Polish game with a standing ovation. Hyde, who had presumably committed some sort of ‘anti-national’ sin by attending a garrison game kick-about, watched the match beside Oscar Traynor, a veteran of the 1916 Rising and a former Belfast Celtic goalkeeper who would later become President of the Football Association of Ireland
Yugoslavia 4-1 Ireland
It is not often that one has to pass a Legion of Mary picket on their way into a football international, but that is exactly what confronted those who attended Ireland’s friendly with Yugoslavia in October 1955. Dublin’s Archbishop, John Charles McQuaid, was a seemingly unstoppable force in Irish political life, hell-bent on keeping Catholics out of Trinity College, sex education out of school and communists out of Dalymount Park. Yugoslavia had emerged from the Second World War as a Communist state under General Tito, and the perceived ill-treatment of Catholics in that country had brought thousands onto the streets of Dublin at demonstrations in the 1940s. When the FAI extended an invitation to Yugoslavia to play in Dublin, McQuaid publicly called on Dubliners to boycott the game. Did they? Almost 22,000 attended the clash, meaning that it’s fair to say McQuaid took a greater hammering than the Boys in Green on that occasion. Philip Green, the celebrated RTE match commentator, famously refused to commentate on the match, citing his Catholic faith. Liam Tuohy, who was lining up for Ireland, would later recall that the Yugoslav players blessed themselves in the tunnel before the game, leading him to remark that “there were nearly more Catholics on their side than there were on ours”.
Shamrock Rovers 0-6 Manchester
United September 1957
A huge crowd of 45,000 saw the Busby Babes of Manchester United take on Shamrock Rovers in 1957. One of the names on the scoresheet on that occasion was Liam Whelan, a local lad from only a stone’s throw away in Cabra. Whelan lined up for United, and sadly was one of eight players to die in the Munich Air Disaster a year later in 1958. The Hoops went in only one nil down at half time, but the class of United was just too much and after the break the floodgates were well and truly opened. Four goals came in the last twenty minutes. One young man who was in the crowd was Eamon Dunphy, who remembered years later that there was a great buzz in the city with the visit of the Manchester side; “Rovers’ fans were a minority among the crowd. Most simply wanted to be there to see the English champions we had read and heard so much about”.
Bohemians 3-2 Glasgow Rangers
The chant ‘3-2 in the 84’ has entered Bohs lore, and while the Phibsboro side have disposed of Scottish competition in Europe in the past (just ask Aberdeen), they were ultimately knocked out ofEurope by Glasgow Rangers in 1984.Still, their home victory in the first leg was a huge achievement for the Dublin club. However it was totally overshadowed by the atmosphere inside the stadium, where Union flags and Vatican flags were to be found burned in opposing ends of the ground. In a colourful account of what it was like in the away end on that night, a Glasgow Rangers fan recalled on the 25th anniversary of the game “I noticed what appeared to be a railway sleeper being positioned by our supporters near the edge of a wall above the tunnel from where the police had emerged, ready to be dropped on the next police charge”. Bohs came from behind twice in front of a huge crowd, and Rangers boss Jock Wallace had little good to say of the travelling support, stating that; “what we saw here tonight was a disgrace to football and a sad reflection on Rangers club”. At a recent function to mark the 30th anniversary of the fixture, David ‘Rocky’ O’Brien who scored against the Glasgow side, recalled, “I remember the goal I scored against Shamrock Rovers the Sunday before because I hate Rovers more than I hate Rangers”.
‘Football With The Lid Off’
Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin are two names you may not expect to pop up in an article looking at historic matches in a Phibsboro football stadium, but they’ve both graced the pitch of Dalymount Park. In a way. In the 1950s, an annual charity match between members of the press and stage drew big crowds. Actors dressed as Éamon de Valera, Churchill and Stalin ran around madly on the pitch in 1952, with the goals barricaded and TNT ‘explosives’ adding to the festivities of the occasion. The game remained an annual event for much of the 1950s. The Irish Times report of the 1957 fixture noted that “Nobody knew who won the game, but the referee, Dr. Kevin O’Flanagan, announced that it was a draw. Brendan Behan led a movement for the ref’s hanging: this was almost carried out”.
Donal Fallon writes for Come Here To Me, a group blog that focuses on the life and culture of Dublin City. Music, history, football, politics and pubs all feature. www.comeheretome.com
This article appears in Issue 2 of Póg Mo Goal magazine, the new Irish football publication focused on considered design and great writing from around the world. It’s available to order here.