Dalymount Park – A new era

Hidden away amongst rows of terraced housing, St Peters Road and Connaught Street sits the crumbling Dalymount Park.

Some of the nearby landmarks are typical Irish – ‘the Missionary of the Sisters of our Lady Rosary’ stands nearby. A narrow lane that stems from the wide North Circular Road leads to the main facade of the stadium.

The contrast with the redeveloped Aviva Stadium (the one time Lansdowne Road) is huge. For many Irish football fans this is the true home of soccer in Ireland but its been devoid of loving care for years.

Bits have been demolished, some new seating has been installed but its now a mix match of old and new. 

Dalymount Park sits in the Phibsborough area of Dublin, north of the River Liffey. Surrounded by narrow back alleys, terraced houses, back gardens and retail shops the ground mirrors its surroundings – rundown, crumbling and in need of some redevelopment and care.

Outside the stadium are the obligatory fan stickers, largely all affiliated to the resident football club – Bohemian FC. Amongst these sits one tellingly symbolic message.  The words provide a hint as to why Dalymount Park is so rundown.

‘F*** the FAI and the GAA’ says the sticker.

Dalymount Park stands as a victim of the lop sided nature of sport in Ireland.  While both Croke Park (the home of GAA) and the Aviva Stadium (home of the FAI and IRFU) stand as modern monuments; they also stand as structures to sports considered minority sports everywhere else in Europe.

In Dublin’s fair city where the stadiums can be pretty, the rundown Dalymount is working class through and through. Yet somehow this ground still plays host to top level League of Ireland soccer.  

As 2024 gathers pace is the end in sight for this venue or are we on the verge of something new?

April and the rain crashes down in Dublin as the clouds overhead hide a sun breaking through – no wonder the grassy pitch is so green given all the rainfall in Ireland.  Tourists in central Dublin rush into the numerous pubs for cover or seek out an umbrella or poncho.

You could never say you come to Ireland for the sun.

The patch of land where Dalymount stands has a rich background for more than simply football.  This area of Dublin was once an area of lush vegetable plots that grew enough potatoes, carrots and turnips to feed locals ten times over.

Founded in 1890 Bohemian FC were a club with a rather nomadic early existence – probably unsurprising for a club known as the ‘Gypsies’.

Eventual settlement at Dalymount Park did not arrive until 1901. Before then the club had played its football in Phoenix Park and on a patch of grass that eventually became Croke Park – the home of the GAA.

The first football game played was a fixture between Bohemian FC and local rivals Shelbourne on the September 7th 1901.

In front of 5,000 fans a 4-2 win was secured for the home side in surroundings then quite basic. The grassy pitch was surrounded by simple iron fencing and rope barriers.  The pitch was as bumpy and uneven as some of the plots that still stand nearby.

International football first came to Dalymount Park in 1904 when the ground hosted an Ireland v Scotland friendly match.

At this time football in Ireland was overseen by the IFA based in Belfast. International challenge matches in Dublin were few and far between with Belfast the home of Irish football. As a consequence of the increasing social tensions in Ireland, Dublin did not see any international football between 1913 and 1924.

The FAI (Football Association of the Irish Free State) was founded in Dublin in 1921. Increasing tensions with the predominantly Unionist and Belfast based IFA came to the fore and football in the south was always going to go its own way.

Southern Ireland had gained independence as the Irish Free State in 1922.

By 1924 Dalymount Park was the home of football in the South and it would soon welcome teams from all over the world.  An Irish Free State side played at the Paris Olympics that year.

The first International guests to a free Ireland were a US national side in June 1924 and thereafter the ground hosted a number of matches of the Eire side.  Qualification matches for the FIFA World Cup events and UEFA European Championships happened here.

Matches of the Republic of Ireland national team eventually moved to Landsdowne Road in the 1970’s, but international competitive football continued to be played at Dalymount well into the 1970’s and 1980’s.  It was at here in 1983 that the Maltese were defeated 8-0 in qualification for the 1984 UEFA European Championships.

As with the national side, so domestic football followed a similar pattern.

The resident club side – Bohemian FC – withdraw from the Irish League in 1921. Along with Dublin’s other traditional sides they were one of the founding members of the League of Ireland.  Soon Dalymount Park became a stronghold of the Irish Free State league.

A total of 5 domestic titles and numerous cup wins were enjoyed at the stadium as Bohemian established themselves as one of the top football sides.  Tightly packed terracing saw large crowds within a metre of the touchlines.  Dalymount helped confirm soccer as the true sport of Ireland’s working classes.

Dalymount Park today is a real curious creation in these days of modern stadia across the globe.  Not so quaint or appealing for some it remains loved and traditional by the few thousand who watch Bohemian FC weekly.  

The main entrance to Dalymount Park is reached via a sort of narrow back alleyway from a row of terraced houses.  At the end of the alley is a iron gate entrance with a ‘Welcome to Dalymount Park’ sign.

There is artwork a plenty some of which makes reference to the famous musicians who played concerts here – Bob Marley and Thin Lizzy or murals to Bohs fans sadly no longer with us.

While the original main stand is now gone, some of the original infrastructure remains as does the surroundings – which includes the spire of the local St.Peter’s church.  Post Hillsborough much needed restructuring happened following serious crushing at some international friendly matches but the stadium largely remains a relic.

In 1999 the old iron and wooden main stand was replaced by a more modern structure called the Jodi Stand which has capacity for under 3,000 fans.

Opposite the main stand was an open grassy topped standing terrace, most of which was knocked down and now operates as a car park.

But this area of the ground remains largely unopened on match days.

Behind the goal stands a construction called the Des Kelly Carpets Stand stood. But while parts of the old Shed end can still be seen just behind its now a covered area long gone. A floodlight thrusted skywards through the roof.

The other end of the ground – the Tramway End – has been closed completely in recent years and match days see a stadium with only two open areas for fans.  From the heights of the 1950’s when almost 50,000 would pack in the ground, now Dalymount has the capacity to hold little more than 4,500 fans.

At the height of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years the board of Bohemian FC voted to authorise the sale of the ground to property developers. The strategic idea was to develop the land on which the stadium stood into flats for investment.  A purpose built ground would be created for the club on the thriving outskirts of the city with the money earned from the sale.

However, by late 2009 the Irish economy collapsed with the property sector particularly hit.

Whilst Shamrock Rovers (who shared the ground with Bohs) have moved to a purpose built ground in Tallaght, Bohemian FC look like remaining at Dalymount Park for years to come.

Any future modernisation ideas for years remained just that – concepts and ideas.

Then in 2024 came an announcement.

Dublin City Council stated they had approved an application for the redevelopment of Dalymount Park  with the Lord Mayor calling the venue:

‘An iconic stadium that will provide a modern municipal facility that will not just be of benefit to Bohemian FC but also the wider North Dublin Community.’

The current plan is to develop a new four-sided municipal stadium (c. 8,034 capacity) featuring a pitch reorientation.  In addition new stands to the east and west side with provision for c. 6,240 seats and two new terraces to the north and south with provision for c. 1,794 standing will be created.

The first phase of enabling works, including the demolition of the Connaught Street terracing, have now been completed and the current timeline for completion of the redeveloped stadium is the commencement of the 2027 season.

Football often plays second or third fiddle to other sports in Eire with the GAA backed Croke Park and the IRFU backed Landsdowne Road at the heart of Irish sport.  Millions of people come to Dublin every year for reasons other than football.

Dalymount Park, despite its rich historical footballing past remains now only a relic of Irish football history but it looks like a new chapter in its history is around the corner.

Thanks to its rundown stands and ramshackle appearance it currently stands as a symbolic reminder of a more current though no less turbulent period in Irish history.

Enjoy it while you can.

You can see the full range of images from Dalymount Park here.