FORMER Ireland international Tony O’Connell welled up with emotion when he recalled the day when a League of Ireland XI took on, and overcame, an English Football League XI which was managed by Alf Ramsey and contained four of the players who would go on to win the World Cup with England within three years.
The setting for that game in 1963, and for so many other great days in Irish football, was Dalymount Park.
A place which was almost lost to sport but is now, finally, with the hand-holding of Dublin City Council and Government backing, getting a lifeline as a new state-of-the-art football stadium capable of hosting the great names once again, the ‘new’ Dalymount already spoken of as a training base for one of the teams for the Euro 2020 finals.
If a symbol for the excesses and madness of the Celtic Tiger years was needed, we now have Dalymount Park to rival the shell of the Anglo HQ on the north quays. Valued at €60million during the boom, Dalymount Park will now change hands for an effective price tag of €3.8m.
But instead of falling into the hands of vulture capitalists across the Atlantic, Dalymount could become a hub for culture vultures, football-savvy tourists and a large chunk of the Dublin population who have never pushed through one of the turnstiles at Dalymount before.
Last Friday night, the members of Bohemians voted overwhelmingly (one ‘no’ vote) to back a plan would would effectively see the club hand over control of Dalymount – the club’s home since 1901 – to Dublin City Council who will then revamp the ground into a modern football facility.
A gym could attract locals, a football museum may get the tourists in on their way to nearby spots like Glasnevin museum, and Bohemians will have a home.
For some, there’s sadness that Bohs no longer own their home but, as their bank debts of €4m have been cleared with this deal, their future – and a future for Dalymount as a football ground and not more apartments – is the bigger picture.
“We have lost ownership of our ground but the second-best thing is that we have secured our future here and we are delighted with that,” said club president Matt Devaney.
The ground has steadily and sadly declined since World champions Italy played in 1985 and since Zinedine Zidane played there, for the second time, in 1995 with Bordeaux.
Should his teenage son, a promising talent, return to play in the near future, he’ll have a story to tell his pop.