Sunday 8 December 2019

Overdue plan to renovate Dalymount is a worthy proposal

Attempts to renovate Dalymount Park should not be blocked by begrudgery

There are plans to re-develop Dalymount Park as a legacy of Ireland winning the rights to play four games of the Euro 2020 Championships. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
There are plans to re-develop Dalymount Park as a legacy of Ireland winning the rights to play four games of the Euro 2020 Championships. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Hope can be a real killer. This is a reality that long suffering League of Ireland followers have learned to embrace.

Supporters of the domestic game are often portrayed as hopeless optimists when, in reality, there's a good portion of their ranks who have mastered the art of cynicism.

This is evident when it comes to news which appears too good to be true, especially when it's filed under ground developments and the age old problem of creaking facilities.

Scarred by a proliferation of white elephants, it is generally accepted that the safest response to a fresh idea is the tried and tested 'Believe it when I see it' attitude. Bohemians fans have more reasons than most to pursue the policy.

So, you can understand if they reacted to John Delaney's unprompted comments about a renovation of Dalymount Park with suspicion. In terms of false dawns, Bohs have been there, done that, and couldn't afford the t-shirt.

Delaney's assertion that he is determined to restore the old venue as a Euro 2020 legacy project is intriguing, particularly as he referenced that the government and Dublin City Council have been party to tentative discussions.

This is where Irish clubs have often struggled with stadium ventures; other sports have benefited from strong official backing which recognises the value to the wider community.

And, make no mistake about it, saving Dalymount is an extremely worthy mission. If the 2020 momentum can somehow succeed in making it happen, then it really would do our game a major service.

Honour

It's veering into hyper critical territory to be sniffy about the prospect of four major tournament games in Dublin. Clearly, it's an honour that will provide excitement that would be multiplied ten fold if Ireland were to qualify.

But there's a danger of a hollow feeling if the sum total of four massive gigs is another celebration of a sporting culture dominated by the event junkie. There has to be more to it than that.

The deterioration of Dalymount, 'the soul of Irish football' as Delaney said, should be a source of shame and not just for Bohemians.

It would be impossible to write a history of the sport in this country without relying heavily on images and stories from famous moments on 'Pisser Dignam's Field.' There should have been a collective drive to ensure it was preserved.

Bohs have primary responsibility, of course, and lengthy essays have already been dedicated to the catastrophic golden ticket sale to Liam Carroll which was ruined by the realisation the Gypsies hierarchy had sold a part of the ground to somebody else.

Effectively, this was the equivalent of trying to sell someone a house when there was already a legal arrangement with another party regarding the kitchen.

Regrettably, they spent money in the anticipation the Carroll deal would go through, and they are now burdened by a bank loan worth in the region of €4.3 million.

Maintenance of the ground has suffered with the fiasco of the damaged penalty spot that led to the contentious cancellation of their game with Shamrock Rovers bringing further embarrassment.

For a new generation, the name of Dalymount is synonymous with antiquity and disrepair. Granted, in its pomp, the primitive nature of the facilities was part of the charm but, around the world, plenty of associations have modernised their storied arenas.

On the days when Dalyer is the butt of a million jokes, there is a temptation to conclude that it would be better off bulldozed as opposed to carrying on in a bedraggled state with two sides of the ground unused.

There were two schools of thought when Delaney took the bold step of going public on his vision that would include the relocation of Shelbourne from Tolka Park in a long-mooted groundshare agreement.

The first was drawn from educated caution. Given the scale of Bohs debt and their arrangement with Zurich Bank which was restructured in 2011, it would take a hell of a lot of negotiation and financial clout to make this happen. If the FAI and their partners can wade into these choppy waters and strike a deal then hats off.

The second school, aired on social media channels and also by the fans this writer encountered at Saturday's EA Sports Cup final, is a mixture of shock and outrage from the support base of other clubs.

Indiscretions

Put simply, they view it as Bohs - and possibly Shels - being handed a get out of jail free card for their indiscretions.

That reaction is understandable and it's tricky territory for FAI HQ, although it would be naive to assume that a present would be dished out minus terms and conditions attached. Ownership is likely to be a key word.

Criticism is inevitable - and the FAI has received plenty on these pages - but there is an important geographical aspect to this dilemma. Football is dying as a spectator sport in Dublin's north inner city, an area that used to be the heartbeat of the game.

The emergence of Tallaght, with the support of South Dublin County Council, has succeeded in creating a modernised SSE Airtricity League venue that is now also hosting women's and U21 internationals in addition to other sports.

A similar project north of the Liffey is a must and, in the search for funding, Dalymount is a public cause that officialdom can justify rowing in behind.

If every innovation is blocked on the basis that it would be unfair on the peloton, nothing will ever change. Mediocrity is assured.

Examples have to be set and if a partnership of political and football figures can pull this one off, others around the country can cite that template in pressing their own agenda.

The descent of Dalymount is a sad story which should never have come this far. Any chance to right that wrong should not be passed up.

 

Heroics of prolific Doyle illustrate folly of premature verdicts

The top scorer in England so far this season is an Irishman - again demonstrating that so many of our footballers are late developers.

Eoin Doyle registered his 12th goal of the season for Chesterfield at the weekend. His solitary strike in their defeat at Doncaster was a modest attempt in comparison with his back-to-back hat-tricks in the League One side's previous two fixtures.

Doyle, a former Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers and Hibernian striker, is 26 years of age and in the best form of his career. His exploits have surprised some observers.

It took a pair of managers with League of Ireland knowledge to bring him across the pond with Pat Fenlon bringing him to Hibs and ex-Sligo supremo Paul Cook then luring the Dubliner south.

Doyle, 23 when he left Ireland, is now likely to come onto the radar of bigger clubs.

There are numerous anecdotal tales about how reticent cross-channel clubs are about moving for Irish-based players once they pass a certain age.

Dundalk have an exciting young group that has attracted plenty of visitors to Oriel Park, but the fact that the main attractions are in the 21-23 age bracket has bred suspicion.

This is a short-sighted attitude that will eventually be somebody's loss - as many cases have proved - so it would be wrong for Irish minds to get sucked into that mindset.

Chris Forrester, who certainly needs to become stronger and more consistent, again highlighted his potential with a stunning goal for St Patrick's Athletic on Friday.

Frequently, worry is expressed that the English dream will never happen for the playmaker. At 21, he still has time on his side and plenty of encouraging precedents.

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