The latest issue of football magazine Póg Mo Goal is out now, and available to pick up in a few places around the city. Beautifully designed, it features everything from League of Ireland football to features on fan culture across the world. I’ve contributed an article to it looking at some of the most unusual games to have taken place in the historic setting of Dalymount Park, fitting given that the stadium has recently had some rare good news with Dublin City Council taking ownership of the threatened site.
One game I didn’t feature in the piece was the brilliantly chaotic visit of Scotland to Dalymount in March 1913. The game was attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, but the clash is perhaps best remembered for the frosty reception he received and for the rioting that followed the game.
A month prior to the encounter, Ireland had defeated England in Belfast, in a footballing victory that attracted significant media attention, but going into the Scotland game the sides had met 29 times previously – with Scotland winning on 25 occasions. While the majority of the players lining up for Ireland played with English clubs, there were also representatives from Glentoran, Shelbourne and Bohemians in their midst.
About 10,000 people gathered in Dalymount Park for the encounter, but things began badly when the Ireland’s Own Brass Band, on duty to provide entertainment to the crowd, refused to play the British national anthem. Lord Aberdeen, one contemporary account noted, was “received with but a moderate degree of enthusiasm” by the crowd. Neal Garnham has written that the decision of Ireland’s Own not to play God Save The King led to a panic, and that “only the hurried arrival of a military band from the nearby Marlborough Barracks saved the occasion.” Only a month before the game in Dalymount, the presence of the Ireland’s Own band at an Ancient Order of Hibernians event at the Mansion House in Dublin was reported in the press, indicating that there was strong nationalist sentiment in the band. They might not have been the best choice for the occasion.
With the crowd more focused on events on the pitch than any pomp and ceremony off it, it appears they got good value for money with three goals, if not the result they wanted. Despite a Scottish win, the Sunday Independent noted that:
While Scotland won by 1 odd goal in three, they were distinctly lucky to have done so, as Ireland had by far the most of the play, and it was only weak finishing in front of the goal that prevented them following up their victory over England by a success today.
Yet, the clash between Scotland and Ireland wasn’t destined to be remembered for the three goals scored that day. Rather, the events which followed the match saw it make its way into the papers. As Andrew Ward notes in his history of the Scottish international football side:
Arthur Adams blew his whistle to end the game in Dublin and the stage was set for some of the most unruly scenes in the history of international football. Plaqyers fought to keep the ball as a souvenir. Scotland’s George Robertson reached it first, but a spectator, Patrick Gartland, knocked the ball out of Robertson’s hands and Ireland’s Andrews grabbed it. In the struggle which followed, Gartland was knocked over and feared badly injured. Rumours that Robertson had broken the spectators leg spread through the Irish crowd who were already incensed by Scotland-s second goal – there were universal pleas for offside when Alex Bennett scored – and frustrated by Ireland’s failure to save the game after dominating the second half.
For an hour, the Scottish team found themselves largely confined to their dressing room as windows were smashed by angry Irish fans, and Ward has noted that “the Irish mob pursued the Scottish players to their hotel where full-back John Walker was attacked outside.”
Some of the best descriptions of the game come from Ian Paterson’s book Wings of Steel: My Great Uncle, George Clarke Robertson – A Left Winger in the Steel Towns. There, he reprints a contemporary account from a visiting journalist who recalled:
In the midst of a jostling and irresponsible crowd, I watched the melee, and was not sorry, I may tell you, to get out of it. I heard the pavilion windows being crashed in; OI heard the infuriated Dubliners shouting for Robertson to be brought out that they may deal with him; I listened to an excited clergyman in one breath denounce what he called the ‘Dastardly action’ and, in the next, appeal to the sportsmanship of the Dubliners. Can you imagine how relieved I was when I reached the outskirts of that crowd?
The Scottish Football Association minute books of the time note that “Irish FA to be asked what steps they are taking to deal with the leaders of the disturbance at the finish of the International match at Dublin on 15 March 1913, particularly with regard to the clergyman who fomented the regrettable scene and the individual who broke the window of the referee’s room and assaulted J. Walker at the door of the hotel.” In the end however, it appears nothing came of the riotous scenes.
It wouldn’t take long for similar scenes to emerge at a football match in Dublin again. Only a few short months later, during the 1913 Lockout, the ‘Riot in Ringsend’ was the end product of Jim Larkin denouncing Bohemians and Shelbourne for having scabs in their ranks of players. From Ireland’s Own Brass Brand to Larkin’s ITGWU, it seems football and politics certainly mixed in the Dublin of 1913.
Wings of Steel: My Great Uncle, George Clarke Robertson is available to purchase from Amazon.