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Archive for the ‘Football Articles’ Category

There was a lot of interest in a post earlier this week looking at football hooliganism at Richmond Park in the 1970s and 1980s. Outside the scope and timeframe of that article was the UEFA Cup Clash between Saint Patrick’s Athletic and Heart of Midlothian F.C in Tolka Park in 1988. Clashes at this game were photographed by the media, and this fantastic image was printed in the Irish Press on the day following the fixture:

Irish Press capture violence at Tolka Park, 1988.

The Saints were defeated 2-0 in Tolka Park by their Scottish opponents, but as one match report noted:

The loss of the match will be difficult enough to bear, but the behaviour of some of the estimated 8,000 people who came to watch may cost them dearly. Spectators carrying Glasgow Celtic flags and Irish tricolours inscribed with the letters IRA gathered under the popular stand and in the second half threw missiles onto the pitch causing the referee Harry King from Wales to draw the attention of the officials and the Gardaí to this behaviour.

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A youngster is shielded from missiles during a clash between Saint Patrick’s Athletic and Waterford United at Richmond Park, April 14 1986.

Writing in the Irish Press in 1972, one sports journalist asked with tongue firmly in cheek why was it that “Irish footballers are not able to emulate English footballers to some small degree, when their supporters have no trouble in successfully aping the cross-Channel hooligan element.” While football violence in Ireland never reached the level of that in the U.K, the media was awash with stories of the hooligan threat to the Irish game in the 1970s and 1980s. This brief article will look at one Dublin stadium, Richmond Park in Inchicore, and see when ‘hooliganism’ was reported on in the ground during the period.

Much of the Irish media coverage of soccer hooliganism in the 1970s centered around violence in British football. The Irish Times for example quoted Magistrate Grahame Hands in March 1974 when he demanded “labour camps for soccer hooligans.” Considerable space was given to reporting the antics of ‘firms’ at some of Britain’s leading clubs.

Clashes between Shamrock Rovers and Saint Patrick’s Athletic fans in March 1972 brought the issue of soccer hooliganism in Dublin out of the sports pages and into the national news section of the mainstream media, with a youngster stabbed during a terrace fracas. Disturbances at Richmond Park between both sets of fans, the second example in weeks, brought The Irish Times to note that “the FAI can do very little about these occurrences once they do not interfere with the actual match”. The Irish Press would write that “Shamrock Rovers, like their great Glasgow contemporaries Rangers and Celtic, should declare WAR on the hooligans who are dragging their club’s name down to gutter-level.”

The stabbing of a youth in Inchicore put real pressure on Shamrock Rovers, who pledged to stop those banned from Miltown Road attending away games as supporters of the club:

Violence in Irish football in the 1970’s and 1980’s was not confined to Shamrock Rovers, or indeed Dublin. Clubs like Sligo Rovers, Bohemian FC, Linfield, Dundalk and others had witnessed clashes and violence, with the August 1979 clashes between Linfield and Dundalk fans entering Irish football folklore for their viciousness. Journalist Peter Byrne wrote of those clashes, when he stated that

This was the night when the concept of All-Ireland club football was killed stone dead. Two hours of raw, naked tribalism on the terraces of Oriel Park convinced even the most reformist among us that the dark gospel of the paramilitaries has permeated Irish sport to the point where all attempts at reconciliation are futile.

Richmond Park found itself on the front of national newspapers in January 1977, following clashes on the football pitch which would see two footballers hospitalised. Pats goalkeeper Mick O’Brien and Home Farm left-winger Terry Eviston sustained injuries following assaults on them by fans, and the referee had to be taken off the pitch. Dozens of fans made their way onto the pitch, and St.Pat’s manager Barry Bridges pleaded with angry supporters over the P.A system not to attack match officials or players. The game finished in a 2-1 victory to the Saints.

Richmond Park witnessed little in the line of football violence in the 1980s, but some incidents of note did occur. In February 1980 it was reported that Shamrock Rovers supporters “chanted slogans of a political nature”, and chanted their support for Celtic, during a Dublin derby encounter. Reports of a brief fracas between both supporters featured in coverage of what sounded like a thrilling game on the pitch.

25 February 1980 (Irish Independent)

25 February 1980 (Irish Independent)

Perhaps the most serious violence the stadium has ever witnessed though was to come later in the decade, on a day that proved embarrassing for club officials and the Football Association of Ireland, and sparked a media frenzy. On 13 April 1986, Saint Patrick’s Athletic welcomed Waterford United to Inchicore. The clash was a FAI Cup tie, yet it would make the front page of the following days newspapers for all the wrong reasons. Violence on the Inchicore terraces marred the clash, which was to be the first defeat inflicted on the saints in 20 outings. The game was a crucial FAI Cup semi-final, and the two sides went into the game at 1-1. It ended with a 4-2 win to the visitors on aggregate.

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The word cloud above is a pretty shocking indictment of the state of Association Football in Ireland, and is taken from the Supporters Direct European Fans’ Survey report on the beautiful game in Ireland. Supporters were asked to give two words they felt described the running of the sport here in Ireland. Some 1,509 Irish fans took part in the survey, with almost half of these coming from Shamrock Rovers and Cork City. The report is available to read in full here. The bigger the word appears above, the more often it was listed.

Last weekend, fans from around the country met in Cork to discuss the state of the game in Ireland and the campaign to build a real Supporters Trust here. A message of support was read from President Michael D. Higgins, and in addition to Irish clubs there were fans and representatives from AFC Wimbledon, FC United of Manchester and others in attendance.

Our friends over at The True Ball have written up a report on the conference which I’d recommend reading if you’re a League of Ireland supporter, casually or religiously!

It is evident from this report that a desire to see the League of Ireland survive in a long-term sustainable fashion is foremost in fans’ minds, hardly surprising given the clubs that have come and gone in recent years. The distrust of the FAI is also evident. But so too is the sense that, certain barriers aside, these objectives are achievable and more importantly, desirable.

Drogheda United fans earlier this season.

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From Ultras-Tifo.net

Ultras-Tifo, one of the leading sites for photos of fan actions across Europe, have collected together images of Shamrock Rovers supporters away to Sligo on Friday night. Traditionally the last night of the season is always a colorful one. In the past, we’ve done a ‘In Review’ post at the end of each season showing the actions from Dublin League of Ireland fans over the course of the year, and I’ll be getting that together following the Cup Final next weekend.

I’m not sure who to credit these excellent images to, as I’m taking them direct from Ultras-Tifo, but naturally the photographer must be Irish based so if you know who took these images let us know as it’s always nice to tip a cap in the right direction.

While Sligo had just won their third title, and their first in 35 years, Shamrock Rovers fans chose the 17th minute of the match to begin this spectacle, as they have taken 17 titles.

From Ultras-Tifo.net

From Ultras-Tifo.net

While Sligo Rovers fans also lit their fair share of flares on the night, you have to smile looking at their response banner to the pyrotechnics show above.

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A brief look at the attempts to bring Wimbledon F.C to Dublin in the 1990s.

Wimbledon F.C

One of the most interesting disputes in the history of ‘The Beautiful Game’ in Dublin was undoubtedly that around proposals to bring Wimbledon to Dublin in the 1990s. Backed by a number of high-profile supporters, a consortium attempted to move the team here and rebrand them as the ‘Dublin Dons’. This caused considerable anger among fans of the domestic league, and the issue featured heavily in the mainstream media.

Wimbledon Football Club spent much of their football history at Plough Lane, an old-fashioned football stadium in Wimbledon, south-west London. Wimbledon had played in the ground since September 1912, but by the 1990s the ground was lagging behind and did not meet the required standards. Crystal Palace would become the landlords of Wimbledon, as the club groundshared at Selhurst Park for a period.

Among those who backed the campaign to bring Wimbledon to Dublin were Eamon Dunphy and Paul McGuinness, manager of U2. The developer Owen O’Callaghan and Dunphy were instrumental to the plan, as the hope was for Wimbledon to play their games at a stadium O’Callaghan planned to construct in West Dublin. This stadium, located in Neilstown, was intended to hold an impressive 40,000 seats. The first meetings between O’Callaghan and the owners of Wimbledon Football Club occurred in April 1996.

When O’Callaghan first met with Sam and Ned Hammam, owners of the football club, he was joined by Dunphy and McGuinness. O’Callaghan and the consortium who wished to bring Wimbledon here found common ground and interest on the matter through O’Callaghan’s planned Neilstown stadium. The prohibitive costs of that venture, coupled with a belief it would not be used to its full potential, meant that it was seen as an ideal ‘home’ for Wimbledon to relocate to. In April 1996 it was reported the consortium were urging O’Callaghan to begin quick construction on this ground, in the hope it could be completed by the 1998 football season. Among those who backed the plan to create the ‘Dublin Dons’ was the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, who in August 1996 publicly proclaimed that English Premiership football could bring huge economic benefits to Dublin.

With the domestic game, Damien Richardson was one of the few who backed the planned move to Dublin, noting that “I feel their presence here would raise the profile of the sport in Ireland and the League would benefit”, while Brian Kerr took the opposite view, believing such a move would be devastating for the domestic game, already competing with English soccer for media coverage.

Plough Lane, the historic home of the club. (Wiki)

Opposition to the planned move from lovers of the domestic game was strong. Around 200 supporters packed into Wynn’s Hotel for a meeting in September 1996. At that meeting, Niall Fitzmaurice announced that the arrival of the “Wimbledon Dons” would mean the “death of the National League within five years”, and he went on to state that those behind the proposal had purely financial motivations claiming “they have no love for the game.”

Protesting Wimbledon fans (Irish Independent, Dec. 8 1997)

The idea of moving Wimbledon to Dublin naturally upset many supporters of the club, with scenes of protest inside and outside their matches at Selhurst Park in 1997. In December of that year,Sam Hammam responded to a demonstration by Wimbledon fans following a one-nil win over Southhampton by telling the media he would “probably do the same thing” if he was a fan, but insisting that “Dublin is a fantastically sexy option, what else can I say?” Hammam even claimed that had he wanted it, he could have had the club in Dublin already, insisting that “the only reason we aren’t there is that I’ve chosen not to do it.”

A 1998 poll carried out by Lansdowne Market Research for the Irish Independent claimed that two out of three Irish adults interested in the game of football were in favour of Wimbledon moving to Dublin, but the F.A.I were among the most vocal critics of the idea, with the then Chief Executive Bernard O’Byrne insisting to the paper that all F.A.I surveys within the Irish football community told a very different story in terms of support for the proposed move.

In a brief piece on the Dublin Dons, soccer-ireland notes that:

The cost of the Dublin Dons project was estimated at £100 million (€127 million) including the stadium construction, road, rail and security infrastructure, £5 million for the FAI, £5 million for the League of Ireland clubs, and the provision of a number of football schools of excellence around Ireland.

Ultimately, the opposition of the F.A.I would prove crucial to preventing the move, with Bernard O’Byrne outlining the Associations opposition to the move in a five-page letter sent to the chairmen of every Premiership club in 1998 for example. Likewise, UEFA and FIFA opposed the idea, which proved a crippling blow. Interestingly, in one media interview Bernard O’Byrne mentioned the infamous Lansdowne Road riots of 1995 and asked “do people want 5,000 English football fans every fortnight in Dublin?”. Wimbledon were eventually moved to Milton Keynes, against the wishes of many of their supporters. This new relocation, while keeping the club in England, still ripped the club from its historic heartland. The club fell into financial crisis, and in 2004 was totally rebranded as MK Dons F.C. Out of opposition to the clubs relocation, some fans set about establishing AFC Wimbledon, who currently play in League Two of the Football League in England.

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Great protest banners appeared earlier on tonight at the clash of the Rovers when Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers met in Tallaght Stadium. The game was shown live on Setanta Sports, and moved to Monday to facilitate that. The moving of the clash annoyed fans of both clubs enough to make a clear point on the night. Such vocal statements from supporters are becoming more and more common in the league in recent times and in my eyes that can only be a good thing.

Image via ‘forzarovers.net’

Shamrock Rovers fans protest banner.

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…thankfully. Can you imagine if there were two?

We’re big fans of these stickers appearing across the city, taking a shot at John Delaney and the Football Association of Ireland. Following his recent pay cut, John now takes home €360,000. Hard times.

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