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Tomorrow sees Bohs first home League game of the season, and to coin a phrase, all has changed, changed utterly. We’re lucky to have a team on the pitch, never mind a team who, despite their youth, fight like lions for possession and give it their all as seen over the last couple of weeks in the Setanta Cup and our first League game against Derry. I don’t think anyone can be disappointed with the effort put in so far.

But, to the point. Tomorrow evening, at six o’clock or so, I’ll make the journey up North Circular Road. Coming to Mountjoy Prison or there-abouts, I’ll see the beacons in the distance that are the floodlights of Dalymount Park. And then I’ll start to get the jitters. They signify the start of something, generally a night of beer, shouting my head off, beer, football, camaraderie, beer, shouting my head off again and a sense of ‘home.’ They signify everything I love about this League, a feeling those who follow a foreign team might get if they were to make their yearly trip to Old Trafford or Anfield every week instead. But they don’t, and won’t ever feel it the same way. Its a feeling of pride/ despair/ love/ heartbreak/ joy/ pain. (Insert where appropriate.)

Anyways, the reason for this post. Yesterday, the seventh of March was the fiftieth anniversary of the installation of floodlights at Dalymount Park. One of the most striking features of the Phibsboro and indeed the North Dublin skyline has been around for a full half century. How old they are is anyone’s guess when you think the pylons themselves came from Arsenal second hand, and they were guest opposition on the event of their unveiling. Below is a scan of the programme cover from that night, shame I can’t find the match report.

So, for half a century, the phrase “just follow the floodlights” has been used when directing visitors to Dalymount. For half a century, people have been feeling that same feeling I do when I’m walking up the NCR on a Friday night. I can’t wait for it tomorrow, that feeling never grows old. This isn’t the end, and we told you so. Come on Bohs.

Cheers to Giofóg from thebohs.com messageboard’s Da  for uploading the scan, and Dotsy for the picture above.

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My one true love...

Fair play to you Dotsy, original is available in bloody massive format here… It is unbelievable how much I love spending time in this stand.

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Officially adopted in 1894… were the three golden rules; never say die, keep the ball on the floor and the best defence is attack

From “Bohemian Times.”

The Bohs team of 1890

I’m in the process of doing an article on the famous Bohemians FC team from the Golden era of the late twenties, so was delighted to find the above picture posted by JayCarax on thebohs.com forum; the picture is from 1890, the year of Bohemians birth. “The first set of jerseys worn were white with two red down stripes front and back, and a red star of David on the right breast, with black shorts.” Brilliant.

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In an article way back in April, when the IMF was still a bogey man the government used to terrify the unions, I wrote a quick piece on an auction taking place at the famous Whyte’s on Molesworth Street. On sale at that auction was a 1929/ ’30 Free State League winners medal- won that year by Bohemian FC.

So, when I heard the below picture was on sale at an auction in Dalymount with all proceeds went to Bohemian FC, my ears pricked up. What better way to satisfy three of my favourite things; Bohemians, history and photography than by buying this. I may have paid a little more than I thought I planned to for it but I myself think it was worth every penny.

Words cannot describe how chuffed I am to have this in my possession (click for larger image)

You may not be able to buy a clubs history, but you can hold onto a little bit of it, and thats what I feel like now. I don’t really feel like I own this picture, indeed, when Bohemians iron out this little blip it our history like I’m sure we will, I’ll most likely donate this picture to the club. Or maybe that’s just my optimism, hoping that the torrid time we’re going through is just a blip. But what else do we have to hold onto?

Autograph of J. McCarthy (fourth from left in main picture)

I’ll be getting it framed and mounted in the near future. When I get that done, I’ll check back in here, and give you some history behind a great era in Bohemians history, not unlike the one just passed. A bit of trivia before I go; the shed- like structure in the background are the old dressing rooms. Because of the corrugated iron on the roof, the structure got the nickname “The Hut,” now the name of the pre-game drinking hole in Phibsborough favoured by many a Bohs fan.

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The gem of a picture that accompanies this piece was spotted in Friday’s Metro by a good mate of mine. Now, I know the domestic season is over, the cup final done and dusted (with a deserved victory for Sligo Rovers, and their ex- Bohs talisman Joe Ndo) but this takes the biscuit, really pushing us as a nation of barstoolers to the limit. We often wax lyrical on here about the League of Ireland, no it doesn’t draw the masses, and no, its not always sexy. But its ours, and thats what counts. So seeing ads like this is a real slap in the face for the League- Football is not much better when watched from a pub, its much better watched from the steps of the Jodi Stand in Dalymount Park, or the shed in Richmond Park, even the bloody lego stand in Tolka Park is better than a pub.

Football is certainly not much better when watched from a pub. Photo credit, Ciarán Mangan

With the season over, I’ll miss the football. And considering our current predicament, this time next year I could be saying I’m missing Bohs. The thoughts of it are depressing. We are in danger but fans are rallying behind the club. Donations are coming in fast, and some very generous ones at that. Even a bunch of Sligo Rovers fans passed on some money on Sunday to go towards the €300, 000 needed for us to retain our license for next season. More of a reason to have cheered for the Bit o’ Red yesterday. I’ll do another piece on the subject later in the week but as well as the donations, there’s a fundraising night and a monster raffle being held in The Phoenix Bar, Dalymount Park this Saturday night, details here. I’d urge, not only Bohs fans but all LOI fans to drop in. I know we joke about “the league needs a strong Rovers,” but where would we really be without Dalymount Park? The original home of Irish Football, and a place that truly deserves National Monument status.

So that’s why when I was sent that picture above, a number of feelings stirred in me. Pity, for those who remain oblivious to their own national League. Contempt for the same people. Anger, at the short-sightedness of the advertisement. And sadness, that only if some of those the article targets made the effort to come to LOI games, clubs like Bohs, and Shams, Derry and Cork before them wouldn’t be in the situations they are/were in. You can stick your barstools where the sun doesn’t shine. Football is much better when watched from the steps of Block G.

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I had a dream last night. It went like this. Its a cold, dark Friday evening;  I am in Dalymount Park, on the steps of Block G in the Jodi Stand. With ten minutes to go in the League of Ireland’s last round of games, Shamrock Rovers are trailing 2 – 1 to Bray in the Carlisle Grounds and Twigg has just been sent off for dissent. Bohemians are drawing 1 – 1 with a scrappy Dundalk team here in the home of Irish Football when Paddy Madden is brought down twenty yards out from goal, right in front of us.  After some pushing and shoving, the wall is brought back the required ten yards. Killian Brennan takes four steps back, makes the run up, before gloriously dipping the ball over the wall and… well, I woke up.

The cruel things life does to you. Waking up mid- dream is one thing, but having a real life dream turn into a nightmare is another. Last week,  Bohs were on the pig’s back, (some might say literally,) needing two wins over an injury struck Galway side (who, despite their lowly position have caused us problems all year) and a Dundalk team we’ve beaten twice already this season (and, well, lost to once.) We all know what happened. Galway won 3 – 2 and dare I say it, the ramifications sent tremors down the spines of League of Ireland fans everywhere. It left Shamrock Rovers in pole position to win their first league title in 6, 066 days precisely. While on Friday’s performance, Bohs don’t deserve to win the League, that isn’t going to stop me wanting them to win it.

Pat Fenlon has chastised his players, saying he doesn’t want to see them until before this Friday’s showdown with Dundalk. Captain, Owen Heary has admitted that the team wasn’t up for the fight. Where were the battling qualities present for the unbeaten run stretching back ten games prior to Friday? Thats the question every Bohs fan is left asking. The possibility of an historic three-in-a-row has likely gone amiss. And yet they were still applauded off the field by the travelling support. Certainly not as a gesture of thanks for their performance over the previous ninety minutes. More a salute to the last three years; a goodbye and a thanks for the memories. They had better remember that this Friday if they’re going to finish this season with their heads held high.

We pray to the Spirit of Hunt to lead us to a miraculous three- in- a- row

I spoke in the build up to the Dublin Derby of 2010’s run- in being a battle of the bottlers, and while it makes for heartbreaking rather than heart racing football, that’s what it has become. Bohemians look set to part with, whether they can miraculously clinch the title or not,  a great period in their history. Three fantastic years, some heartbreaking moments aside, that will stick with me in the bleak times ahead. The squad of players that we have now will leave come season’s end, there’s no doubt about that. And with some of those players reported to be making a move to Tallaght Stadium, it will sicken me to see former players (and one in particular who has grafted for Bohs when others played like they couldn’t be bothered,) turn out in green and white next season.

Two League titles, Setanta Cup Champions (and by default, Champions of Ireland,) a League Cup and an FAI Cup in three years. People say we shouldn’t be looking to the past when the future is scarily unclear. What does it hold? In the short term, Pat Fenlon has said he will honour his contract, which ties him to the club until 2013. And while I would love to see the most successful League of Ireland manager of recent years to stay with the club, at his current rate, we just can’t afford him. He says he’ll field a team of kids next year if he has to, and maybe he’ll get the required out of them, hopefully so.

Pat Fenlon's Bohemians in a pre-season friendly against Drumcondra, 2011.

The days of players chasing big contracts around the League have thankfully come to an end; and while the circumstances that have led to this are unfortunate, at least it might bring some realism back to the LOI. Three years ago, there were players making more at Bohs than some players in the upper echelons of the English Championship. So who knows, a part- time Bohs next year may still be able to field a team, if only because players won’t be able to find a wage elsewhere. Bleak times, preceeded by an amazing past.

A bleak future, preceeded by an amazing past. Bohemian FC of 1907/08, from Storie di Calcio

All this talk of dreams and nightmares and the chance of victory, however remote, is still there. This Friday, come 21:35 or thereabouts will tell whether I’m a visionary, a lunatic for having hope or just an unwavering dreamer. To be honest, I couldn’t care less which if things go our way. Maybe I’m mad for holding onto the vague hope that we can do it. But isn’t it madness that drives most of us to follow this league of ours anyways?

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So there you have it. The morning after the night before. When I posted on Monday, I wasn’t in any great confidence about Bohs chances. I was hoping, praying for a result, a goal in off Ken Oman’s arse would have kept me happy. But what I got last night was Bohs playing their hearts out for ninety minutes and getting the result they, and the crowd, deserved. For those in Red and Black sang solid for the whole game, before and after too, creating arguably the best atmosphere in Dalymount Park this season; the Roar was back with vengeance. And while we wait and plead for Rovers to slip up against Sporting Fingal this weekend, the win last night was not only about the result; something that was amiss seems restored.

After the disaster that was TNS and the Champions League, the defeat to Galway and the drubbing to Rovers in Tallaght, a certain something had been lost between team and fans that seems to have been restored last night; that something being pride and passion. For there is such a thing as playing and losing admirably with a certain pride, that was not what Bohs were doing. They were losing miserably, to Galway. Who had nine men.

Oh Jayo, Jayo- You used to be a...

On the back of last nights victory though, can we say that the tides have turned? The run in for Bohs consists of St. Pats, Galway and Dundalk. Two of those teams we’ve struggled against badly this season. The run in for Rovers consists of Sporting Fingal, Bray and Drogheda. Now under normal circumstances, you would say that the league is a given for Rovers. But after capitulating to UCD last week, and last nights hammer blow from Bohemians suggests that its not wrapped up yet. Could Fingal do us a favour and turn Rovers over this weekend? Could Bohs still win the elusive three in a row? Its hard to know.

Has last nights performance come too late? Keegan and Cronin played like men possessed in the middle of the park, the Rovers middle three barely getting a sniff in, with the majority of their attacking play coming down the wings. Shelley and Oman (silly back pass aside) were solid at the back, and Powell was a constant threat with his storming forward runs. And Jason Byrne, what else do you say only he’s been Bohs only player to score against Rovers in over two years. And what a goal it was.

And while the night was spent on tenterhooks, the elation after the goal (where everyone suddenly found themselves eight steps away from where they started) and the final whistle, with the majority of the Jodi staying and waiting for the team to come out for the warm-down (in what was obviously a feel good exercise orchestrated by Nutsy,) the singing and chanting continuing apace while the players jogged up and down in front sections F&G,  felt special. People were walking into the bar lightheaded and speechless. There were smiles on faces, of disbelief and joy. Smiles that said “We could win it yet. ”

I hope I'm not going to be kicking myself for this...

Three games to go. And while Bohs are relying on Rovers to bottle it again, if the team plays like they did last night, there will be no despair come the seasons end. Much of this season has been spent in pessimism, with horror stories about the Club’s finances and tales of striking players and unpaid bonusses. Win those games and those tales might be forgotten. Win those games and we may speak of Bohemians’ glorious 2010 battle for three- in- a- row for years to come.

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As a Bohs fan, the “Quote of the day” in the Guardian gave me a laugh last Friday, the day after Rovers ahem… “historic” victory over in Tel Aviv in the Europa League Qualifiers. While I won’t begrudge them their glamour tie / day in the sun / whatever you call it tonight, I’ll watch it, and  the return leg with interest and my heart being pulled two ways- hoping to see an Irish side do well against a time of Juve’s stature, and at the same time, hoping Rovers fail miserably in everything they do.

But anyways, the quote. It wasn’t the comment from Juventus forward David Lanzafame that got me giggling but the remark after it:

“We do not know Shamrock Rovers and therefore we have to study them through videos” – Juventus forward David Lanzafame looks forward to next week’s Big Vase third round qualifier against Irish side Shamrock Rovers in Robbie Keane’s hometown of Tallaght. If Juventus lose, they won’t be the first Old Lady to have been mugged in the notoriously rough Dublin village.

A bit harsh you might say? Never… But considering what the majority of LOI fans call our Wicklow brethern, the accompanying picture spoke a thousand words…

The Guardian get it so right...

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On the fourth of August, a League of Ireland selection will take on Manchester United Football Club in the new stadium at Lansdowne Road. Before we go further, that’s what we call it around here. Lansdowne Road.

The day after this, Shamrock Rovers will take on Juventus on Italian soil, in a crucial competitive match. Juventus and Manchester United, two football giants no doubt. Unlike the Shamrock Rovers side taking on Juventus however, the League of Ireland selection are playing for nothing. They’ve never really trained together before this, they play for a wide variety of teams. They’re not a team themselves, and they’ve been chucked together for a glory friendly. To be frank about things, this isn’t the best time either.

Why? Look at the League table. Bohemians, Saint Patrick’s Athletic, Shamrock Rovers and more besides stand a very realistic chance of lifting the League. So far, it’s been rollercoaster stuff, with nobody running away with it and surprises and upsets coming in thick and fast. In the midst of this, I’ve heard this game referred to in the media on multiple occasions now as a ‘pre-season friendly’. This is not a pre-season friendly for us. This is a match that couldn’t be timed much worse in truth.

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Typical enough sign in a Belfast boozer.

I’ve long been fascinated by F.C United of Manchester.

A football team unlike any other, they are owned by supporters and represent football in its truest form. Cheap tickets, fan culture and a sense of community. The demise of Manchester United F.C as a community entity ultimately paved the way for a club like this in Manchester, and FCUM enjoy cult like support in Manchester and beyond. The idea of seeing them take on North Belfast side Cliftonville at the West Belfast home of Donegal Celtic F.C was an appealing one, so up we went.

The three Come Here To Me contributers were joined by Luke, one of the Bohemian F.C faithful. Our understanding of football from the north-east is generally limited to Setanta Cup experiences in truth, with Cliftonville, Glentoran and Linfield being among the sides that southern teams frequently encounter in the competition. We’ve never been to Donegal Celtic Park, and are advised by a friend of one of the lads to taxi it, owing to the distance from the city centre. This city is soccer crazy in a way few are, everyone from Oscar Traynor to George Best kicked a football up here remember. The taxi driver is a Crusaders man himself. Everyone has a team.


“I am an F.C fan
I am Mancunian
I know what I want and I know how to get it
I want to destroy Glazer and Sky….”

FCUM have brought great support with them, several hundred fans are in the shed and they chant for 90 minutes. Cliftonville don’t bring many, though to their credit are fresh from a pretty impressive Euro victory and this game isn’t even in their own home stadium. We get in to the ground just as FCUM score, and the place erupts. The connection between the fans and players is excellent, and they feed off one another.

A Glagow Celtic/ F.C Sankt Pauli banner inside the stadium

One thing you notice straight away, and unlike any kickabout at Richmond Park or over on the northside, is the absolute lack of police inside the stadium. The amazing pride Donegal Celtic obviously have in their ground is clear too, a beautiful clubhouse and ground in perfect order meets the visitor. Post match, which Cliftonville win comfortably following a most impressive second half comeback, we’re in the company of both sets of supporters and fans of Celtic, Aston Villa and other clubs.

Belfast is a top class city, and much is owed to Donal, a friend of one of our own lads now at home there, for showing us around the pubs. A 1am bus home, wrapped in a new FCUM/Cliftonville scarf, and our day was over. A long way from the League of Ireland, and far more exciting than any Setanta Cup trip North.

FCUM, come back!

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The Champions League; The most-watched sporting event worldwide, with an estimated 100 million viewers every year. To most football fans in Ireland, it means following the progress of an English or a Scottish team; generally one of those same six teams who appear every year with little variation. It means pubs in Dublin City Centre packed with replica jerseys and loud mouthed punters wearing them. It means people with no material allegiance crying meaningless tears for a team they’ve never seen live, and yet who they still refer to with a mythically inclusive “we.” (In my book, “supporting” doesn’t involve buying a jersey in Lifestyle sports and then sitting on your arse watching games on telly.) It means opposition like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, a long run in the competition and a feeling of unwarranted superiority for followers of the winners.

Sure wouldn't it look great in Dalymount Park

For the majority, it doesn’t set the heart racing at the thought of a trip to the town of Oswestery, in Shropshire, to take on a team once monnikered “Total Network Solutions” in the second round of the competition. Well, for those who follow glory with a British team it doesn’t. For me, as a fan of Bohemian FC, it means absolute unbridled joy, hope and living with the feeling that my chest is going to explode until the games, both home and away are over. For Bohs are set to take on Welsh Champions “The New Saints FC” on the 13th and 20th July, and I intend to be at both games. The New Saints, or TNS for short don’t exactly match up to the glamour of the Champions League. They’ve only been in existence for fifty odd years and play in a ground that seats 1,000. Their claim to fame is losing 6-0 on aggregate to Liverpool  in the same round of the competition five years ago, when Irish keeper Gerard Doherty played a blinder and Rafa Benitez claimed he was the best player on the pitch. But, this is still the Champions League, its Europe, and a level that most English Championship clubs, and never mind that, most Premiership clubs will ever again experience with the European monopoly held by a small elite. So for that I respect TNS.

Not exactly the Bernabeu, this is Park Hall, TNS' home

But whilst British teams get back page spreads in Irish papers, the role of League of Ireland teams in the competition is often relegated to bit parts and side columns. And yet there have been famous victories in Europe; Bohemians alone have beaten Rangers, Aberdeen, Kaiserslautern amongst others in various competitions. Games that will be talked about for years, some, like the Rangers game, for ever. But inevitably, with the victory and joy, such as that expressed after moments like Glen Crowes goal below comes defeat and pain. Saddness. Utter dejection and humiliation. It’s all very well for those who say from the outside “Ah well, sure they gave a good account of themselves.” These words do nothing to alleviate the grief.

Last year, Bohemians were seven minutes from knocking out Salzburg, a team bankrolled by Red Bull, who play in an ultra-modern 31,000 all seater stadium and who have International players earning in a week what the average Bohs player takes home in a year. And what follows is the true meaning of joy followed by dejection. Bohs went to Salzburg, and thanks to this save from Brian Murphy, and a cracking goal from Joe Ndo went home with heads held high and an away draw. And while I didn’t make that game, the scenes of adulation in the members bar in Dalymount Park will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’ll be honest and say, yes, I cried.  The following week, Bohemians held on for 85 or so minutes, in which they had a couple of chances to put the game beyond Red Bull but (though some in the media said inevitably, I’d think otherwise) slipped up and a silly back pass meant Red Bull took away a 1-o lead and a passage to the next round. My feelings leaving the ground that night are hard to explain. I hadn’t felt that bad for years and haven’t felt that bad since. Truly heartbroken, in depths of despair, feeling pain, anguish, sorrow.

"That" goal by Salzburg. The author of this piece is just out of shot. Thankfully.

But, as they say, thats football, and hopefully this time around, results and luck might go our way. For winning this tie means at least another four games in Europe- Two in the Champions League third round, and if we fail in that attempt, a crack at the Europa cup in the final qualifiying round where we could be pitted against English or Scottish opposition. Where then will the allegiances of average Irish football fan lie? I’d like to think that a run in Europeans elite competition might do the league wonders but to be honest I’m sceptical. What I would like is for Dalymount to be packed to the rafters on Tuesday, 13th July, and should we pass through to the next round, have the same again. We’ll see.

For ticket details, keep tuned to http://www.bohemians.ie

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Geography dictated that I would be a Saint Patrick’s Athletic supporter.

As a youngster, I remember my Dad couldn’t walk too far in the stadium without spotting a neighbour from Palmerstown, or the older days in Ballyfermot. This Is(n’t) England, you’d be a laughing stock if a Galway youngster decided he or she was a Derry City fan, or a Derry youngster became ‘Bohs Til I Die’. We don’t do it that way, you take what you get. The Liffey, the county border markings and local history dictate these things. Suburbs all go in together.

Glenville Football Club however are right on my doorstep. I don’t play football (I’m dire), but I follow it. I don’t know too much about the local Football Clubs, but Glenville have come to my attention recently owing to the fact they’ve drawn League of Ireland champions Bohemian F.C in the Cup. A big day out, to say the least.

We are located off the Kennelsfort road in Palmerstown, Dublin 20 in the Community School

You can nearly spot them from the door.

Hopefully, local residents will come out in force to support them in the clash. It’s not going to be easy, and it would probably be one of the largest upsets in the history of the Cup, but imagine. The local pubs can, and it’s probably a pretty picture. The club were founded in 1997, and spend their weekends in Senior 1A.

If we want to see football grow as a local, community game – a Glenville F.C victory wouldn’t be a bad thing!

Sunday June 6 @ 3.00 in Richmond Pk. FORZA PALMERSTOWN!

The Silver Granite pub, image taken from http://www.glenvillefc.com

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