Dalymount Park – Bigger than the Game

Dorothy Smith & Jackie Bourke.

Located in the Dublin suburb of Phibsborough, Dalymount Park has been the home of Bohemian Football Club since 1901. The grounds quickly grew from very modest beginnings to become the much loved ‘home of Irish football’, in its heyday, from the 1940s to 1960s, attracting crowds of up to 46,000. Safety concerns and the televising of football games led to gradually diminishing crowds from the 70s onwards with the current capacity of the grounds just over 4,000.

In the 120 years of its existence the physical space within Dalymount has been constructed, amended, adapted and extended to cater for its fluctuating fortunes. The resultant stadium is a fascinating mix of architectural structure and detail, a palimpsest of collective effort and a holding space for generations of attachment and memory.

Dalymount is an anomalous space; located in its original urban setting; hidden behind terraced housing and a 60s shopping center, the only hint as to what lies beyond being the soaring 125ft/38m floodlights installed in 1962.

In the early 1930s the club secured the services of renowned football stadium architect Archibald Leitch. He extended and improved the main stand, installed the concrete terracing and over 30 ornate cast iron turnstiles. This terracing complete with the then recently patented cast iron crush barriers can still be seen at the ‘Tramway End’ and four of the turnstiles are still in use at every match.

The original wooden 1930s Leitch Stand was replaced by the Jodi Stand in 1999. The space beneath the Jodi Stand houses a warren of offices,  bars, changing and store rooms and has been the hub of the club’s administrative and social life for 90 years.  The interior space ranges from the  original tongue and groove wood panelling in the home dressing room to 70s style red banquets in the bars.

Dalymount Park is full of  stories and memories. The great Pele played here with his club Santos in 1972. Ireland played the world champions Italy at Dalymount in 1985, over 45,000 fans, many without tickets,  turned up. The decision was made to open the gates, avoiding a possible catastrophe; fans were on the roofs of Jodi and Des Kelly Stands and were lining the pitch perimeter. Ireland lost but indelible memories of that night and many others are still handed down through the close networks of friends, family and community.

Although primarily a football venue, Dalymount has a history of organising and hosting other games and events. In the 1930’s Dalymount hosted carnivals. It once boasted tennis courts, a croquet pitch, snooker and darts competitions. The latter were held in the dressing room. In the 1950’s and 1960’s teams comprising celebrities from the world of the stage and journalism, the Crackpots and the Ink-blots, played annual fund-raising matches which attracted capacity crowds. From the 1970s to 90s many  bands played in ‘Dalyer’ including Meatloaf,  Status Quo,  Bob Marley,  Thin Lizzy, The Boomtown Rats and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The stadium, now in the ownership of Dublin City Council, will soon undergo another significant change. It is due to be demolished and a municipal football stadium built in its stead. It will remain the home ground of Bohemian FC. Today Dalymount Park is a landmark space which sits poised on the threshold of transformation.

About the contributors

To capture a sense of place Jackie Bourke and Dorothy Smith developed a creative mapping project; ‘Dalymount Park: Mapping a Unique Architectural Space’, funded by the Arts Council of Ireland Engaging with Architecture, 2018. The project involved interviews, walking, talking, photography and drawing and resulted in the video ‘Dalymount – Bigger than the Game’ and the publication ‘Dalymount – The Colouring Book’ . Both can be seen at https://www.creativeurbanmapping.com/

All images © Dorothy Smith & Jackie Bourke

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