Wed Oct 2, 1974 – Bohs 0 Hamburg 1
This where I should employ artistic license, and describe how momentous an experience my first Bohs match was. The raw passion of the crowd, the taste of the half-time Bovril, the thump of boot on leather, the smell of the freshly-cut grass, my first view of the hallowed pitch as I walked up the steps onto the Phibsboro end corner of the Connacht Street terrace. But the truth is, I don’t remember much about the game, other than it was raining and Hamburg scored a last-minute winner to knock Bohs out of the UEFA Cup. Why did I go? A mixture of reasons. I had got a taste for live football from watching two Ireland matches. Leeds were playing the same night in the European Cup, and I obviously couldn’t go to that, but I hoped I could get the same buzz by watching Bohs. And I did. It didn’t matter that it was raining, or that the crowd was much smaller than at Ireland matches, or even that Bohs lost. I returned the following Sunday for the first league game of the season, and saw Turly O’Connor intercepting a back-pass to score the winning goal against Saint Pats. That was enough to immediately propel Turly alongside Johnny Giles in my pantheon of childhood heroes.
My support for Bohs was probably less to do with the fact that Dalymount Park was the home of Irish football, and more to do with the fact that it was just a few stops along the 19A bus route from my home in Willow Park, off Ballymun Avenue. However, I soon became familiar with the history of the new secular cathedral that I visited every second Sunday. In the late 1800s, Phibsboro residents had grown vegetables beside a children’s play area in ‘the Pisser Dignam’s field’. A young football club called Bohemians had bought the field from the Monck estate, renamed it Dalymount Park, and beat Shelbourne 4-2 in the ground’s inaugural game on 7 September 1901.
Harold Sloan of Bohs, who went on to play for Ireland and who was killed in the First World War, scored the first ever goal at Dalymount. In 1902 Bohs joined the Belfast-based Irish League, and in 1903 the Irish FA moved their Cup Finals to Dalymount. In 1904 Ireland drew 1-1with Scotland in the venue’s first international, and Shels became the second Dublin team to join the Irish League. In 1908 Dalymount hosted the first all-southern Irish FA Cup final. 8,000 fans packed the four open-air wooden stands surrounding the pitch, and saw Bohs and Shels draw 1-1, followed by a 3-1 replay victory for Bohs.
In the 1920s, a new steel stand was built at the middle of one side of the pitch, and the galvanised steel boundary fence was replaced with a ten-foot concrete wall with twenty turnstiles. In the 1930s, the new stand was expanded, and terracing and crush barriers added, based on plans drawn up by Archibald Leitch, designer of Hampden, Ibrox, Goodison and Anfield. In the 1940s, a well was bored at the schoolhouse end to keep the pitch watered. In the 1950s, new terracing was added on the Connacht Street side, and in 1962 Bohs played Arsenal in the ground’s first game under the now famous floodlights.
By the 1970s, Dalymount was a proper football stadium. With its solid stand, expansive terracing, large looming floodlights and famous ‘Dalymount Roar’, it looked and sounded just like the sort of ground I saw every week on BBC’s Match of the Day. Make no mistake about it, this was football.