Write for Red Inc.!

The fanzine is a publication written and produced by volunteers to give Shelbourne fans a voice particularly given the club’s ownership and structure denies them a real stakeholding and voice within the club. The club is essentially undemocratic despite the financial contribution and volunteer hours given by fans.

The following guidelines are intended to help contributors understand the ethos of the fanzine, their responsibilities, and to help with the ease of its’ production.

1) Contributors should refrain from personal attacks. Criticism (preferably constructive) of the actions of those involved may be legitimate, but attacks on a person’s character, insofar as it is not relevant or distinct from their official capacity, is not.

2) It is the responsibility of those submitting articles to ensure the article is put through a spell and grammar check. All contributors doing this will save the editor a considerable amount of time.

3) Where possible we would appreciate it if all contributors would play their part in promoting the fanzine either by word of mouth or via social media. We always strive to promote the fanzine as much as possible, but it is likely you can help us reach potential new readers.

4) Contributors should avoid submitting articles anonymously. If the submitter of the article is not known to the editing team, they should identify themselves.

5) While the fanzine is a not for profit publication, remember it still needs to operate within the legal framework of the state’s libel laws.

Please send all submissions to: redsindependent@gmail.com

RI Quiz 2- May 8- answers!

Nice one to everyone who took part in the quiz this week, here are the answers!

Round 1:

  1. 2008
  2. California (3).
  3. Belfast Celtic.
  4. Qatar
  5. Juventus, formed in 1897, Barça 1899, Bayern 1900.
  6. Brazil (men’s), Germany (women’s).
  7. Brazil (7:0 in 1982).
  8. 1985/86.
  9. Germany, Spain, France, USSR, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, and Portugal.
  10. Benfica (37).

Round 2:

  1. Lily Allen.
  2. From Home To Home.
  3. 3 (Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal).
  4. 1963-64.
  5. Fiorentina
  6. Spain, England, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Romania, Yugoslavia, France.
  7. Thirteen
  8. (Both v Wales).
  9. Two
  10. They’re related. Keane’s grandfather and Morrissey’s father are cousins.

See you next week!

RI Quiz 2- 8 May 2020

2 rounds in this week’s quiz- good luck all!

Round 1

  1. What year was the UEFA Intertoto Cup last played for?
  2. Which US state has the most MLS franchises?
  3. Who did Shelbourne beat to become the first Dublin club to win the Irish Cup in 1906?
  4. Which nation won the last Asian Cup in 2019?
  5. Which is the oldest football club, Barcelona, Juventus, or Bayern München?
  6. Which nations took the gold medals for football at the 2016 Olympics?
  7. Against which nation did the Republic of Ireland men’s senior team suffer their heaviest defeat?
  8. What was the inaugural season of the League of Ireland First Division?
  9. How many nations have won the European Championship (including European Nations Cup)?
  10. Which club has been crowned champions of Portugal on the most occasions?

Round 2



  1. The father of which well-known female singer-songwriter co-wrote the England Italia90 song World in Motion?
  2. What was the name of the first Shels fanzine, first published in the 1980s?
  3. How many Canadian sides play in the MLS?
  4. What was the first season of the German Bundesliga?
  5. Which Italian side plays at the Stadio Artemio Franchi?
  6. The European Cup/Champions League has been won by clubs from the leagues of how many different nations?
  7. How many sides took part in the first FIFA World Cup in Uruguay in 1930?
  8. How many men’s full internationals has Tolka Park staged?
  9. How many All-Irelands did Kevin Moran win?
  10. What connection is there between Robbie Keane and the artist Morrissey?

Email your answers into redsindependent@gmail.com or DM them to the Twitter account. No googling or conferring!

RI69 July 2020

Hollywood, organised crime and Red Inc… the only things untouchable by economic forces. RI69 is in production but will not be out in late May. Our intention was to then release an issue for July at the end of June when the League marked this as a provisional return date.

LOI football won’t resume at the end of June, but we are working towards that as a deadline nonetheless. Although we sell 90-95% of our fanzines outside the ground, if football has not returned at that point, we will look to release a limited edition RI69 by post.

It will be a limited edition run of 125 (years of the Reds). Cost will be €5 TYD Ireland, €6 overseas. This is all of course dependent on our printer operating business as usual. We’ll keep you updated.

In meantime, we are seeking your articles, opinions, letters, ideas, pictures, cartoons, piss-takes and anything else that is relevant to football but particularly the Reds and the LOI.

If you have an article or piece you would like to submit please send it to: redsindependent@gmail.com


RI Quiz 1 – answers!

Nice one to everyone who took part! We’ll get around to messaging you all over the next few hours or so! Here’s the answers:

  1. Israel
  2. FC Nordsjælland.
  3. Shelbourne and Derry City.
  4. Kilkenny City.
  5. They won the German championship.
  6. Mardyke, Flower Lodge, and Turners Cross.
  7. Sunderland with 6. Newcastle have 4, Leeds 3.
  8. Germany.
  9. Franz Beckenbauer.
  10. Kaká.

RI Quiz 1 – 1 May 2020

1 May 2020

10 questions- we don’t know if there will be prizes yet!

1. Which national side has competed in World Cup qualifiers in three different continents?

2. Which Danish Superliga side plays in the town of Farum?

3. Which sides played in the first League of Ireland match broadcast live on tv?

4. Which former League of Ireland club once had a fanzine entitled Every Man a Football Artist?

5. What was unusual about Rapid Vienna’s national championship win in 1941?

6. Which three Cork grounds have staged Irish senior men’s full internationals?

7. Which club has the most English titles? Leeds United, Sunderland, or Newcastle United?

8. Which country is scheduled to host Euro2024?

9. Which former West German international played for Bayern München, Hamburger SV, and New York Cosmos?

10. The Ballon d’Or was won by either Ronaldo or Messi from 2008-2017. Who won it in in 2007?

Email your answers into redsindependent@gmail.com or DM them to the Twitter account. No googling or conferring!

Tolka Park: A History- Part 2

The 1940s had ended on a high for the supporters who frequented Tolka Park. Drumcondra were established as one of the top sides in the country, winning consecutive titles. There were often sizeable attendances at football fixtures around the country, though neither as large nor as frequently as nostalgic recollections might suggest, and this was also true of Tolka Park. The next decade would see innovations that would stand the test of time with Tolka Park at the forefront of these changes. Despite success on the soccer pitch, gates from football matches alone weren’t enough to run a football club, and the venue continued to be at the heart of entertainment in Dublin.


In June 1951 ‘The Gorgeous Gael’ was the headline attraction on the “all-in” wrestling card at Tolka Park. A colourful character to say the least, Jack Doyle was one of Ireland’s first celebrities. Described later by Eamon Dunphy as a “piss artist boxer” a string of 10 straight victories at the start of his career as a heavyweight boxer showed no little talent and brought him a wave of attention which he rode, to both fame and fortune. Having earned a shot at the British Heavyweight title, he was disqualified in the bout, causing a near riot in London in the process. He translated this sporting notoriety into a fledgling film career and discovered a tenor voice that could pack out concert halls. He went to America and caroused with the likes of Errol Flynn, seducing both the heiress to the Dodge motor fortune and her daughter. Celebrity took its toll on his sporting career. He quit boxing in 1943 and within a few years had squandered both his fortune and a marriage to Hollywood actress Movita. Alcoholic and homeless, Doyle sought to re-invent himself as a professional wrestler.


Doyle’s fame drew a huge audience of almost 23,000 to Tolka Park, possibly the largest “official” attendance ever recorded at the venue. His opponent was another former boxer, “Two Ton” Tony Galento, who in 1939 had fought against Joe Louis for the world heavyweight title. Earlier in the year, Galento had beaten Doyle in London, breaking the Irishman’s rib the fifth round. This time, the tables were turned in dramatic fashion, as “The Gorgeous Gael” lifted the American on his shoulders and spun him around. Both men crashed out of the ring, into the laps of the spectators below. The American’s head cracked against the concrete, while Doyle recovered quickly enough to beat the count and was declared the winner. Another card was arranged for the same venue the following year, with Gargantua, “The German Giant” as Doyle’s opponent, however rain intervened, and the promoters were left with a significant loss. Thus that June 1951 evening in Tolka Park was to prove a final highpoint for one of Ireland’s most tragic sporting figures.


In 1952 Tolka Park was headline news, but not for sporting reasons. Ten years previously a confrontation had taken place there between two gangs. Given the weaponry involved on the day it was lucky that no-one had been killed, with only the intervention of some players preventing serious injury or death but now there would be a final, fatal outcome of that notorious day.


Patrick J Synnott, a 21-year-old coal merchant from the Coombe, had spent the day of February 27th drinking. After closing time, he and friend retired to a milk bar, Mac’s Cafe on Ormond Street, where he was having a cup of Bovril when Christopher Genockey, 31, entered. According to the Synnott’s own testimony, he had mentioned something about the “Tolka Park Affair” which Genockey overheard and said “Shut up you are too young to remember about it” Synnott replied “You are not too young and I heard nothing about you being in it.” He then alleged that Genockey said “I am going to do you” and struck him twice before Synnott pulled a knife and stabbed Genockey once in chest, killing him. Though Synnott had sought to get his adversary to hospital, upon being told that Genockey was already dead Synnott fled the scene immediately and disposed of the weapon. He handed himself in to Newmarket Garda Station shortly afterwards.


The prosecution case was that the quarrel dated back 18 months to when Genockey had punched Synnott. The accused denied that he had ever any dispute with, nor intended to injure the victim that evening neither did it have anything to do with gang rivalry. Synnott was found guilty and sentenced to 6 years in prison. Whatever the truth, it is clear that the events of Tolka Park, 1942 were local legend in the Coombe area long after the episode and ultimately played some part in the death of Christopher Genockey.


Drumcondra F.C.’s owners, the Hunter family, had delivered sporting success and created the first vestiges of a stadium, but it would be the Prole family that would lead the next two decades of development, when Sam Prole arrived in 1953. A supporter of Shelbourne as a boy, he was himself a handy footballer. His career with the Great Northern Railway took him to Dundalk and he was a founder member of that club, but his playing days were ended prematurely by a broken leg. He then threw himself into administration, becoming the club secretary and helping them gain membership of the Free State League ahead of Drumcondra. He also oversaw a transfer policy that helped the club turn a profit. As a key administrator within the FAI, he sat on numerous committees and served as an international selector.


Prole had informally suggested to then Drumcondra owner Walter Hunter, that were the Hunters ever considering selling the club, he would be interested in buying it. In 1952 the Hunters decided to take up this offer. After weeks of rumours, it was confirmed by the Drumcondra chairman in February 1953 that Prole had indeed left Dundalk to take over the club and the lease on Tolka Park. Funds would have to be raised and the club run as a business to survive. His son, Robert Prole, who would later go on to be both a player and director with Drums, recalls how his family were “ordinary, and had not won the sweeps or anything like that… but my father was able to get a few bob together and a deal was done”.


The team and staff remained the same, but immediately Sam and his son Royden set to work behind the scenes and within a month had announced the first floodlit fixture to take place in the Republic of Ireland. At the time, floodlights were not even commonplace at English grounds, with the first international under floodlights only taking place in 1955 and the first floodlit English League fixture in 1956. St. Mirren were the visitors to Tolka Park on March 30th, 1953 as the pylons 45 feet tall, which had been installed at the corners of the ground, were illuminated with 60,000 watts of electricity for the historic occasion.


The idea of evening football outside of the late summer was very much a novelty. A chilly night meant that the crowd who witnessed Drumcondra’s 2-0 victory was somewhat disappointing. Prole had invested heavily in this concept and further fixtures were laid on the coming weeks against Glenavon and Distillery. The opponents chosen simply due to connections made through Prole’s role as an administrator with the association. Such networks would be crucial in arranging further fixtures. It wasn’t just football that benefited from electrification, as athletics, boxing and an exhibition from the Swedish gymnastics team all took place within a couple of months of the lights being installed. The evening athletics meeting of April 14th, 1953 was even broadcast live on Radio Éireann.


The summer break provided the first opportunity to improve facilities at the ground. Again, using his connections, the new owner would borrow the groundsman from Oriel Park to tend to what was a poor playing surface. The pitch itself was re-sodded around the goal areas and was said to be billiard table-like by the start of the following season. This would not last given the sheer volume of football that was played over the course of a season. The middle of the pitch in particular could become a notorious quagmire; however it was a considerable improvement from the pitch nicknamed ‘pothole park’.


The largest undertaking in 1953 was the addition of a roof and lengthening of the reserved stand on the Richmond Road side of the ground. Running from the Drumcondra end to around the halfway line, the shape and structure of the roof was largely as seen today. A loan of £1000 was sought from the FAI to help cover construction costs of £2600 for the redevelopment, though only £750 was granted. The stand could therefore only be lengthened further in stages, evidence of this phased construction can still be seen in the Richmond Road stand today.


The move to increase comfort for spectators and facilities for the press was a wise one, bringing with it plenty of positive coverage for the new owners. This contrasted with Shels, who were tenants at Tolka Park at this time while they were in the process of building their own, larger stadium at Irishtown. The Reds were hoping to create a ‘miniature Wembley’ which would be equipped with a running track, but this left no finance available for a covered stand to provide shelter from the wind and rain. This lack of cover ultimately proved to be the downfall of Irishtown, while Tolka Park thrived and Shels would eventually only play one season in their Irishtown stadium in 1955/6, before becoming tenants in Drumcondra once again.


tolkaPart2aThe lights became a useful marketing feature as evidenced by the Evening Herald advertisement for the meeting of Drums and St. Pat’s in the LOI shield on Oct 2nd ,1953, which was billed as “Ireland’s First Competitive Floodlit Game”. It worked too, as the crowd was considered “splendid” for an early season fixture. Further exhibition games followed in October with Celtic inflicting the first defeat under lights on a foggy evening that tested the limits of the illumination. Two weeks later, a star-studded Vienna Wacker side would also defeat their hosts, but crowds of 10,000 for mid-week games made the home side the real winner, even with a guarantee of £1,000 needed to tempt the Austrians.


That month Tolka Park staged the first junior floodlit game between Belgrove and Home Farm. It seemed inevitable that the League of Ireland would soon see regular games under lights. There was no formal objection from the FAI council, however their blessing included the provision that neither side objected to the lights being used. Fearing the lights provided the home side an advantage, few teams were willing to take the risk. The first partially lit floodlit game did not take place until the 7th of April 1954, when a Drums side in contention for the double used the artificial light to help relieve some fixture congestion. Their compliant opponents? Dundalk. Shortly afterwards the new owners were rewarded for their efforts, with victory in the FAI Cup securing the first silverware.


Evidence of the first permanent, covered dugouts can be seen late in 1954, positioned in front of the, then partially complete, main stand, just as they are now. However, it was never going to be all straightforward and much of the progress made was in danger of being completely wiped out when the Tolka river burst its banks on the night of Wednesday December 8th, 1954. Flood waters raged through Drumcondra, Ballybough and North Strand. A top of the table clash between Shelbourne and Drumcondra was scheduled for Sunday, but on Thursday evening it still wasn’t even possible to assess the damage. When they were finally able to return, the Proles found the pitch under approximately 8 feet of water and some of the terracing at the Ballybough end washed away. An estimated £400 of damage had been caused. The secretary of the league had stated on Friday evening that it seemed unlikely the ground would be playable for at least a fortnight.


However, by Saturday Sam Prole confidently announced the pitch would be ready for the followingtolkaPart2b day. His son Royden with other staff & local volunteers got straight to work, taking a sledgehammer to a further two walls to help the floodwaters to recede and pumping the remaining water. Robert Prole recalls how the residents of Richmond Road were grateful for Tolka Park’s presence, which spared their homes from total ruin. As late as 3 hours before kick-off, the game was in jeopardy but passed the referee’s inspection and the match went ahead. It was even noted that the pitch was in better condition than it had been for some time! The remarkable drainage assisted by the cinder foundation used when the ground was originally laid. It was an incredible achievement to even stage the game, and the crowd got to witness a magnificent comeback from the Reds, as they came back to win from 2 nil down to win with 3 goals in the final 11 minutes.


In 1955, the entrance at the Ballybough End was widened and with the acquisition of the adjoining garden from 110 Richmond Road, a rough banking created at that end for additional capacity. This was at least partly funded by the proceeds of a game between an All-Ireland side and England that took place in Dalymount Park in May to benefit the Tolka Park Improvements Fund. In November a new plan for Tolka Park was announced. Citing the ground’s capacity as 25,000, national newspapers reported the proposal to develop a sports arena with room for a further 10,000. This was to be achieved by the building of a new, covered stand at the Ballybough End. The idea was at an advanced enough stage to warrant a visit by a delegation from Dublin Corporation, led by the Lord Mayor, to the projected site of the new stand. Chairman Prole said “We hope to make the Park an up-to-date arena with gymnasium attached. The extent of the improvements will depend on the amount of public support we get.” Just a week later planning permission was granted.


One of the more unusual abandonments in the league’s history took place at Tolka Park on New Year’s Day 1956. Drums and Sligo were tied at 1-1 with just a couple of minutes remaining when the visitors scored what looked like the winning goal. The home side had time for one last attack, and when referee T. Mullen spotted what he considered a hand ball awarded a second penalty of the game to Drumcondra. Some of the crowd, already riled by several contentious decisions, poured on to the pitch, but the unique nature of this protest was its non-violence. The hordes simply packed into the Sligo goal and enveloped the ref so the kick could not be taken. When it became clear that they had no intention to leave the pitch Mullen abandoned the game and received a Garda escort to the pavilion. The one brief moment of aggression coming when a stone was thrown through the window of the home side’s dressing room.


By the middle of the decade Drums had yet to re-emerge as title contenders under the Proles but were in the midst of establishing the great rivalry of the era with Shamrock Rovers. A bumper crowd could be expected whenever the two sides met, even in lesser competitions such as the Dublin City Cup, or Leinster Senior Cup. In the 1956/57 season, Drums would finish runners up in the league to their southside rivals, but would claim the FAI Cup. No sooner had the season ended when the next phase of development began at Tolka Park. In late May 1957 the old pavilion was torn down to make way for an extension to the covered stand on the Richmond Road side. The steps and pathways were levelled to provide better access to the upper reaches of the stand and new dressing rooms were added beneath. At the same time a large bank was built at the Ballybough end creating further capacity behind the small terrace there. Further turnstiles were again installed at this end to cater for the increased numbers. As part of the “Prole Blueprint” the banking at this end was to be a temporary measure as the intention was to create another covered stand here which would replace the riverside as the popular side.


1958 saw another first as Tolka Park was the venue for the inaugural all-ticket match to be played in the League of Ireland. The Dublin derby between Drumcondra and Shamrock Rovers was sure to attract a large crowd, but preparations were completely insufficient for the numbers that arrived. The official attendance was just over 19,000, however those without tickets simply tore through the fencing. By kick-off the numbers were so great they reached beyond the stands, over the wall that surrounded the perimeter of the pitch, and right to the touchlines. The game could have been called off there and then, but referee Sgt. Cannon pressed ahead.


The home side were 2-1 down and, as it was in the days before substitutes were allowed, a man down due to an earlier injury. With 25 minutes left the Drumcondra goalkeeper Kelly clashed with the Rovers attacker Hamilton. The referee was about to make a decision, some say to award a penalty, others a corner, when a number of supporters encroached onto the pitch to remonstrate. What was a trickle quickly became a flood and the Garda presence was quickly overwhelmed. Drumcondra chairman Royden Prole intervened to clear the pitch. It was reported that he “heaved a number of youngsters to the touchline” before he too was then attacked by the mob and had to be rescued by the Gardai. This distraction had provided the referee the opportunity to make his escape. The match was subsequently abandoned, leading spectators to chant for their money back.


The incident was thought to be the end of any hope for the Leinster Senior Cup Final replay between the two sides, which was to be played under floodlights the following week. That game did eventually go ahead as scheduled in the evening, albeit with a larger Garda presence and the crowd limited to what was probably a truer reflection of the ground’s capacity; 16,500. The points for the league game were subsequently awarded to Rovers, but despite losing out to the Hoops in three cup finals that season, the league trophy would return to Tolka Park.


Winning the league brought the prospect of European football for Tolka Park as early as 1958, however when the draw paired Drumcondra with Atletico Madrid, it was clear that the venue would be inadequate and so the fixture was instead played at Dalymount. Economic realities meant that larger games were occasionally moved to the Phibsborough venue in search of a £1000 “gate”. Nevertheless, that same year international football would arrive in Tolka Park. A visiting South African side were keen to legitimise the white-only Football Association of Southern Africa which had been controversially admitted by FIFA that year. Touring in Europe and the U.K. they sought games against national sides that would be recorded as full internationals, such as their game against an Irish FA side in Belfast. The FAI were clear in promoting it that the meeting at Tolka Park was a “B” international, still a crowd of 19,000 packed in to see a 1-0 win for the home nation.


In 1959 Tolka Park could add another couple of sports to diverse list of activities that enthralled Dublin audiences. The fabled Harlem Globetrotters played two games on May 31st, 1959. A specially sprung court was imported from Australia for the event which saw the likes of Bob “Showboat” Hall and Joe Buckhalter demonstrating the wizardry and buffoonery that the ‘Trotters’ are famed for. Their patsies on this occasion were a San Francisco based side of Chinese-Americans; The Basketeers. The afternoon game finished 58-51 to the Globetrotters. The star of the show was Harlem’s Meadowlark Lemon, who at one point broke away, and seeing the goalposts still standing, in a typical Globetrotters routine continued off the court and kicked the ball through the posts, in process surely becoming the only member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame to “score” a goal in Tolka Park.


A full programme of entertainment was planned with a junior basketball match between sides from Dublin and Kilkenny, acrobats, unicyclists and other balancing acts. Perhaps most unusual of all were table-tennis games between former world champions Richard Bergman and “Cannonball” Fujii, which were “thoroughly enjoyed” by the crowd despite almost being spoiled by strong winds. Unfortunately, the weather continued to worsen, and the evening game had to be curtailed due to rain. The second basketball match was abandoned after the 3rd quarter, with the favourites leading 46-37. The attendance was disappointing, though some estimates put it as high as 15,000. Perhaps the rest of the audience was waiting for them at the Matt Talbot Hall where a concert would take place after the game, the Globetrotters having placed an advertisement in the previous day’s Evening Herald asking for ‘Tall Girls’ to join them there!


As the 1950s drew to a close the supporters and owners at Tolka Park could be pleased. Comfort for spectators and players had improved immeasurably, with a blueprint in place for future expansion. Although funds were still tight, the sale of Alan Kelly to Preston in 1958 was enough to fund the team for a year or two. In another innovation, the ground was the first in the league to utilize pitchside advertising. The first ads appeared either side of the goals in 1958 and by the end of the decade space on the halfway line would remind thirsty supporters that Guinness was good for them. Although restrained by capacity, Tolka Park had led the way in pioneering changes that would forever alter how sport was enjoyed in Dublin and beyond.

Tolka Park: A History- Part 1

The following article originally appeared in RI66, last June. Part 2 will feature in RI67 available at the end of this month. In the meantime, enjoy Part 1 here

Tolka Park: A History- Part 1

Just alotolka parkng from Drumcondra Bridge, on a bend in the river where today the faded facade of a football stadium remains, there was once a residence called Trout Lodge. The name evokes a time when the river flowed fast and was more abundant with life.

Soon the bulldozers will come for the stands and terraces, what life remains within condemned to history. The record of a stadium on maps will, for future generations, be a curiosity, providing a hint of almost a century of sport and entertainment enjoyed there.

Its story begins with the founding of Drumcondra FC in 1924, though there had previously been other Drumcondra teams which had disbanded. The location carries echoes of some of the earliest football in Ireland. In the late 19th century, Larry Sheridan was among those who formed the Drumcondra-Botanic club at a meeting on the waterfront where the Riverside stand rises today. He would go on to become an influential figure in the Leinster Football association and the FAI.

There would follow another incarnation of Drumcondra in the early part of the 20th century. The Richmond Road itself was something of a hotbed for football, with several teams already based out of the many playing fields there, including Frankfort who were founding members of the League of Ireland in 1921.

Despite the failures of previous such clubs, the founders of Drumcondra; Tom Cribben, Tom Johnston, George Ollis, Christy Purcell and Andy Quinn, were hugely ambitious for their side. They identified a patch of land, close to the Drumcondra tram stop as ideal for their club’s new home. They would be far from the last men with grand dreams to be seduced by this location. The grounds would become known as Tolka Park, though it would be as late as 1926 before this moniker was commonplace in newspaper reports.

Tolka’s fortunes were closely intertwined with the successes and failures of the clubs who came to call it home through the years. Drumcondra, though a newly formed side, were immediately accepted into the Leinster Senior League Division 1. They would finish runners-up in their inaugural season and repeat this placing the following year. It seemed Drums were in prime position to be admitted to the League of Ireland’s Free State League and applied at the first opportunity, when the retirement of Pioneers created a vacancy in 1926.

By this time Tolka Park already had a pavilion and, in preparation for top tier football, an enclosure was added around this. The pitch was levelled by steamroller and embankments created for spectators where possible. Their efforts were in vain as instead, Dundalk were elected to the League of Ireland. Undeterred, within months of this rejection further improvements were made. These included the addition of hot and cold baths to the pavilion and the press noted the club’s efforts in looking after both spectators and players. It was around this time that the first advertisements for games at the venue – with admission prices of 1s & 6d – appear in the evening newspapers.

In 1927, success in winning the Free State Cup (the forerunner of the FAI Cup) as a “second grade” side and Leinster Cup pressed their case further. En route to a second cup final in succession in 1928, a record crowd of approximately 10,000 passed through the turnstiles for a game against Bray Unknowns. Though they would lose the final against Bohemians, Drumcondra’s claim to a place at the top table could no longer be ignored. In June 1928, they were duly elected to the Free State League and on August 26th of that year a large crowd witnessed a 1-1 draw between Drumcondra and Shamrock Rovers in Tolka’s first League of Ireland match.

The rising popularity of the venue was evident with a letter to the Evening Herald in the name of “Safety First” noting the need for upgrades to the footpath along the football ground side of the Richmond Road due to the increasing traffic.

Up to this point the top games in Dublin had been the preserve of Shelbourne Park and Dalymount Park. Important matches like the Free State Cup semi-finals had been always been fixed for these venues as they were the only grounds with adequate capacity. However, early in 1929, a dispute arose between the clubs and the FAI about gate receipts. Shelbourne and Bohemians asked for 10% of the gate, but the association were only prepared to offer 7.5% With neither side prepared to back down, the decision was taken to move the game between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers to Tolka Park barely 48 hours before kick-off.

The late change of venue was problematic enough, but just a week earlier 13 spectators had been injured at Tolka Park. Wire fencing at one end of the ground collapsed, unable to support the weight of the 100 or so youths using it as vantage point to watch a game against Shelbourne which was already above capacity. Tolka’s capacity at this time was estimated at 10,000 – 12,00, less than half of the Ringsend and Phibsboro venues and considered far too small for the anticipated turnout, with the lack of a covered stand being a further drawback.  For the semi-final itself, many stayed away due to the fear of overcrowding and a boycott by members of Bohemians and Shelbourne. This resulted in reducing takings at the gate of just £300, far less than the £1600 the previous year’s final had generated.

It was clear that, despite the rapid improvements, further development would be needed to meet the growing attraction of football at Drumcondra’s home and to establish the ground as an equal of other Dublin venues. The challenge of such growth in its residential location was spelled out in yet another letter to the Evening Herald, lamenting the difficulties caused to locals by badly parked vehicles, inadequate policing, and spectators trying to gain access without paying via gardens. A first step was taken later in 1929, with the formation of a new public company; Drumcondra Football Club. This allowed the club to take on the debt necessary to upgrade the grounds and create a more professional setup.

The 1931-32 season was pivotal in laying the foundations for football as enjoyed in Tolka Park today. Drumcondra were among the first to experiment with Friday evening games in the early part of the season, while daylight allowed. It was certainly a change from afternoon games during the Winter in the 1920s which had to be shortened to 30 minutes a half due to bad light. The late summer evening exhibition games were reported to be popular with spectators and generated large attendances and profits which would be crucial for the largest building project at the ground yet.

In January 1932 excavations began on the river side of the ground. A covered stand was finally built. Like Noah’s Ark, it’s dimensions are faithfully recorded. The Irish Independent reported it would measure 160 feet long and 46 ft. 6 in. wide, with a covered frontage of 14ft. The estimated capacity of the stand was 5,000 but within a few years, it was reported that it held as many as 8,000. The pitch was also widened by 5 yards with plans to further lengthen it also.

The record attendance swelled first to 16,000. Then in 1935, with additional terracing in the Riverside stand and Richmond Road enclosure, and as many as 12 turnstiles in operation helped create a new record attendance of 18,000 for a cup semi-final, where despite the new facilities, numbers behind each of the goals were so great that the fencing was broken by the volume of the crowd. Photos from this era show a stand that is as recognisable to anyone who has seen the league’s newest sides like Cabinteely or Wexford Youths at Tolka as it would be to those who witnessed that semi-final between Drumcondra and Dolphin.

It wasn’t just football that drew crowds to Tolka Park. Almost from its earliest days it has been what is described in modern parlance as a multi-purpose arena. From 1929 it was a boxing venue with open air bouts fought every few years. In 1934 it hosted a contest for the national lightweight title. Probably the earliest footage of the ground is of the respected American heavyweight Tony Shucco defeating the great Irish hope Dom Lydon in 1938. For most of the next decade a boxing card would be a fixture of the summer, with the Drumcondra chairman even acting as promoter and the football club itself putting up the purse.

The most notorious fight at the Drumcondra venue during this era did not take place within the boxing ring. In March 1942, a “riot” broke out between two rival gangs, swiftly dubbed by newspapers as the “Battle of Tolka Park”. It happened during the semi-final of the Junior Combination Cup between St. Stephen’s and Mountview. The teams and Football Association were keen to point out the violence was not related to football. Nevertheless, the events that took place that day are be extraordinary enough as to be worth retelling even now.

The two gangs involved were the “Ash Street Gang” and the “Stafford Street Gang”. It was suggested in court that if the clash was not pre-arranged it was certainly expected, with weapons drawn on both sides. The Ash Street Gang had arrived at the match and reportedly entered without any of them paying admission. The Stafford Street Gang commandeered a flotilla of boats and rowed up the Tolka, mooring the boats near the Ballybough end. After fording the river, they scaled the boundary partition and attacked their rivals.

Players and spectators quickly fled and later witnesses described seeing knives, swords, crowbars and bayonets, as well as corner flags and bricks being adapted for combat. One participant was being treated for head injuries in the pavilion when two men climbed through a window to finish him off, only being prevented from doing so by some of the players who were attending to him. Another antagonist was rescued after being thrown over the wall into the river. Unsurprisingly the match was quickly abandoned, but the clash continued and spilled on to the road outside. Ultimately ten young men were arrested and tried. Nine of them were found guilty and given sentences of between 6 and 18 months.

The entertainment on offer at Tolka Park went beyond sports, marking it as a venue of wider cultural importance for Dublin. In 1931, a programme of music and dance took place there as part of Wolfe Tone Week. A charity fête in 1933 featured such diverse events as a story-telling contest and a fairy cycle race. Long before floodlights arrived, there were illuminations of a different sort during the Tolka Park Carnival in 1937. Attractions included Dodgems, a Ghost Train and Donkey Rides. You could also have your palm read or take a motorboat ride on the river. Music and dance were catered for with acts such as Charlie Nutty’s A1 Combination playing the “Big Ballroom” and a ceilidh in the hall that had both been specially set up for the occasion.

Even animals graced its hallowed turf. As part of that 1937 carnival the “All Sorts of Dogs Show” took place, awarding prizes to the “Dog That Can Wag Tail Fastest” and “Nicest White Dog”. Dog shows continued to grow in popularity throughout the forties and by the middle of the decade a record 925 entries competed in the Combined Canine Club’s contest at Tolka Park. The Jeserich circus brought with it Horses, Bears and Lions while Reco Bros featured crocodiles and pythons.

These events were as practical as they were entertaining, ensuring the grounds were in continuous use, even outside the football season. The Hunter family, who owned the club at this time, were successful contractors, providing many Drumcondra players with employment, but the economic reality of 1930s Ireland followed by the lack of resources during the years of the second world war made further development of the ground fitful and incremental. The completion of terracing for the Riverside stand by 1938 meant that the focus was now on erecting the ‘reserved’ stand on the Richmond Road side, but an application to the FAI for a loan to complete these works in 1939 and again in 1940 was rejected on the grounds of “the precarious state of football today.”

By the end of the 1940s the Hunters had succeeded in developing the stadium to be one of the premier venues in Dublin and finally achieved the club’s dream of winning the League of Ireland, bringing the trophy home to Tolka for the first time in 1947/48 and retaining their title in 1948/49. Success on the pitch made the club an attractive proposition and the stage was now set for the next great era in Tolka’s history.

Wherever Red is Worn

The following article originally appeared in Newcastle United fanzine The Popular Side in May 2016

I have a confession to make; despite being a regular reader of this fine fanzine, I’m not a Newcastle United fan, and have yet to visit your wonderful city. When people think of Newcastle United, the first thing they will usually think of is one of the following: the fanatical support, the iconic number 9 shirt, the globally recognisable barcode shirts, the famous Gallowgate End, Jackie Milburn, Alan Shearer, Supermac, Kev Keegan’s Entertainers that came oh so close to glory, dramatic 4-3 defeats to Liverpool, Local Hero, Inter-City Fairs Cup winners, Bobby Robson’s class and dignity, Mike Ashley and his garish takeover, fan’s protests, supporters punching horses.


But not me. No; when I think of Newcastle United, the first thing that goes through mJim Crawfordy mind is one Jim Crawford. The Chicago-born Irishman may have had a limited impact during his 2-game spell on Tyneside (including a cameo appearance at Anfield in one of the aforementioned 4-3 games) but when he returned to his hometown of Dublin he played a key role in leading my club, Shelbourne, to four League of Ireland championships in 6 seasons, but is probably most fondly remembered by Reds for sticking with the club in 2007 when the club faced financial meltdown and it’s very existence was in jeopardy. Jim’s status as a cult hero was secured in that dark year of 07 as he played on a seriously reduced salary as a favour to the club that resurrected his playing career, leading a team of players sourced from our underage set up and cast offs from other sides. For probably 99% of you reading this who don’t know, Shelbourne are a League of Ireland football club and are presently based in Tolka Park, Drumcondra, a suburb close to the north inner-city. Since 2003, we’ve played a summer season; with the campaigns kicking off in March and coming to a climax in October. We are generally considered to be one of the so-called Big 4 Dublin clubs, with Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers (Ringsend’s 2nd team) and St. Patrick’s Athletic our city and main rivals.


I was very lucky in that I started following Shels as a kid in the early 90s. I gorged on those success and trophy-laden times, I experienced all the glory years. Silverware in the form of League Championships, FAI Cups and League Cups were amassed, European football was a near constant for a decade and a half and a poor season was considered to be a third place league finish. Title races, cup finals, big games, and relatively big crowds. In my late teens and early 20s I was fortunate enough to go on a number of European aways, visiting such far-flung places like Iceland, Spain, and, errr, Northern Ireland and Scotland. We also experienced the novelty of having our UEFA Cup home fixture against Rangers in July 1998 moved from Drumcondra to beautiful Birkenhead, for “security reasons”, an experience in itself. We actually took a shock 3-0 lead that memorable night in Prenton Park before succumbing to a Rangers onslaught led by Jorg Albertz and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, and losing 5-3. Unlike a lot of my mates who go the match, I had no prior link to Shelbourne- neither my father or grandfather supported them; I had no family in, or link to, Ringsend. I had no distant relation who donned the red shirt with the three castles on it. No; I followed the Reds of my own volition, when I was 10 they were the best team in the League of Ireland, with the best players, best stadium, had all the links to the glamorous English clubs by way of preseason friendlies, and wore an iconic Red strip that screamed serious football club. They were the nearest team to where I grew up as a kid and many of the lads in my class in primary school spent their Monday mornings raving about the previous Friday evening’s trip to Tolka Park. It wasn’t a tough choice.  As soon as I started going regularly with mates from school, I was hooked. The sight of the floodlights as you approach the ground along the winding Richmond Road, Tolka Park encased by terraced houses on one side and factories and industrial space on the other, the echo of the PA into the gloomy night sky, the click of the turnstiles as the impatient masses queued to get in, stepping into the ground and seeing a terrace behind one goal and seats down the far end, the smell of the hotdogs and oxtail soup emanating from Moore’s shop behind the Ballybough End of the ground, the anticipation of seeing the teams burst out of the old dressing rooms onto the park. I was hooked. Better times for sure. Things are a bit different these days with the club currently sitting mid table in the second tier of what passes for the pyramid system of Irish football. We’ve won the League of Ireland Championship 13 times and FAI Cup on 7 occasions, and we still remain the 2nd most successful club in Irish football, despite spending the last decade in the doldrums. Nowadays, I’m a member of the supporters trust, the 1895 Trust, as well as Reds Independent, the independent supporters group who produce the fanzine Red Inc., the longest-running fanzine in Irish football, and I’d also have links to the Ultras group, Briogáid Dearg.


Shelbourne FC was founded during the dying embers of the 19th Century in 1895, by a group of lads- including James Rowan, Patrick Finn, and the Wall brothers, with Rowan being the main protagonist- who lived around the Bath Avenue area of southeast inner-city Dublin, taking its name from the nearby Shelbourne Road. From the start, the colour Red was adopted as the club’s colour, leading us to having those original twin nicknames- Shels, or the Reds. Like all good football clubs, Shels were at the heart of a working class community, established to represent the working people of the fishing village Ringsend, and thus can legitimately lay claim to being the original working class club of the city, with the club drawing its support from dock workers, plus labourers and carters, from the South of the city but also the North inner city. Many of the club’s first players worked on the docks and were casual workers. In contrast to our rivals on the Northside, Bohemians- who were established to represent the professional middle classes and drew it’s supporters, members and players from the professional classes such as doctors, accountants, solicitors and vets- the Reds represented the working man and were often referred to as ‘the Dockers team’ in the early days. From the very start, there was a social divide on class lines.


Our first pitch was located beside the present day stadium at Lansdowne Road. Shels joined the then all-Ireland Irish Football League in 1904 and was one of the founding members of the League of Ireland in 1921. As you would expect for a football club established over a quarter of a century before the modern Irish State was even founded, Shels are steeped in history and our rich history is intertwined with that of this city and country. In 1913, Jim Larkin, James Connolly and the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union organised and mobilised one of the largest workers’ strikes in Irish trade union history, with the noble aims of improving working conditions and the right to unionise. At the beginning of the 1913 Lockout in September of the same year, Shels opened their new ground at the Ringsend Road end of the Southlotts Road, named Shelbourne Park, with a game against local rivals Bohs. Tensions were high in the city with the outbreak of the Tram dispute, and it was reported that a picket of about a hundred tramway men were had gathered outside the ground. There were a number of strike-breaking scabs in the Bohs’ ranks (denounced openly in Larkin’s own newspaper Irish Worker) and it was little surprise the picketing workers kicked off at these parasites, and a riot ensued. With the Shels’ staunch working class support, and the location of the game, it’s fair to assume that some of the picketers would have held Red allegiances and would have been non too impressed with scabs visiting their neighbourhood. Formed by the bourgeoisie, populated with scabs- that’s Bohs for you! In a similar vein, a few years later, Shelbourne’s Metropolitan Cup Final against Bohemians in Dalymount Park was postponed due to the small matter of the Easter Rising in April 1916. If you ever visit our home ground in Tolka Park, you can see newspaper clippings from that week adorning the walls of the club bar. Or in 1921, when the country was to be partitioned following the War of Independence and Civil War. Shelbourne were to play a central role in the split in Irish football. Up to that point, football on the island was governed by the IFA, which had been founded in 1880 as the governing body for football for the whole of Ireland. Tensions between the North and South were strained and exacerbated by the War of Independence, which disrupted contact between northern and southern clubs and prevented resumption of the Irish League. Shels were Cup holders at the time and travelled to the North to play Glenavon in the cup semi-final, and the understrength Reds team earned a scoreless draw. Convention dictated that the replay would take place in Dublin, but the IFA ordered that the replay would also take place in Belfast, claiming that Dublin was in an unsettled state as a result of the ongoing violence. The Reds refused. This was the climax of a series of disputes about the alleged Belfast bias of the IFA, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Despite some last minute back-pedalling from the Belfast clubs, the die was cast. The FAI was formed in Dublin in September 1921 by the Free State League (League of Ireland), founded the previous June, and the Leinster FA, which had withdrawn from the IFA in June.

Football on this island would be fundamentally changed forever. It wouldn’t be very Irish without a split, would it?
League titles were won in every decade from the 1920s until the 1960s, when the Club entered a serious trophy drought. This was accompanied by severe financial difficulties, with the Club having to be re-elected to the league on a number of occasions. Throughout this period, a number of private owners ran the Club, and directors using personal funds to cover losses at the Club were a common occurrence, which is also ongoing up to the present day. There were also a number of ground relocations, making growth of the Club’s fanbase difficult due to it not being settled in one geographic area. Success only returned to the Reds in the early 1990s, when Ollie Byrne, revived its fortunes, with the financial backing of businessman Tony Donnelly. Located in Tolka Park, which was upgraded to become a state of the art facility by League of Ireland standards, Shels ended a 30 year drought and won the league championship in 1992, when Pat Byrne led us to the promised land, with FAI Cup triumphs following in 1993, 1996 and 1997. The most successful period in the Club’s existence commenced in 2000, with a League and Cup double. The Club won five league titles in eight seasons from 1999/2000-2006, as well as a famous run in the Champions’ League in 2004, which saw Hajduk Split dramatically knocked out on balmy August evening at Tolka and Deportivo LaCoruna- Champions League semi-finalists a few months previous and conquerors of holders AC Milan- held goalless until the final 30 minutes of the second leg, with a place in the lucrative CL group stages beckoning.  This period also saw Shels incurring significant financial losses, running into the millions. A highly complex property deal, intended to fund current expenditure at the Club as well as provide a new stadium, started to unravel in 2006, with a winding up order also being issued by the Revenue Commissioners for unpaid taxes. A falling out between Byrne and one of the primary investors in the deal lead to funds being cut off and the Club’s ability to continue as a going concern was questioned by the auditors. Byrne’s health also deteriorated during this time, and responsibility for running the Club fell to a number of other directors and shareholders in the Club. Denied a license to compete in the Premier Division, despite being the reigning champions, the Club were forced to compete in the First Division for the 2007 season. Apart from two seasons since then (2012 and 2013), the Club has remained outside the top tier, struggling for crowds and carrying a significant legacy debt.


Some of the illustrious names privileged enough to wear the famous Red through the years include Tony Dunne, who starred at full back for Manchester United in Matt Busby’s sides European Cup triumph over Benfica at Wembley in 1968, and Wes Hoolahan, current Irish international and diminutive talisman for Norwich City, who lit up Tolka Park during his spell at the club, winning three league championships in the process. Lisbon Lion Jimmy Johnstone also went on to have a spell at the Reds, a decade after lifting the European Cup with Celtic. The late, great Eric Barber is the club’s all-time record goalscorer with 126 goals, and was also capped for Ireland.


The League of Ireland itself is equally brilliant and at the same time horrifically shit. The league suffers from an image problem and systemic, structural issues- clubs are generally poorly supported, the league is often ignored by the mainstream media, many of the grounds including our own beloved Tolka Park are deteriorating and are in a state of disrepair, a lot of the clubs are poorly run with a good few regularly demonstrating an inability to budget adequately, and there’s a drastic shortage of income streams for all. The administration of the league is inept and clubs struggle from one crisis to the next. It’s a perfect storm and for some time it has appeared the league is on life support. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, becoming “the Irish Rosenborg” was the dominant narrative in domestic football. Perceived wisdom at the time said that emulating the Trondheim side’s European exploits was the best way for an Irish club to make a breakthrough, the best way to succeed, increase support, become the dominant force in Irish football, and in doing so secure the long-term future of your club. After all, if a team from a little league in Scandinavia could do it, why couldn’t we here with a new-found Celtic Tiger confidence/arrogance? What happened next can only be described as the League of Ireland spending arms race, resulting in its own form of Mutually Assured Destruction. Buoyed by a sense of optimism but also a feeling of desperation at being left behind, club after club lined up to frantically splash the cash and sign the best players available. Whilst this undoubtedly raised the on pitch standard of the league with more and more clubs signing more professionals, severe problems were being created down the line. Everyone was at it- Bohs, Cork, Derry, Drogheda, but like many things in Irish football we at Shels even did this better and with more panache than the rest. And we’re still paying the price for that gross irresponsibility to this day. Short-term success came by the way of increased attendances in the early to mid-2000s for many of the bigger clubs in the league, and the improved playing standard along with the advent of the summer football season contributed to a spike in Irish teams’ results and performances in Europe. Teams of the calibre of Hajduk Split, Malmö, Djurgårdens, Nijmegen, Appollon Limassol, IFK Göteborg, Skonto Riga, KR Reykjavik, Gretna, Aberdeen, HJK Helsinki and BATE Borisov were regularly dispatched by Irish clubs in Europe, with the likes of Deportivo La Coruña, Lille, Paris Saint-Germain, Odense, Steaua Bucharest, Kaiserslautern and ironically enough Rosenborg all being run close by their Irish opponents. Empires built on sand, and it just couldn’t last. And the closer some teams got to making the great breakthrough, the more they and others were encouraged to spend, spend, spend. Clubs recklessly gambled with their futures- some like us and Bohs selling our grounds to fund current expenditure, Rovers squandered government grant money that should have been ring-fenced for the construction of a new stadium on players’ wages- and tax bills went unpaid and creditors and small businesses became creditors and were left to wait for their cash. Cork, Drogheda and Derry all went into examinership/administration and came back as zombie clubs. The cycle of boom and bust in Irish football circles was evident when virtually every side that won the league title from the late 90s to the present day experienced some form of financial crisis either before or in the aftermath of their league success. It was a crazy time for the league in retrospect; Galway United even employed convicted fraudster Nick Leeson to run the club under the guise of being a financial expert. Yes, only in the League of Ireland! I wouldn’t mind, but he probably wasn’t even in the top 5 nefarious characters operating in the league at the time… To this day, clubs continue to struggle financially, with some clubs dragging out the begging bowl a mere few weeks into the season to the surprise of absolutely no one.


But while I’ve painted a fairly grim picture of domestic football here in Ireland, it has to be said that it’s not all negative, and believe it or not, is actually quite enjoyable to follow. Following the league, but especially the Reds, even when it’s shit, it’s great. It’s affordable and fairly inexpensive to go to, with most match tickets costing between €10 and €15. Similar to most smaller leagues around the world and grassroots football generally, the sense of community and comradery is fantastic. There is a tangible sense of involvement with your club- most clubs depend on a network of volunteers and supporters to continue to function. It wouldn’t be unusual for me as a fanzine editor to be on nodding terms with the chairman who I might pass on the way to a much-needed half time pint, or to have a good chat with the manager’s Ma and Da in the bar after a home match. Despite intense inter-club rivalry, it would be quite common for you to know a good few main faces at your hated rivals, especially given how small the league is. Away days are fantastic, are the lifeblood of the match-going fan and really give you a taste of what the LOI is all about. The buzz of the day out, the possibilities for the day ahead being endless. The giddiness of anticipation for the game ahead playing second fiddle to having a laugh and drink with your closest friends with some great sounds soundtracking the day. Getting on a bus with a bag of cans and a gang of your mates and heading off to some distant godforsaken part of the country is something every match-going supporter can relate to, is one of life’s greatest simplest pleasures and something that you never really grow out of. But in the LOI, I get the impression that this might be even better due to the chaotic and at times shambolic nature of the league. Of course you’re gonna get gargled and have a laugh with your pals when you know there’s a possibility the game you’re attending might count for sweet FA when the result gets expunged because the opposition will drop out of the league. I’ve actually experienced this twice myself in the past decade, with Dublin City and Monaghan United dropping out of the top flight midseason. The esteemed editor of this fanzine, Ian Cusack, and Galwayman and regular Popular Side contributor Declan McGrath, joined me and a group of comrades on a journey to Waterford last July and I think they enjoyed the experience. The First Division, where the Reds find themselves currently trapped, has been dubbed the Discover Ireland what with it being the only possible reason you may actually venture to places like Cobh, Limerick and Longford.  As a wise man once said, the thing about football- the important thing about football- is that it is not just about football. Or, to paraphrase an even wiser man- in every football ground in the world, there are a certain number of nutters; it’s just that, in the League of Ireland, everyone else forgets to show up.


So what of my beloved Reds in 2016? At time of writing, we’re just a point outside a promotion playoff place with one third season gone. Under the tutelage of club legend Kevin Doherty, this young Shels team, mainly comprised of kids in their late teens and early 20s, is more than capable of securing a playoff berth come October. As an aside, Kev would be considered a Reds hero to many Shels fans, a fella who joined the club as a player in 2001 following an injury-ravaged spell at Liverpool. Gerard Houllier was quoted as saying that Kev was one of the best young defenders he’d seen, and Houllier would know a thing or two about quality young players given his work with the French underage set up is considered the basis for France’s international domination in the late 90s. Doherty’s first season as Shels manager in 2015 wasn’t great, and his inconsistent side ultimately missed out on the playoffs. We can’t be too critical however, considering it was his debut season managing a first team, and he was operating off a fairly low budget even for LOI First Division standards. This term, Doherty has the team playing a much more attractive brand of football, with the emphasis on playing good neat passing ball on the deck, in contrast to much of last season’s direct football. We tend to keep possession well, control the midfield, and we’re beginning to reap the benefits of this results-wise. He has assembled a good young side with a lot of heart and commitment, and no little skill. At a fan’s forum a few weeks back, Kev spoke about wanting to instil a passion and feeling for the club within his young charges, and this identity he’s looking to establish is evident in two young players- Adam O’ Connor and Ryan Robinson- sticking with Shels, despite offers from elsewhere, on the basis of the rapport they’ve built up with the manager from their time under his watch as an underage coach at the club. Our current squad is padded by the experience of a few senior players in their 30s, including the composed figure of midfield lynchpin Daire Doyle, and only last month we signed ex-Ireland international Stephen Elliot on a season-long contract, a player who you may know best from his time at a club just down the road from you. If we can keep our goalscorers like James English and Jamie Doyle fit and firing on all cylinders this season, and we put a stop to conceding daft goals from set pieces every week, we stand a great chance of making the playoffs.


Off the pitch, things are looking altogether more disturbing. Because of the large legacy debt run up, and because the club in effect sold Tolka Park over a decade ago, Shels will soon be in the unenviable position of having no ground to call our own.  The FAI and Dublin City Council want us to groundshare in Dalymount Park, home of Bohemians. It is understood, DCC will pay Bohs a fee to acquire Dalymount and redevelop it. The FAI wish to have the stadium redeveloped as part of a legacy project for Euro 2020. DCC is then reliant that they get Tolka Park, which means acquiring the leasehold from the land developer. It is understood that this has now happened. Funds from the redevelopment of Tolka would be used to leverage the purchase of Dalymount. In essence, Tolka would be sold off for redevelopment (in whatever form- social housing, commercial, who knows) in order to fund the purchase of Dalymount. The money going to Bohs will then be used to pay off their debt owed to a bank. It is understood Tolka could be demolished and redeveloped in order to help DCC recoup their investment in Dalymount. The redevelopment of Dalymount into a modern stadium was dependent on the Council getting Tolka and selling it off. I’m obviously biased, but I think it is shameful that a local council who within the last decade was designated the European Capital of Sport is considering putting a historic football stadium beyond municipal sporting use. But by all accounts it is a done deal, the tarnished legacy of the Ollie Byrne era. Whether we end up in Dalymount on a temporary or permanent basis is up for debate, but the impression I get from speaking to fellow supporters from our different supporters groups, is that this proposed move should be used by all at the club to regroup, assess, rediscover our identity and restructure the club into a supporters-own and run institution. Personally, I’d love a return to our Ringsend/Irishtown roots, as pie in the sky as that may seem today, and could be the basis of a future article here. For the time being, Tolka remains a great if somewhat dilapidated stadium. It’s a cracking place to spend a Friday night, and the rows and rows of terraced houses that surround the ground give it that quintessential traditional, old-school charm. If you’re ever in Dublin for a weekend, and there’s a game on at the grand old ground, I’d really recommend a visit. Get in touch, we’ll go for a few pints and you can savour a bit of living history of this city before it’s consigned to the past for good.






A Statement from Reds Independent 22 February 2017

On 5 October 2016, Reds Independent issued a statement that called upon the board of Shelbourne FC to explain two simple things which they publicly stated in their own statement issued the previous day.

1) What happened to the promise by Joe Casey to consult with the supporters over the relocation of the club?

2) To name the supporters’ groups that the board alleged had lobbied DCC in favour of the club relocating to Dalymount.

In  the absence of a response to these questions, Reds Independent released a further statement on 23 November 2016, calling for Shelbourne supporters to refrain from funding the club in any way while this lack of transparency
and accountability existed.

In  the absence of a published response to these matters, we regret that we again  must  ask supporters not to pay into home league matches nor any cup matches  that  the club are entitled to a percentage of gate receipts from.
We also ask supporters not to buy any product that will fund the club nor to fund the club through any form of sponsorship.

We encourage supporters to continue to support the team on the pitch and to attend away games in order to do so.

Reds Independent

22 February 2017