Dalymount Park is but half the place it once was, literally so. There is an open concrete terrace with plastic seating behind one goal and a roofed stand along one side. Yet it remains a mythical place.
At one corner of the ground, a mural of Bob Marley against a background of red, yellow and green has the date “1980” beside it, a reminder of the reggae star’s performance at the ground a year before his premature death. It is a reminder of a former Dublin, a reminder of the beginning of the transformation of Irish society.
Dalymount Park, which now has a capacity of no more than a few thousand was once the home ground of the Irish international football team. Friends talk of matches when thirty thousand fans would cram into the place. There would be supporters sat on the grass around the edge of the pitch and even tales of people climbing onto the roofs of the former stands in order to see the game. It is hard to believe now that Pele, possibly the greatest player in footballing history once played on this pitch.
There was a song called Summer in Dublin by a band called Bagatelle that caught a sense of that time in between the past and the present. The Church and the old ways may have had decades more dominance in the country, but in Dublin the changes had begun.
Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy were as far from the Ireland of the show bands and the parochial hall dances. The appearance of Bob Marley in the national soccer stadium a year after the visit of the Pope must have caused observers to realise that the edifice that was Holy Catholic Ireland was beginning to crumble.
The former glories may have vanished but Bohemian FC are a club with a future. At the FAI Cup Final in November, their fans had banners the width of the pitch, one declared, “For the many, not the few,” another said, “A club owned by people, not millionaires.” The club is owned by its fans, it has social outreach programmes within its own community, and a rainbow flag and anti-racist mural declare the opposition of the working class community to the sorts of prejudice often found among soccer fans elsewhere.
Dublin was always a place apart from other places, a place that seemed to live its own mythology. Dalymount stands as part of that tradition. The voices of tens of thousands can be heard if you listen hard enough.