So often since I started following Bohs, the walk home from Dalymount after a game has been a depressing one. However, after the win against Sligo the previous Friday - Bohs third victory on the trot - I very nearly skipped all the way up the Navan Road! That good feeling had lasted for most of the week too and the next game with unbeaten league leaders St Patrick's Athletic couldn't come quick enough.
Those three wins in eight days had moved Bohs to within five points of the top and offered a little more hope that we may yet challenge for honours this season. The game against St Pat's would certainly test those notions further .
Despite my best intentions, I'd yet to see Pat's in action this season, however, from what I had heard and read about them, they were playing some great stuff and their results spoke for themselves. Between the Setanta Cup and the Eircom League, Pat's had won nine, drew one and lost none. They had also rattled in an impressive 24 goals along the way and conceded just two.
The trip was undoubtedly a daunting one, but nevertheless I still set off for Richmond Park full of optimism. This was to be my second Dublin derby in as many weeks and I was interested to see how the atmosphere and rivalry compared to that from the Shamrock Rovers game.
With the game being in Dublin I had originally planned to take the car, however, I got the feeling from reading a few posts on the Bohs message board that the stadium wasn't in the best of areas and maybe I'd be better leaving it at home . I decided to take the Luas instead. I'd found out from the St Pat's website that it stopped around ten minutes walk from the stadium. I have to say though, the directions to the stadium given on the site were fairly poor. Although it detailed what public transport stopped close by, there was no map or any information about how to get to the ground once I got off. At a time when clubs are desperately trying to attract new faces to the League, it is surely vital that simple information such as this is updated.
Luckily when I got off at Inchicore I spotted a man wearing a St Pat's scarf so I was able to follow him to the ground. Once i started walking I was quite glad I had left the car at home as the surrounding area did indeed look pretty rough and there were a few faces milling about that looked like they would have loved to get their hands on my hub-caps and, more importantly, that Lionel Ritchie CD in my glove box!
Over the years I've been to quite a few grounds around the UK. Some of them have been old, many of them have been new, but Richmond Park is certainly the most unique.
From the outside you really wouldn't think there was a stadium there at all (see pic left). Usually you can follow the floodlights to find a ground, but at Pat's even these are hidden by a row of old houses, which you have to walk between to get in. I'd read beforehand that the tickets at Richmond Park were more expensive than the E15 charged at most other Eircom League grounds, however, when i got there though I was happy to find that the entrance fee was only E15 and that this also included a programme. For someone who always buys a programme this was great value.
Once inside the culture shock continued. Richmond Park is made up of one fairly new, but small main stand (see pic below), while an old uncovered stretch of terracing runs the length of the pitch on the opposite side. Behind one of the goals there is an old metal shed, which has now been closed off, while at the other spectators are forced to stand quite far back at the top of a grass mound.
The main stand was already full when I got there so I was told to make my way round to the opposite side where an impressive number of Bohs fans were located. It wasn't until I got round to that side that I realised just how run down the stadium is. To get into the stand fans have to make their way through a gap of merely a few feet due to a river which runs directly behind. The terrace itself runs right to the edge of the pitch which means that you are right on top of the players. I was pretty sure this would make for an excellent atmosphere and it didn't take long for me to be proved correct.
Before the game there was a rapturous minutes applause for a fan of St Pat's who had died the previous week. It was probably at this point that I was able to see how different this Dublin derby was to the one against Shamrock Rovers. The applause from both sets of fans was impeccable and quite moving. Mid-way through the Bohs fans located in the main stand unfurled a large banner with the initials of the fan written on it. It really was a nice touch and reflected very well on both sets of fans. I couldn't help wondering though how this would have went down at a Bohs versus Rovers derby.
The feeling around the ground seemed to be one of huge excitement and the noise being created by the Bohs fans in the main stand was very impressive. I really wished that I had got their earlier and was in the middle of it though. The atmosphere from the stands seemed to carry on to the pitch too and the game started in a frantic fashion. Bohs, in their new white away kit, began impressively. For much of the first half they dominated possession and pressed Pat's back into their own half. Clear cut chances were few and far between, but Kevin Hunt really should have given Bohs the lead midway through the first half. The ball broke to the in-rushing Hunt on the edge of the box but he blazed over when he really should have at least hit the target. Pat's went close with a header at the other end before Bohs Glen Crowe struck a post with a sweet turn and shot on the stroke of half-time.
The second half saw much of the same. From what I was able to see (due to dodging bottles and coins being thrown) Bohs continued to create the better chances and bar from some good goalkeeping would have taken all three points. Dessie Byrne and Glen Crowe both went close midway through the half, while the hugely impressive Neil Fenn almost nicked it it at the end. It wasn't to be though and the game ended goalless.
Walking out it was hard to decide whether it was a point gained or two points dropped. Beforehand I would probably have taken the point, but on the journey home I couldn't help but feel Bohs had deserved all three. I guess we'll only know the answer to that in November, however, Bohs had yet again shown a clear improvement and offered further hope that a successful season lies ahead. The game itself had been as good a scoreless draw as you could hope to see and was arguably the best performance I have seen Bohs deliver during my time in Ireland.
During the season I expect to experience several League of Ireland firsts as I make my way around the games. I certainly had one on Friday night... I now hate my first Eircom League referee. Step forward Mr Ian Stokes! He made some terrible decisions during the night and going by the grumbles from the Bohs faithful, this wasn't the first time either.
Although this Dublin derby had been void of much of the tension of the Shamrock Rovers match, the atmosphere create during the entire 90-minutes was excellent. The noise coming from the Bohs fans located in the main stand was especially impressive and I'm determined to get in there when Bohs return to Richmond Park later in the season.
Next up in the League for Bohs is what should be a home banker against Galway United on Friday night. A win in that one and it will be 13 points from the last 15 for Bohs!
Before that though comes Tuesday night's League cup tie with Bray Wanderers at Dalymount and a chance to get revenge for last month's 1-0 league defeat.
For highlights of the game and post match interviews head over to... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD3cpvIe5Jo