4 April 2007

"Yer Hame Team is yer ain Team"

As I was walking round to the Bohemians versus Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount Park the other night, an old football saying from back home came to mind: "yer hame team is yer ain team". Just as I was walking the through the housing scheme to the back of the Des Kelly stand I bumped into a man in his mid-30's. He obviously spotted the red and black Bohemians scarf in my hand as he looked at me and shook his head in what appeared to be dismay. "You'd be better off goin' home and watching the Liverpool match on the telly," he said to me. I simply gave him a nod and ventured on.

One of the most disappointing things about the game here in Ireland is the lack of support it gets from the public. For a sport, and more importantly football, mad country the number of people who actually go along to games is nothing short of a disgrace. The number of people living in Ireland who tuned in to RTE's coverage of the Liverpool versus PSV Eindhoven game on Tuesday would no doubt have totalled several hundred thousand. The total number of people who turn up to watch the Eircom League on a Friday probably wouldn't even account for one tenth of that figure. It just doesn't add up. Take a walk through departures at Dublin airport on a Saturday morning and there are 'fans' sporting the scarves of virtually every club in the two top tiers in England. Take a look in the queue for flights to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow and there's a good chance half those flights will be full of football fans off to support a team they have a tenuous link to at best.

Whenever I've mentioned to people at work or even friends here in Dublin that I go to Bohs games, the reaction is usually either a laugh or a look of bewilderment. "Why the feck would you want to go and watch that?" is a common response!

It's a hard question to answer using words. However, if they had been at Dalymount Park on Tuesday night I'm certain that words would not have been necessary.

Bohemians versus Shamrock Rovers is as big as they come in Irish football. To the supporters of either side, this is their Celtic versus Rangers. To them, Man Utd versus Liverpool was never in it. The rivalry between the two sets of fans is poisonous. The love between the two sets of players is non-existent. The atmosphere at games is the stuff of legend. The fact that the Bohs / Rovers league derby had been missing last season only added to this one. (Rovers were in the first division, having been relegated during the previous season.)

The game on the night was far from a classic, while the standard of football, at times, left much to be desired. To the three thousand Bohemians fans there though, it really couldn't have been much better.

Rovers started the better and took a deserved lead on 28 minutes when some weak defending from Bohs allowed striker Tadhg Purcell to head home from around 8 yards. The 1500 or so Rovers fans (see pic) to my left were delirious. They thought this was going to be their night.

The home side continued to struggle to get a hold of the game and the half time whistle was greeted by a chilling chorus of boos from the main stand.

However, half time seemed to be exactly what Bohemians and manager Sean Connor needed and the improvement in the second half was clearly evident. If anyone was starting to question the ability of Connor to handle the job, he certainly went a long way to answering them over the next 45 minutes. The introduction of winger Fergal Harkin at the break and then striker Darren Mansaram with just 25 minutes to go was ultimately what won them the game. Mansaram's presence in attack unsettled the Rovers defence, while Harkin's direct running seemed to give the whole team a much needed lift. Just when looked like the game was slipping away, Mansaram caused confusion on the edge of the box and his deflected ball through was finished coolly by the in-rushing Glen Crowe. His first goal at Dalymount since his return was greeted by an explosion of noise from the Bohs fans and the sheer relief, joy and emotion was incredible.

The draw would probably have kept the natives happy, but you just got the feeling that Bohs had finished quite yet. With just two minutes left on the clock, what had seemed unthinkable just minuted earlier became glorious reality. The ball found its way to full back Dessie Byrne on the left. having cut inside he then delivered an inch-perfect ball on to the head of defender Jason McGuinness who's looping header soared over the head of the Rovers keeper and into the net. It was Roy of the Rovers stuff and the home fans went delirious. A sea of black and red poured down the aisles and up to the barriers where they celebrated with the huddle of players. It really was a sight to behold.

Bohs managed to hold on in the remaining minutes and the victory was theirs. From the post-match celebrations you would have been forgiven for thinking that Bohs had just won the league! Then again, that probably only goes to show just how much this game means.

99% of the folks in Dublin are still probably none the wiser that the game even took place. However, for the 4,000 odd fans that were there, it was one that will live long in the memory.

Apparently Liverpool won three nil by the way.
(For highlights of the game head over to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU3kc91OK6s or for highlights, match reaction and footage of those crazy goal celebration check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcVwgGJukr8)


Jamie said...

It's looking very good Graeme! Your match reports and information is very well written...you thought about doing it for a living!!?? Hehe. I have added a link to your site from mine. Hope it's a good result for you tomorrow.

Jamie said...

You've taken to watching the game from behind the goals...is that the Ultras section!?

Graeme said...

Hehe... getting paid to write!? That's not a real job. I actually just went behind the goals as traffic was bad on the way down and I was running late. The Des Kelly entrance was nearest. The hardcore support would stand / sit in the very right hand side of the main stand. More on that in tonight's match report!

Kev.T said...

I like a good moan about the state of league of Ireland football. But I suppose it's wrong to put Irish Club football down when I've actualy never up to turned up to watch a game. I'll be watching the Man U - Roma game tonight, but I'm definitely going to go and watch a League Of Ireland game next week. I live in Dublin, so the problem is, which one?

Keep it goin Graeme - Looks great!