Tolka Park (Irish: Páirc na Tulchann) is an Irish football ground located in the north Dublin suburb of Drumcondra, on the northern banks of the River Tolka. It is currently the home ground of League of Ireland club Shelbourne. The stadium formerly held 9,680 people, but this has been scaled down in recent times due to health and safety regulations in the venue, mainly concerning the Ballybough and Riverside stands. Tolka Park has hosted national cup finals along with international matches, Champions League qualifiers, UEFA Cup, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup ties and was a venue for the 2000 Rugby League World Cup.
|Full name||Tolka Park|
|Location||Drumcondra, Dublin, Ireland|
|Public transit||Drumcondra railway station|
|Home Farm Drums 1950s–1989|
Ireland national rugby league team
Its future is currently uncertain due to the sale of the ground by Shelbourne to businessman Ossie Kilkenny in 2006.
Over the years, seven different League of Ireland clubs have used Tolka Park for home league matches on a regular basis. They are Drumcondra, Shelbourne, Dolphin, Home Farm, Dublin City, Shamrock Rovers and St James Gate F.C..
Home Farm DrumsEdit
Tolka Park was originally home to Drumcondra, who in the 1950s, and 1960s were one of the most popular teams in Dublin. In 1929, over 30 people were injured at the ground when a hoarding collapsed at a Drumcondra vs Shelbourne cup-tie. The ground hosted its first floodlit game on 30 March 1953. However "Drums" merged with local team Home Farm in 1972, and after the demise of Drumcondra, Home Farm moved into the ground. However, Home Farm never drew large crowds and Tolka fell into disrepair (though it did host the replay of the 1984 FAI Cup final).
In 1989, Shelbourne, who had played home games regularly in Tolka during the fifties, sixties, seventies, and early eighties, acquired Home Farm's long term lease from Dublin Corporation on the ground. Home Farm moved to their own ground in nearby Whitehall. Shelbourne invested heavily in the stadium, converting it into Ireland's first all-seater stadium and building a new stand behind the Drumcondra end goal in 1999.
However, Shelbourne FC ran into several severe problems that have put the future of Tolka Park in doubt. One problem was a flood in 2000 that caused extensive damage to the pitch and greatly increased the club's insurance costs. But a far more serious long-term problem was caused by the club's getting into severe debt through overspending on playing staff. In 2006, Ollie Byrne, Shelbourne Chef Executive sold the ground to property developer Ossie Kilkenny to help repay the club's debts. Shelbourne are still playing at the venue but its future is uncertain. Legal action between the parties who bought the ground delayed its demolition and development, as has a slowdown in the Irish property market. By 2011, the club were reporting that the ground was in need of maintenance.
Shamrock Rovers F.C.Edit
In 1987, the then owners of Shamrock Rovers, the Kilcoyne family, attempted to move the club to Tolka Park. Rovers played there for a season, but the games were boycotted by their fans, who were trying to save Glenmalure Park from demolition.
Rovers returned to the ground in 1996 which they shared for a time with Shelbourne on and off (1996–1999, 2001–2002, 2004–2005 and 2006–2008) while Tallaght Stadium was being developed. They eventually moved into the Tallaght Stadium in 2009. Rovers' home tie against Sligo Rovers during the 2009 season was moved to Tolka Park amid safety concerns due to construction onsite at Tallaght before the club friendly against Real Madrid.
Tolka Park has staged two full internationals for the Republic of Ireland. Both matches were friendlies against Wales. The stadium hosted the first Setanta Cup Final when Linfield defeated Shelbourne. The Irish Rugby League Team have also played home games at the ground and hosted one game of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup with Ireland playing New Zealand Māori rugby league team the game ending 30–16 to Ireland. In recognition of the improvement made to stadium, a Republic of Ireland senior international match against Wales was played there in 1993, as were youth, League of Ireland XI and Republic of Ireland B games. From 1999 to 2002 it hosted the FAI Cup final, until the fixture was shifted to Lansdowne Road. Tolka hosted two games in the 2011 UEFA Regions' Cup.
The Richmond Road Stand or Main Stand runs the length of the north side of the pitch. The Technical area is located at the stand as well as the Box office, Stadium Bar and First aid area. The stand is named after Richmond Road which is directly behind the stand.
The Drumcondra Stand or New Stand is located behind the goal at the west end of the ground and it is the most recent stand to open in the ground. The stand is named after the town of Drumcondra which is located behind the stand. The Ultras within the club's support base currently congregate in the Drumcondra Stand. The Drumcondra stand also houses the dressing rooms. The club shop is located beside the stand.
The Ballybough End is located behind the goal at the east end of the ground. It is named after the town of Ballybough which is located behind the stand. The Ballybough stand has become neglected over the years due to the decreased attendances of Shelbourne and was deemed unsafe and closed by the Dublin Fire Brigade Health and Safety Unit in 2010.
References in popular cultureEdit
- The ground has appeared in the fictional football drama Dream Team when Harchester United were drawn to play Shelbourne in the UEFA Cup.
- The ground appeared in football comedy Fran where Fran's club St Peter's United lost a cup final held at Tolka Park.
- A chapter of Dermot Bolger's novel, 'A Second Life', takes place in Tolka Park, during a European competition match in which Shelbourne overturn a first leg defeat over Ukrainian side, Karpaty Lvov, and the novel's narrator and his young son are ushered off the pitch by Ollie Byrne during a celebratory pitch invasion.
Since the sale of Tolka Park in 2006, Shelbourne have been trying to relocate to a new ground. Plans for a new stadium in Finglas and Swords came to nothing, as has an FAI-backed proposed groundshare with North Dublin neighbours Bohemians. Plans were underway in March and April 2015 for the Council to take back ownership of the land, and for Shelbourne to groundshare Bohemians in (newly Council-owned) Dalymount Park. On 4 October 2016 Shelbourne announced that they would leave Tolka Park for a newly refurbished Dalymount Park.
- Shelbourne FC website Archived 2009-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
- "'Byrne the key for future of Shelbourne' claims Kilkenny - Independent.ie".
- "30 People Hurt at Football Match". The Cornishman. 31 January 1929. Retrieved 19 March 2015 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- The Irish Times
- "Shelbourne take the long road back to the big time".
- "Throwback to the glory days - Independent.ie".
- "Cafolla -v- Kilkenny & Ors,  IEHC 24 (2010) - Case Law - VLEX 195434655".
- "Showpiece clash gives Shels brief respite from battling legacy of excess - Independent.ie".
- "- Shelbourne FC".
- Tolka Park to Host Shamrock Rovers Clash with Sligo, Irish Times, 16 July 2009
- "Hampston Fights To-night". Hull Daily Mail. 4 August 1938. Retrieved 19 March 2015 – via British Newspaper Archive.
- O'Donoghue, Paul (18 March 2015). "Council strikes €3.4m deal to buy Dalymount Park". Irish Independent. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- "Council To Buy Dalymount Park". Dublin's 98FM. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- Emmet Malone (30 April 2015). "Dublin City Council keen to progress with Dalymount Park deal". Irish Times. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
- "Shelbourne to leave Tolka Park for Dalymount".