Our friendly and excellent guides are available as Step On Guides for any visiting tour or coach operators who may like a unique, entertaining and educational tour of Irish History and the events of Easter Week 1916.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The History of Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium

Over the years I have written a  number of historical articles on the area I live in and these next couple of weeks will have a small selection of those articles.

The History of Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium.

Every Saturday night between 8pm and 10pm the place to be in Dublin is greyhound racing at Shelbourne Park. Located on South Lotts Road which itself dates back to 1721, the stadium has become a mecca of sports and gambling. But while today those guests sitting in the park’s excellent restaurant see it associated solely as a greyhound venue, it has a very colourful sporting past.

Just like its Northside cousin Croke Park, the stadium originally began life as a soccer ground. Originally a derelict site, it became the home of Shelbourne FC pre-season in 1913. A trial match took place on August 16th when Shelbourne played a Leinster League select eleven. At that time Shelbourne played in the all-Ireland Irish Football league and their first league match was a one all draw with fellow Dubliners Bohemians. The ground was operated by the Shelbourne Sports Company Limited and many various fund raising activities took place in the first couple of years to pay for and extend the facilities at the ground. In March 1914 the club played Manchester United while on May 23rd a fifteen mile challenge race was run featuring Irish international running sensations Charlie Harris and Paddy Fagan. A track around the pitch was used for Wednesday trotting and whippet racing. Trotting on a Friday would cost one schilling admission while to enter your pony cost £1 but there was a prize of £30 if you got through the qualifying rounds.

Over the following decades Shelbourne’s home venue was also used by the Football Association of Ireland following the establishment of the Irish Free State and the split from the IFA in Belfast, as home of both semi finals and finals of the FAI Cup including an enthralling final in April 1929 between Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians. Shelbourne remained at the ground until the 1948/49 season when Shelbourne’s last match against Waterford ended just like their first in a draw.

In September 1921 the then titled President of Ireland Eamon DeValera officially opened a Fete that featured seven a side Gaelic football tournament. Billed as the ‘best of outdoor and indoor attractions’ the indoor featured Irish dancing Feis, a Ceili and a cinema.

As a greyhound venue it was Ireland’s second after the opening of Celtic Park in Belfast. Greyhound racing began on May 14th 1927 in front of ten thousand spectators packed into the venue. The National Greyhound Racing Company Limited, the forerunner of Bord Na gCon and the Irish Greyhound Board was the brainchild of Kerry native Jerry Collins, Paddy O’Donoghue, Patsy McAlinden and Jim Clarke.

But the early days of greyhound racing was not without its difficulties. A riot broke out in September 1927 when two dogs Galbally Lass and Skeango racing in the semi final of the Civic Cup stopped mid race and savaged each other. The crowd expected a blue flag denoting a ‘non race’ but to their dismay the 6-4 favourite Gone For Sure was declared the winner. The ‘mob in the cheap enclosure invaded the ground trampling wire and person and attacking the judges box’. Police from nearby Irishtown police station restored order.
Hockey arrived in March 1924 when Ireland beat England in a 3.15pm tip off to win the triple crown, a year later 1/6 would gain you admittance to the Ireland v Scotland encounter.

In 1934 another new sport arrived when thousands arrived by ferry from Britain to watch the inaugural Perpetual Challenge Cup match between Warrington and Wigan in rugby league. The match was sponsored by the Hospital’s Trust and Wigan overcame their opponent thirty two points to nineteen. Alas despite its proposed annual status, this was the only rugby league match played at the south Dublin venue.

On July 9th 1937 promoter Joe McAllister organised a boxing tournament featuring flyweight contender Jim Warnock. Warnock won his bout but lost a belt eliminator to Peter Kane two weeks later in a fight held at the home of Liverpool, Anfield.

In 1950 a new sport arrived, the thrill of the speedway. Motor bikes were speeding around the course in a sport that was now attracting both spectators and American riders eager to earn a living. The sport initially stayed four years at Shelbourne Park promoted by Ronnie Green. It returned in 1961 for a season and a further two years in 1970/1971. Although mostly made up of American riders The Shelbourne Tigers captained by seventeen year old Ronnie Moore matched many of the big teams from across the Irish Sea drawing thousands to the south side venue.

In recent years greyhound racing has shared its space in Shelbourne Park with show jumping. The ‘Jumping In The City’ event organised by the Irish Greyhound Board as a way of utilising their venues in Limerick, Cork and Dublin on days when their stadia were empty. 

No comments:

Post a Comment