|Full name||Tolka Park|
|Location||Drumcondra, Dublin, Ireland|
|Public transit||Drumcondra railway station|
|Home Farm Drums 1950s–1989|
Ireland national rugby league team (1998–2006)
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 'New' and Ballybough 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 1994 UEFA European Under-16 Championship and 2000 Rugby League World Cup.
Its future is currently uncertain due to the sale of the ground by Shelbourne to businessman Ossie Kilkenny in 2006, the purchase of the ground by Dublin City Council in 2015, with the proposal to redevelop Dalymount Park as a shared home for Shelbourne and Bohemian F.C., and with Shelbourne's proposal to reacquire ownership of the ground.
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 Drums
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 Chief 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.
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 some of their fans, who were trying to save Glenmalure Park from demolition.
Rovers returned to the ground in 1996 which they rented for a time from 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 on site at Tallaght before the club friendly against Real Madrid.
|Ireland International Football Matches|
|24 February 1981||Republic of Ireland||1–3||Wales||Friendly||15,000|
|17 February 1993||Republic of Ireland||2–1||Wales||Friendly||9,500|
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.
|International Rugby League Matches|
|4 November 1998||Ireland||22–24||France||European Tri Nations Championship||1,511|
|31 October 1999||Ireland||31–10||Scotland||Triangular Series||385|
|1 November 2000||Ireland||18–6||Scotland||2000 Rugby League World Cup||1,782|
|4 November 2000||Ireland||30–16||Maori||2000 Rugby League World Cup||3,164|
|5 November 2006||Ireland||18–18||Lebanon||2008 RLWC qualifying||450|
From 1999 to 2002 it hosted the FAI Cup final until the fixture was shifted to Lansdowne Road. The stadium hosted the first Setanta Cup Final when Linfield defeated Shelbourne. 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 formerly congregated in the Drumcondra Stand, but it has been Closed since 2019 as it was found to be unsafe. 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 neighbourhood of Ballybough which is located behind the stand. The Ballybough stand has become neglected over the years due to the decreased attendance of Shelbourne and was deemed unsafe and closed by the Dublin Fire Brigade Health and Safety Unit in 2010. The stand was reopened in time for the 2022 season to house away fans. The broken seats that formerly occupied the stand were removed and replaced with standing barriers, transforming the lower half of the stand in to a terrace with a capacity of 800. This may be increased in the future pending other infrastructural improvements.
References in popular culture
- 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. In April 2021, the Dalymount redevelopment was expected to conclude by 2025.
Recently,[when?] there has been a local campaign called 'Save Tolka Park'. The aim of this campaign is to secure the future of the stadium and prevent the stadium from being demolished. In February 2022, the city council agreed to examine the feasibility of the sale of the stadium back to Shelbourne.
- "Shelbourne FC website". Archived from the original on 18 February 2009.
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- "Dublin City Council receives proposal from Shelbourne FC to purchase Tolka Park Football Stadium". Dublin City Council. 18 February 2022.
- Team, The42. "Shelbourne look set to remain at Tolka Park following Dublin City Council recommendations". The42.
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- "- Shelbourne FC".
- Tolka Park to Host Shamrock Rovers Clash with Sligo, Irish Times, 16 July 2009
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- "17.02.1993 at 00:00 Tolka Park". Soccer Scene. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
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- NEW STAND AT TOLKA PARK UPDATE, Shelbourne F.C., 28 October 2021
- "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". RTÉ.ie. 4 October 2016.
- O'Brien, Mark (9 April 2021). "Dalymount Park redevelopment moves one step closer as Bohs issue positive update". DublinLive.
- "Save Tolka Park". SaveTolkaPark. 11 February 2022.
- Shelbourne Tolka Park The Dublin Groundhop Stadium video tour