As Bohemians fans look forward to Friday’s opening home league clash of 2014, TONY CONSIDINE recalls his first time at a game under the famous floodlights of Dalymount Park 35 years ago and the joys that both ‘Dalyer’ and Bohs have provided him ever since.

March is now upon us and ever since the switch to ‘summer’ football, in amongst the blossoming of new life following the winter, it’s a month when we also see the shoots of a new League of Ireland season appear as we convince ourselves that this could once again be ‘the year’ as our Friday nights take on a renewed sense of purpose.

It’s also a time of year that sees clubs trying to entice new supporters along and often sees older fans who are now parents or grandparents attempt to introduce (or indoctrinate!) the younger generations to the joys of following your local club and in our case, to introduce them to the home of Irish football, or ‘Dalyer’ as it’s known to those of us who love it.

They say you never forget your first – your first kiss, your first love. Well, my first introduction to Dalyer actually came at an Ireland game rather than to see Bohs. My Da had actually grown up a Drumcondra fan with Tolka Park the nearest ground to his home in Donnycarney and he attended the big Northside/Southside derbies of the day between Drums and Shamrock Rovers as they battled it out for silverware with Bohs still retaining its amateur status during the 1950s and 1960s.

By the time of Drumcondra’s demise in the early ’70s, as a keen amateur player himself for an Amateur League club called Trafford United, he was spending his weekends playing rather than watching. Although he then began to take more of an interest in the newly-professional Bohemian FC as the main Northside club, my earliest memories of watching football were on the council pitches of Dublin in the likes of St Anne’s Park rather than League of Ireland grounds as myself and friends were taken along to cheer on our Dads and, more importantly, to get us out from under our Mams’ feet!

So thus, my first introduction to a proper football stadium was for a midweek Ireland international. It was only a Mickey Mouse friendly against the USA in October 1979 that’s better remembered these days for the fact that Chris Hughton (left) made his debut, becoming the first black player to represent us.

But although I’d been brought to Croke Park on a number of occasions during the summers to watch Heffo’s Army as they cut a swathe through the best that the GAA could produce, this was the first time to be brought to what would become my Mecca, the home of Irish football, Dalymount Park.

Despite being young enough to spend most of the game on my Da’s shoulders, I can still remember it as if it was yesterday – the buzz of the 23,000-strong crowd coming into Phibsborough and seeing those famous floodlight stanchions dominating the skyline. It was actually those floodlights as much as anything else that made this seem a proper stadium like the ones I’d seen on telly in a way the ground on Jones’ Road never had.

I can remember making our way up through the crowds to the Connaught Street terrace and finding a spot at the back under the King Crisps sign that seemed gigantic to me. Then that sinking feeling that I’ve gotten so used to over the years as Ireland went behind early on against a country who were minnows in football terms back then.

I recall the annoyance of my Dad and his mates as Ireland huffed and puffed but couldn’t get back into the game and the good-natured resignation as they said ‘here we go again’ as well as the curses that filled the air when the USA went 2-0 up not long after the hour mark.

But then it happened. I can’t recall much of the build-up to the first home goal I witnessed in Dalyer as it happened so quickly – Ireland attacked pretty much straight from the kick-off but the ball somehow made its way to the late Tony Grealish (right). Next thing it hit the net and suddenly I was bouncing up and down with my Dad as the atmosphere changed in the space of a minute from one of embarrassment to a feeling that the game was there for the taking.

Sure enough, once Ireland had their tails up, the USA crumbled and substitute Don Givens equalised within a couple of minutes before another man brought off the bench, John Anderson, hit the winner two minutes after that. From 2-0 down on 63 minutes, Ireland were 3-2 up after 68 with the other two goals coming within four minutes of Grealish putting us back in the game. I can remember thinking that if every football match was like this I’d like my Da to bring me more often!

Since my first experience of Dalymount all of 35 years ago, I’ve obviously been back countless times. Once I was old enough to go myself I started attending the odd game but after moving out of Dublin for college and some time working abroad I missed out a few years before coming back at the start of the 1990s in time for the ’92 Cup win and I was settled in Drumcondra myself in time for the league title play-off heartache in ’93.

Since that first game, I’ve travelled far and wide supporting both Bohs and the Irish team and have long lost count of the amount of home games I’ve been to or the amount of goals I’ve seen both teams score. I’ve seen Bohs win leagues, cups and even a pair of doubles. Hopefully I’ll see many more.

I’ve made friends for life and had some of the best laughs and best communal experiences of my life. But no matter how many matches or goals I’ve seen or how many more I will in the future there’ll only ever be one first time.

So why not pass that feeling on to someone else? When you’re coming along to the first home game in Dalyer this season, why not bring someone new along? Whether it be a child, a friend, a sibling or even a partner, if they experience even a fraction of the highs that I have coming here over the years, they’ll thank you for it forever.

Here’s hoping that those attending Dalymount for the first time this weekend up similar memories of their first time experiencing the Dalymount Roar as we celebrate the first Bohs home league goal of 2014 hitting the back of the net!

CLASS OF ’92… players and fans celebrate as Bohs lift their first major honour for 14 years – Tony was there to see it

We all have great memories of Dalymount Park. You too can contribute to sharing and documenting its great heritage. Please contact Bohemian webmaster luke@bohemians.ie to submit your Dalyer highlights and memories.

Website by Simon Alcock