GROUND // Tolka Park - Shelbourne FC (Ireland)

While in Dublin we just had to visit Tolka Park. At the moment Shelbourne FC is playing there, but this hasn't always been the case. Let's dive into the history of Tolka Park together.



In the suburb of Drumcondra, near the banks of the river Tolka the majestic Tolka Park can be found. From what we understood it's scheduled to have Tolka Park demolished and therefore Shelbourne FC will have to move to another ground. Not the first move they will have made. This will be almost 60 years after the ground had been opened in 1953 (although there was already football on this very field before that year). From the very beginning both Drumcondra FC and Shelbourne FC have been using the stadium, although back then it was officially the home ground of Drumcondra FC.






During the 50s and 60s Drumcondra FC was one of the bigger teams in Ireland and the ground saw some great football. In our previous update we already mention Drumcondra FC merged with Home Farm FC in 1972 and things would never be the same afterwards. The new team moved into Tolka Park, but never attracted the same crowds as Drumcondra FC did before. The stadium fell into disrepair. In 1989 finally Home Farm FC moved to another ground and Shelbourne FC moved in as the new team.





But it wasn't really new at all for the Shels. As of the 50s up until 1989 Shelbourne FC very often already played in Tolka Park. The Shels have a rather interesting history though when it comes to their stadiums. They started off in 1895 (and were named after a nearby road, Shelbourne Road). Their first ground was at Havelock Square which used to be right next to the current Aviva Stadium. Their first years in competition were an almost immediate success as they won the Leinster Senior Cup in 1900, 1901 and 1904. In 1906 they won two cups and in between they often were second. Even afterwards the successes kept coming and in 1907 they ended second in the Irish Football League.





On to 1921 when the Shels were one of the founding members of the League of Ireland. During the 20s Shelbourne FC kept doing great, with two championships - 1926 and 1929. After another win in 1931 the Shels caused somewhat confusion in the league. Due to a compensation issue in 1934 it was decided the Shels couldn't play the League of Ireland anymore. There was no football for them in 1934-35. The year after they did participate albeit under the official name of Reds United FC. One year later Reds United FC resigned and Shelbourne FC was admitted again.




And so it went on during the next couple of decades. Cups and championships were won while they were moving from stadium to stadium. The team has played in Shelbourne Park (still existing), Irishtown Stadium, Dalymount Park, Ringsend Stadium and a bigger part of their history in Harold's Cross Stadium (a current inaccessible lost ground - due to be torn down soon). All of their successes gave them the opportunity to play European football during the 60s against teams like Sporting Clube de Portugal, FC Barcelona, Belenenses and Atletico Madrid.



But Irish football and Shelbourne FC took a deep dive during the next two decades. English football became more commercialised and a lot of players in Ireland left for England. Stadiums became defunct or weren't maintained and teams struggled to find good players to keep up with the quality Irish football had before. As the level went down and no more trophies were won after 1972 the team finally faced relegation in 1986. After one year they returned and when a new investor came to the team in 1989 everything changed again. The Shels moved to Tolka Park and in 1992 they won the league again.



The new millennium even brought more success as the team won more cups and championships. And in Europe more great games followed, but all of these results also resulted in heavy financial investment and by 2006 it was all over. The money was gone. For five years they fought for promotion back to the top league. Unfortunately this only lasted for two years. Ever since 2013 the Shels are playing in the second level, First Division.



Now Shelbourne FC is mentioned to co-share the redeveloped Dalymount Park with Bohemian FC once it's finished. Yet another move for the Shels and most likely the end for Tolka Park which hasn't only hosted Drumcondra FC, Home Farm FC and Shelbourne FC but also Dolphin FC, Dublin City FC, Shamrock Rovers FC and St James's Gate FC. Let's all have a minute of silence for this wonderful ground...




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