|Lament for the old lady, Lansdowne|
At the end, she was a decrepit old wreck, in truth she has been for years. Yet, I will miss her, rather like those battered old plimsoles still under the stairs and the check shirt, now three sizes too small, that resides in the corner of the wardrobe. In reality, they are defunct but I still cling to them, with fond memory. Lansdowne too, harbours a treasure chest of memories.
Lansdowne has straddled three different centuries, one of the oldest functioning sports arenas in the world, but now its time is up. Shortly, the wrecking ball will swing and the wooden ediface of the West Stand, which trembled incessantly as the DART trains passed beneath its rafters, will crumple and fall. So too the East - the 'New' stand, which now looks forlorn against the contempory vibrant skyline that is Dublin today.
Myriads of words have and will be written about the 'old lady' and as she faces the final curtain and passes into the twilight, I shall re-kindle some of the images that, for me, will always be synonymous with her:
The approach to the old stadium, the walk around the surrounding area, the thronging crowds in and around the various hostelries en route. Whatever the weather, there was almost always a carnival atmosphere.
The, what for me is now the lung-busting climb up the East Stand stairwells, the gasping arrival of the Wicklow crew, delayed in Sandymount again!
The now symbolic 'left turn' by East stand residents to face the flag for 'Amhrán Na bhFiann'.
The matches themselves, from the first home international played in April 1951 (yes we played an Italy ‘B’ side back then) to the final fixture with San Marino, encapsulated alongside by a final picture montage from the old arena, provide a canvas of differing emotions.
The effervescence of the first visit of Brazil in 1973 to play an All-Ireland team with the gate receipts going to charity.
The World cup qualifier of 1981 when a Frank Stapleton skippered Ireland defeated Michel Platini’s France 3-2 before a still record crowd for a soccer match in Ireland of 54,000. The hedonic excitement that reigned when Holland came calling for the World Cup qualifier in 2001.These, and a multitude of other memories will remain etched in the caverns of my mind.
Lansdowne is of course the home of Irish Rugby and that genre too, has spawned a whole raft of reminiscence for Irish sports fans. There have been many memorable, indeed heart warming performances at the old stadium interspersed with occasional heartache, but the rugby events of recent weeks could not provide a more fitting farewell to the ground. Soccer also, bade farewell on a high, with the riveting climax provided by Derry City and St Patricks Athletic in the FAI Cup Final.
Now the story ends and we move on. The new stadium will rise from the ruins to provide an environment in keeping with the modern world and our lofty position within it.
the memories will fade, how many people know the founding history of
the place, have heard of Henry Dunlop, who opened the venue in 1872
to house the All Ireland Athletics Championships? The
new stadium will hopefully be the springboard to a whole new era of
success, of new dreams, fresh adventures to hold dear in the future
but still I will miss the old lady, Lansdowne.