Groundhopping: Dundalk (v Drogheda United, Oriel Park)

Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division

Date: 28 April 2023

Result: Dundalk 3 – 2 Drogheda United

Tickets: €15 (adult), €5 (kids)

Attendance: 2,825

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

The Game: I’d never been to Oriel Park (though I attended a heap of Dundalk European games in Tallaght back in the day), so a chance to sett the Louth Derby on a bank holiday Friday night was too good to turn down. I saw Dundalk last week and they seemed to have a problem finishing chances at Shelbourne. No issues this week, as two first half goals coupled with a Drogheda red card saw them seemingly in complete control.

As is the way with derby games, though, Drogheda came storming back, getting back to 2-2 at about 80 minutes before a very late and slightly manic Dundalk winner. Great entertainment, though I had the toddler with me at football for the first time (at least at a proper stadium) and that made it a little harder to watch than normal!

The ground:  One massive stand and then a load of peripheral seats and standing areas make for a bit of an odd space, but it’s nice and atmospheric. I’m not sure I’d pay the extra fiver to get in the big tall part unless it was pouring rain. I spent most of the game in the grass at one end, where I had a great view of the fairly impressive away fan pyro displays and the little one could run about.

It’s run down and the away fans famously hate the little section they’re given in hte corner, but for the game reason I like a lot of the less impressive League of Ireland ground – that they take me back to the football of my chidlhood – I did enjoy Oriel.

Extras: Coffee, fast food, programmes, lots of pyro. About what you’d expect, really.

Assorted asides: Dundalk is actually as easy to get to as any Dublin side from North County – right off the motorway with easy parking around the ground. I’ll be back.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 11. Home wins: 6 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 30. Home goals: 19. Away goals: 11. Goals per game: 2.72


Groundhopping: Shelbourne (v Dundalk, Tolka Park)

Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division

Date: 21 April 2023

Result: Shelbourne Rovers 1 – 1 Dundalk

Tickets: €17 (adult), €6 (kids)

Attendance: circa 4,000

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: A last minute shout, this one, to catch what is really a mid-table clash in the League of Ireland top tier. Dundalk are not going well this year, but started strongly in this game, in particular when they won a penalty early on, and a Shelbourne defender reacted by hitting an opponent and promptly got sent off with just 12 minutes on the clock. The penalty was saved, but Dundalk dominated from there on, with Shelbourne occasionally getting free on the break but largely forced to defend.

Unfortunately for Dundalk, they are not great at breaking sides down, and for a lot of the time, didn’t look like doing much. Rayhaan Tulloch, who won the early penalty, conceded one to allow Shelbourne to go in front around a hour in, against the run of play. Tulloch then equalised, which meant almost every relevant action in the game involved him in one way or the other. He’s on loan from West Brom.

Overall, this was like a win to Shelbourne, given the amount of opportunity Dundalk had to take advantage of them being down to ten men. It kind of petered out in the end.

The ground:  I’ve been trying to follow the Tolka Park (knock it down or keep it) saga, and I understand it’s currently back under ownership that makes it likely it will be around a bit longer. I love the place. It’s unpopular with some fans, but it’s a proper old-world football stadium, one that has entire sections that have to be roped off, but feels like watching football 30 years ago.

I actually thought the peripheral facilities were decent today, too.

Extras: A decent sized club shop, several food stalls, and there seems to be a bar under the main stand (I didn’t go in). I didn’t see a programme, but there was an unoffocial supporters zine on sale outside, which I thought was quite cool – you don’t often see that at League of Ireland level.

Assorted asides: I learnt that Shels fans sing that Lily Allen song about… erm… sexual satisfaction as part of their chants. “It’s not fair and I think you’re really mean” might be one of the funniest things I’ve heard sung in a football stadium.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 10. Home wins: 5 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 25. Home goals: 16. Away goals: 9. Goals per game: 2.50


Groundhopping: Rush Athletic (v Finglas United, St Catherine’s Park)

Competition: Leinster Senior League Sunday Senior Division 1B

Date: 16 April 2023

Result: Rush Athletic 2 -0 Finglas United

Tickets: free, walk up

Attendance: circa 150

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: My local side, Rush Athletic, are pushing for promotion to the 3rd tier of the Leinster Senior League (which is, in practise, the 5th tier of Irish football). Three teams go up, and four are in serious contention, including today’s opponents Fingas United, who arrived with a remarkable 11 game consecutive winning streak, having started the season poorly. All four sides are now as near as makes no difference level, and whoever misses out on going up in a few weekends time will have been seriously unfortunate.

In this game, Finglas started well, with Rush clinging on a bit in the early stages of what turned out to be quite a bitty contest. The game reached 0-0 at half time, and I felt Finglas were the more likely scorers

Early in the second half, the Rush goalkeeper was sent off for a challenge on their winger, a bit of a borderline call I felt, but if anything it pushed Rush on and they dominated from then on, stiffling Finglas going forward and scoring two on the break. It’s a vital win from a promotion perspective, though a couple more are probably necessary to firm things up. It’d be really cool to have a fifth tier team in Rush next year, with teams like Cherry Orchard and St Kevin’s, both iconic Dublin amateur sides, likely to be in the same division, so fingers crossed they pull it off.

The ground:  I think I’ve said all there is to say about St Catherine’s: it’s a quaint sea-view pitch with standing room around the edges, but there’s little more to it than that. Except when the coffee van turns up and creates a kind of snack terrace. Still a lovely place to watch football.

Extras: No coffee van today, I was genuinely disappointed.

Assorted asides: I posted about what I felt was quite unsportmanlike behaviour from one side on Twitter after going to this game. I got half a dozen replies, which, as you can see above, is about 4-5% of the people at the game. They all disagreed with me, but then they would, they were all connected to the side I was calling out. I deleted it in the end because arguing about football at a park level just strikes me as a bit ridiculous. The whole thing was bizarre. Just goes to show you never know who’s watching on the internet.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 9. Home wins: 5 Draws: 3 Away wins: 1

Goals: 23. Home goals: 15. Away goals: 8. Goals per game: 2.56


Groundhopping: Ireland (v France, Aviva Stadium)

Competition: UEFA European Championship Qualifiers, Group B

Date: 27 March 2023

Result: Ireland 0 -1 France

Tickets: As part of my season ticket, roughly €28 per game (not including non-international extras)

Attendance: 50,219

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

The Game: Ireland are improving rapidly at the moment, at least in terms of performances, and despite hte loss, it’s fair to say that this performance against recent World Cup Finalists France exceeded almost all expectations. The arrival of Evan Ferguson in the first team is the latest thing to get Ireland fans fired up, but it was an all round performance here that rarely saw Ireland outclassed, despite the French being fresh off a 4-0 hammering of the Netherlands.

In fact, star man Kylian Mbappe, booed throughout, barely got into the game, often dropping back into the France defensive line to collect the ball. As is sadly typical of Ireland, the goal was both from a long way out, and came directly from a defensive error, as Cullen gifted Ben Pavard the ball around 25 yards from goal and he slammed home in a moment that could almost have been called against the run of play.

Ireland had lots of great build up play and briefly threatened to equalise with a couple of late headers, one of which was absolutely magnificently saved by Mike Maignan, a save that made the front cover of L’Equipe the following morning as the French press admitted their side had been a little fortunate.

The catch phrase of Ireland fans online recently has been ‘green shoots’, and despite a loss that almost everyone saw as inevitable before kick off, there were lots of green shoots here.

The ground:  I’ve been disappointed in Ireland fans recently – there’s a bit of a big game mentality going on, I think, and the atmosphere at friendlies has been shoddy to the point of dull. That wasn’t the case for this, which saw the Aviva light up as Ireland went toe-to-toe with the French in front of a sell out crowd. It’s games like this that give Ireland fans their reputation. I’m not convinced it’s always deserved, but at times the Aviva atmosphere is nothing short of wonderful.

Extras: One of those games where I break my usual rule and grab an ‘I was there’ programme, plus a spare one for my son’s friend to keep, too. The little lad got a half and half scalf and loves it. He’s nine, it’s allowed.

Assorted asides: With, potentially, 15 years of being fronted by Evan Ferguson on the horizon, are Ireand on the way back? I find it hard to see tournament qualifcation this time around, personally, but it also doesn’t seem a millon miles away any more. Perhaps the 2026 World Cup, with a bit of luck?

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 8. Home wins: 4 Draws: 3 Away wins: 1

Goals: 21. Home goals: 13. Away goals: 8. Goals per game: 2.63


Groundhopping: Rush Athletic (v Oliver Bond Celtic, St Catherine’s Park)

Competition: Leinster Senior League Sunday Senior Division 1B (Sixth Tier)

Date: 26 March 2023

Result: Rush Athletic 0 – 0 Oliver Bond Celtic

Tickets: free, walk up

Attendance: Roughly 100

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆

The Game: Both Rush Athletic and Oliver Bond Celtic had plenty of reason to be up for this one – Rush are sitting in second and still holding outside hopes of winning a title, but also have an eye on those behind them – they must finish at least third to secure guaranteed promotion. Oliver Bond are one of those sides pushing to catch them.

Unfortunately these games can go either way, and this one wasn’t good. A first half filled with offsides, and few decent chances, and a second half only slightly better, though Rush has a couple of threatening headers, and Oliver Bond scuffed a one-on-one with the Rush goalkeeper. Oliver Bond also had a forward sent off late on for kicking out at a defender after the ball was shepharded out. A daft red card if you ever saw one.

The bottom line, though, is this wasn’t overly entertaining, though it probably suits Rush more than Oliver Bond as the current gap stays in place. Three games to go to secure that promotion.

The ground:  Rush Athletic is just a pitch with a metal barrier around it, but my word the views are exceptional (see pics). Always a pleasant experience.

Extras: Berry and Bean coffee van. That’s about it.

Assorted asides: I think I’m right in saying if Rush secure promotion to the fifth tier (third tier in Leinster Senior League terms), they’ll be at the highest level they’ve ever been in the Irish system. That means a huge few games over the next month or so.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 7. Home wins: 4 Draws: 3 Away wins: 0

Goals: 20. Home goals: 13. Away goals: 7. Goals per game: 2.86


Groundhopping: Ireland (v Latvia, Aviva Stadium)

Competition: International Friendly

Date: 22 March 2023

Result: Ireland 3 – 2 Latvia

Tickets: Included in season ticket, mine was around €170 in teh cheapest category.

Attendance: 41,211

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: This is in practise a warm up game for the visit of France on Monday (which you’ll also find summed up on this site after it’s happened), and saw Ireland go with a heap of changes, many of which were a chance for the young lads which I thought worked quite well. Evan Ferguson was the big one, with the young Brighton forward instantly putting in his claim to hold the shirt for the next who knows how many years. A couple of others, like newly internationally cleared Mikey Johnston and rarely-played Will Smallbone, looked strong, too.

Ireland started superbly, with O’Dowda and Ferguson scoring close-range goals inside 20 minutes. From there they continued to dominate, but somehow contrived to be level at the break, with Latvia scoring a rocket from 25 yards and then a deflected equaliser from pretty much their only two first half chances. A not unfamiliar story.

The quality of play is definitely improving, though, and it was Johnston’s introduction that led to the winner, with one of his earliest contributions being a decent run down the left, ending in hitting the post to leave a tap in for fellow sub Ogbene.

It should have been far more comfortable, but it was a good watch.

Groundhopping: Loughshinny United (v Derry Rovers, Loughshinny Park)

Competition: Leinster Senior League Sunday Division 3A (12th Tier)

Date: 5 March 2023

Result: Loughshinny United 1 – 1 Derry Rovers

Tickets: free (walk up)

Attendance: 35 (approx)

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: First vs second in village-level football as Loughshinny United played a side from all the way over in Edenderry, Co Offaly, Derry Rovers. This is the lowest tier of Sunday Leinster Senior League football, and Loughshinny look all set to launch out of it for next season.

One thing I love about this level of football is what you can learn from the small number of regulars stood around the sidelines. While I kicked a ball around with the kids at the pitch edge, for example, I learnt that the Loughshinny keeper, who it’s fair to say was shaky looking, normally plays full back and was standing in for their missing usual goalkeepers.

Derry Rovers took the lead when he fumbled a cross to a closing striker about 15 minutes in, which hardly seems his fault under the circumstances. Loughshinny were angry – not at him, but generally – with their level of play, with a full-on shouting match instigated at half time. They eventually got level through a header in the second half, before the game’s drama unfolded.

A penalty for Loughshinny was saved, and one of the home team’s strikers reacted by punching a defender, causing a brawl and a quite bitter end to the game, including the Derry Rovers player who had been hit being prevented from following the dismissed player into the dressing room at full time by the rest of their bench. Not brilliant quality, as youi’d probably expect, but great entertainment.

The ground:  Loughshinny Park is basically a walk up pitch with a metal barrier around it and a tiny changing area, plus another kids pitch nearby. It’s exactly what you’d expect for the level – no frills, rough and ready, but welcoming with it. There’s a notable slope to the pitch and the whole thing has a great view of the Irish Sea if you stand on the high end. A proper rural feeling spot.

Extras: I mean Loughshinny Harbour is lovely and it’s a five minute walk away. The town isn’t big enough for a shop, so that’s about all you’re getting…

Assorted asides: It’s exposed and so windy, buy coffee on the way over!

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 5. Home wins: 3 Draws: 2 Away wins: 0

Goals: 15. Home goals: 10. Away goals: 5. Goals per game: 3


Groundhopping: Bray Wanderers (v Kerry FC, Carlisle Grounds)

Competition: League of Ireland First Division (tier 2)

Date: 24 February 2023

Result: Bray Wanderers 3 – 1 Kerry FC

Tickets: €15 (adult), free (accompanied under 14)

Attendance: 1500 (approx)

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: Kerry FC were, at the time of this game, a brand new club out of Tralee playing their second ever League of Ireland game, having lost their first 2-0 to Cobh down in Tralee. They’re surprisingly well followed for a club that formed out of nowhere, and brought perhaps 100-150 fans an eight hour round trip away ot Bray (okay, some might live up here, but still). I understand their home games are selling out.

The new side is what attracted me to this game (they were one of very few League of Ireland teams I’d never seen live, for obvious reason), but Kerry FC are still, unsurprisingly, very much a work in progress, with a few shining moments (including a goal from Leo Gaxha at 2-0 down, which was really nicely worked), but not really a coherent team just yet.

The game was largely balanced overall, and in my view swung on Kerry’s inability to defend corners. Despite having three players who were notably tall (6ft 3 plus), they didn’t seem to be able to get on the end of crosses and Bray took full advantage. Wanderers led 1-0 at half time, and scored again early in the second half, only for Kerry to respond with the next attack (the two lads with me managed to miss both goals by going to buy a can of Coke, as you do).

The Kerry goal was their first ever in a competitive game, which was pretty cool. Bray comfortable winners, though, and at this early stage look a good bed to challenge to go up to the Premier.