Groundhopping: Bohemians (v Cork City, Dalymount Park)

Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division

Date: 1 May 2023

Result: Bohemians 5 – 0 Cork City

Tickets: €16 (adult), €6 (kids) – prices including fees

Attendance: circa 3,000

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: Currently top of the league and playing a Cork CIty side whose manager would complain and then be sacked after the game, this always looked likely to be a home win. Oddly, it’s also the fourth game in a row I’ve been to with a red card, three of them in the first half: when a Cork defender kicked out at Bohs point man and saw red off the ball, and the ever-lively Jordan Flores scored the resulting free kick, this felt like it was only ever going to go one way.

That said, the score was more than a little flattering – I think Bohs only had six shots on target, but their four late-ish goals made Cork look like they’d been hammered in a way that didn’t really reflect the majority of the game (in which Bohs were on top, but not totally dominant by any means). The free kick and a finely angled finish by McDonald were particulary impressive. Bohs are away to massive rivals Shamrocks Rovers next Friday – a game that could be key to the title outcome.

The ground:  “Dalymount is falling down” came the chant from the Cork City fans midway through the first half. I had to laugh, as I well remember their ground having its roof blown off only a few years ago during a storm, a far more literal falling down. Dalymount has improved slightly in the last few years, not least through the addition of the away (Mono) stand, in tribute to a dedicated fan who has passed on, and the improvement of the Des Kelly Stand.

With its moss-covered closed end and the endless graffiti around the outsides, though, I think Dalymount is nothing less than iconic, and I’ll be genuinely upset when it’s inevitably eventually gone. Grounds with character have so much more to offer the game than standard issue identi-kit stadiums, and this is one of them. It was slightly quiet today, but I’m putting that down to the win being so comfortable.

Extras: Dalymount is fairly well equipped now with food stalls, coffee, and a nice club shop. I’ve always been a fan of Bohemians kit, and while I didn’t buy any today, I do own a fair bit of their merch. The shop is well worth exploring. I didn’t dig into the programme but there was one.

Assorted asides: There were queues for the food truck for 100% of the game near the Des Kelly Stand, which strikes me as a slightly bizarre way to enjoy a football match. My son insisted on chips. I left him to it, it took half an hour. Probably room for another food stand!

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 12. Home wins: 7 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 35. Home goals: 24. Away goals: 11. Goals per game: 2.92


Coronavirus Shutdown: Day 129

There’s something so psychologically weird about an invisible enemy. It’s added to by the kind of ‘lag time’ involved in the virus – it doesn’t show symptoms for several days. It’s hard to handle: you know that you’ve been somewhere slightly risky (the supermarket, for example), and you don’t know if you’re now a risk to yourself and your family.

Of course, it’s entirely impossible to avoid any level of risk at all: if you’re locked up in your house, you’re at the very least requiring someone else to supply you with food and essentials, and that in itself is a risk. Life is also a constant risk, I accept that, but at least life’s risks typically manifest immediately, rather than hanging over you like an anxiety axe, waiting to fall, or not.

It’s been 129 days since Ireland went into lockdown, and probably a week longer than that since we started to have serious concerns about how coronavirus was going to impact us personally and directly, as opposed to in more abstract and distant ways. It feels like it hit hard, and while things have improved substantially since the worst times (for Ireland) back in April and May, things like ‘second wave’ and the daily check on the number of cases have become everyday language, and hovering worries.

The consequences come out in a number of waves other than the obvious illness itself – the current death count is somewhere north of 1,700 here, but now, thankfully, creeping up only very slowly. The effects are huge economically, of course, but the social consequences are substantial, too, as is the general sense of malaise, which has played out to some extent in the media and in public dialogue in looking for people to blame.

Some of those people should, legitimately, have been far more careful. American tourists giving interviews on national radio from Dublin Airport as they land from some of the worst-hit areas and telling Ireland that “the risk is exaggerated” quickly become pariahs, and anger at them is understandable, in my opinion. Videos of young people leaving large house parties show not enough care is being taken, but blaming young people and Americans (or China, as the point of origin of corona), just seems a little ridiculous and overblown.

The Dublin Mountain Way (Run/ Hike)

Route: Shankill –> Rathmichael Woods –> Carrickgollagan –> Barnaslingan –> The Scalp –> Glencullen –> Three Rock –> Tibradden –> Cruagh –> Bornabreena Reservoir –> Tallaght (Shamrock Rovers) –> 2km toward home (main route as described here).

Distance: 44.7km

Time: 6 hours 3 minutes (excluding a couple of snack stops, maybe another 20 minutes)

Pros: Largely really beautiful, with the route taking in sparse mountain tops, forest walkways, some nice, runnable (if you’re fitter than me) hills, excellent views, and the odd nice village to travel through. The Glencullen Adventure Centre (a few kms before halfway) is a great stop off, really relaxed and with good coffee. The route is fairly well signposted throughout (especially well on The Scalp, where it’s necessary), with signs at pretty much every junction. There were large stretches on a Friday morning where I didn’t see anyone for at least a couple of kms, so despite being within the Dublin county boundary, this felt really quite rural. Check out the pictures – the first two-thirds of this route are genuinely lovely.

Cons: Everything from about 28km onwards except the Bornabreena reservoir section (which is maybe 2-3km long), is really quite dull, all little winding roads that are not the most fun to run or walk on. Given the choice again, I’d cut the route short at the far end of Cruagh, and visit Bornabreena another time. The roadside bit through Glencullen was busier than you’d like, too, even on a weekday. Only notable refueling stops are at about 15km in, in Glencullen, then you’re pretty much on your own.

Thoughts: This had been on my list of things to do this year (yes, I have one!), and was helpfully opened up to me by the combination of a very helpful wife, on pick up and drop off, and the opening up of the whole of County Dublin in the recent change to coronavirus restrictions. There’s no denying this is at the limit of what I’m capable of at the moment – it’s fairly comparable to the Wicklow trail run I did from Bray last year, though without quite as much elevation, and I definitely ran more of it, especailly towards the end.

Realistically, I need to be doing more things in the mountain and get more comfortable moving across rugged trails with uneven surfaces to get any better at this, but it was a really great experience, and I found I was only minorly hampered by having to carry a small bag with 1.5 litres of water, food, and other essentials in it.

The route is billed as a ‘1-3 day’ on the official website, but it’s definitely walkable inside a (long) day, and with a bit of jogging, within a shorter one. I was familiar with a lot of the spots – we’re regulars in Tibradden and Carrickgollagan, and less so in Cruagh and Ticknock, but I knew a few kms of the full route before heading out, which definitely made life easier. Maps recommended, though I only really consulted them two or three times just to check I hadn’t missed exits. There are signposts marking the whole way at either end.



Coronavirus Shutdown: Day 77

TheJournal.ie announces no new deaths for the first time in 65 days

Monday, May 25 was the first day in 65 long days that saw no deaths whatsoever from coronavirus in Ireland, and as a result, one of my happiest in lockdown so far.

Of course, I realise people die all the time, for all kinds of reasons, and most of them never get anywhere near the news. The thing is the potential death toll of coronavirus, which is massive. The first day with no deaths felt like a major breakthrough.

The day after, we were back to 9 deaths in the day, but with the lowest ‘new cases’ figure since way back in March, at just 37. Things really do seem to be toning down.

The shutdown is still strict ( at least if you’re following guidelines), but there are also opportunities to do a little more. I’ve started adding a few toys to the shop every ten days or so that we can fit into a trip to the park, and lift Adam’s spirits. On Monday, I was able to go to the Teelings Distillery coffee shop down the road for a takeaway latte and a cake, and there was no one else in there apart from the man who served me. Honestly, it felt like an almost unimaginable luxury.

Clearly there are a lot of hoops still to jump through. Ireland is in stage one of a five-stage loosening of restrictions which will see us slowly allowed to do more every three weeks. Each little relaxation is a step towards a normality that in some senses still feels a long way off, but in others is creeping far closer than it felt just a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve become an obsessive ‘number watcher’. Not a day goes by when I don’t check exactly what the new numbers for corona cases are, and how Ireland compares in its trajectory to countries that are thought to be countering things well (South Korea, for example), and those who are almost out of control (the US, Brazil). It’s a horrible but compulsive watch.

I like the loose sense of normality. There’s a feeling we might be working from home, at least, until late summer, but at least there’s a little more freedom. Hopefully, those numbers keep sliding.

Coronavirus Shutdown: Day 56

It’s hard not to be sweepingly negative in these posts, but things are going a little better, so I’m going to try and act like it. Restrictions eased yesterday in Ireland for the first time – every measure before now has been a tightening. The change allows us to travel 5kms from home, instead of 2kms. It’s not a huge change, but it does bring Phoenix Park back into play for us, and we’re grateful for that. Things genuinely seem to be slowing down, in terms of both cases, deaths and critical cases. It’s becoming more a question of how to go back to normal

For later, when I read back, I thought I’d talk about some of the themes of the lockdown so far, from my perspective. Here’s what’s been important personally, whilst simultaneously being utterly unimportant in a wider context, such is life:

Coronavirus Shutdown: day 49

An isolated walk in Wicklow just before shutdown. I miss this.

What happens when this is over?

It’s a question that haunts me right now. Humans, of course, are hugely resilient. As a broader society, at least, we’re capable of overcoming war, famine, economic collapse and, yes, disease. We’ve seen it all before.

That said, the reality now is dark and difficult. I went shopping yesterday, a necessary evil that I hate to the point it makes me feel het-up and uncomfortable for the entire day I have to go. Then I head out, with a mask wrapped across my face as I pace slightly understocked aisles and try to feed a family for as long as I can. We’ve stretched it out to 10 days or so per shop, now, with a vegetable delivery arriving in a cardboard box in between.

But we’re the lucky ones, of course. Our combined potential exposure to the virus is minimal. We’re able to exist in a frustrating but functional cocoon of our own making, restrained by four walls but certainly not threatened by them, or forced to go outside and carry on like millions of others. We might end up another number of the 3 million people who already have, or have had, corona, or the more than 200,000 who have died globally. We know we’re privileged, because that chance is relatively small.

But it’s hard not to mourn what’s gone, too. Not just the people, though that’s devastating, but also the lifestyle. Humans are instinctively social, after all. Things like going to sports games, just one of a crowd, or travelling fairly freely around Europe every so often, or spending a weekend back home with family, or cinema, or gigs, bars, those are normal parts of my life. And it’s spurious to mourn them in this context, but it’s also very, very hard not to.

Coronavirus shutdown: day 41

Is it okay to be occasionally enjoying this? I mean, a lot of people are dying, and obviously I understand that, and at times I feel overwhelmed with the doom and gloom of it all.

On the other hand, though, modern life can be frantically paced, and being sat at home with my family, who I love and are great company, without commute times or particularly high-stress work, is often a really quite enjoyable experience. And yes, it feels very weird saying that.

Modern life has a way of creeping up on you. There have been occasional times in my life so far when I haven’t worked full time for a month or two (well, one at home, and a couple of travel-based lulls), but aside from travel I was caring for a very young child. In some ways, our current reality feels like the kind of temporary ‘weight lifted off’ situation that can be really good for general stress and anxiety that’s built over a long time.

There’s a different kind of stress and anxiety, instead, of course. One that involves a genuine fear of going to supermarkets, or taking my son out for exercise and someone coming too close to us, or relatives dying. But sometimes the silver linings, meagre though they are, are worth mentioning.

The situation outside, of course, is still pretty awful. People are dying by the dozen in Ireland, though the new infections are down, and there is some suggestion we might be nearing a peak. It’s a kind of long, drawn-out suggestion that isn’t entirely convincing: though the slow reopenings are happening in some countries, we’ve announced a shutdown of major events until the end of August.

The case numbers are up to 2.5 million worldwide, with the US now by far the epicentre, due in part to what most people seem to acknowledge are really insipid policy decisions by Donald Trump. 170,000 are dead worldwide, a number that rises by thousands every day.

The reality is, though, that things will have to start reopening before too long if we’re to avoid total economic collapse, it’s simply a question of timing it to reduce risk.

Adam had his first school class over Zoom yesterday. It didn’t work very well but he’s really missed his friends, so seeing them was something a little bit special. I miss socialising too. It’s low, at times, and oddly fine at others. What strange times.

Coronavirus Shutdown: day 24

It’s incredible how quickly something becomes the new normal. Crossing the street to avoid people when you leave the house for a little exercise. An amount of handwashing that would previously have seen ludicrously over the top. Trying to work during normal days, with a six-year-old running around the housing wanting to do everything, or nothing that you suggest at all. We started a tradition today of clapping him at weekends for coping with it all.

The shutdown is scheduled to end in just over a week, but I don’t think anyone in their right minds thinks it will. In fact, we were meant to fly to Scotland in four days time for an extended Easter holiday in the Highlands, what would have been an absolutely unprecedented second trip in just over a month, an amount of travel that’s completely out of the norm for us. It seems alien now; the flights have already been cancelled for weeks.

The corona numbers are through the roof. Closing in on 1.5 million cases worldwide, with the US now with an astonishing one third of a million in its own right. Deaths are creeping towards 70,000. Ireland still seems to be under relative control, in that the numbers are rising at or below 10% a day, and our intensive care units aren’t overrun. Yet. But it is a weird, anxious time, not helped by the riddles of silly conspiracy theories and misinformation that seem to be a feature of life now.

Anxiety, in fact, has really crept into it for me. It comes and goes in unpredictable patterns. Some days I wake up wildly enthusiastic about another day with family, making the house nicer, and getting in a bit of real work around things. Other days, it feels like the apocalypse and I barely function.