Football against the developers
Dublin city has long traded off the folklore myth of ‘street football’. The phrase used to conjure up images of John Giles weaving in and out of the fruit market, ball at his feet, as he takes his first steps towards infamy.
But the same inner-city square where Giles learned his trade now boasts a ‘No Football Here’ warning. It’s hard to have things both ways. Football in Dublin city has a paradoxical life.
While pubs throughout the city and suburbs pack out for Sky TV Manchester United v Liverpool encounters the cities own top flight clubs have spent decades just trying to stay alive. At the time of writing, though, the cities two old rivals Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians occupy the two of the top three positions in the league table and both are seeing a surge in crowds – Bohs putting up the ‘sold out’ signs at each home game this season.
The tacky non-culture of the Celtic Tiger generation, brought up to strive for weekend shopping trips to New York and Saturday’s spent consuming the English Premier League, is slowly ebbing away.
Something is happening in the city. In his review of Dublin band Fontaines DC debut album Dogrel for the Irish Times, music journalist Eamon Sweeney was brought to comment on the atmosphere of the moment.
“The stark reality is that the Fontaines DC generation are adrift in a hyper-capitalist playground of extortionate rents and shameful levels of homelessness, and governed by a political elite who are chronically addicted to optics and spin. Dogrel taps into Dublin’s rich humour and character. It is a cracking debut that attempts to reclaim the city’s soul,” Sweeney wrote.
Just across the Liffey from John Giles birthplace in Ormond Square another group is engaging in that same battle for the city’s soul. Pitting those who believe the ‘street football’ ethos should be nourished and used as a rallying cry to how we use our inner city green and grey public spaces and a property development consortium which reigned supreme during the Celtic Tiger years of ego fuelled building.
In the heart of Dublin’s Liberties district, nestled between flats adorned with the names of martyrs of 1916 and the Vicar Street music venue, lies an open space that has been let go to rot but remains an area utilised by local kids and footballers playing pick-up games.
Now though it looks set to become yet another hotel, in a city unable to offer any solution to the spiralling housing crisis.
While locals and progressive TDs are leading the fight for the future of their area a Sunday afternoon football collective ‘1815 FC’, which has been playing regularly on the Vicar Street site, have chosen to take a stand.
One of the collective’s founders, Gav Fahy, outlined how they came together in the first place. “The club came from the love of the beautiful game, the culture that surrounds it and a desire to play it on our own terms. We play on one of 16 free available public street football pitches between Dublin’s canals every second Sunday.
Through Sunday Football, 1815 F.C. has grown into a community of friends and footballers of all ages and backgrounds. For us, it was important to get people out and into their public spaces,” Fahy told Liberty.
From speaking to Gav it was clear that the group fits into the narrative of young people no longer willing to be tied down by outdated bureaucracy of a city that caters for private interest first. “Dublin City Council make it very hard to utilize public space in the city. When we were making the map of available public pitches, not a single person who picked up the phone at Wood Quay (Dublin City Council Head Office) had a clue about any of the 16 pitches in the city, “ he said.
“From a year of playing across the city we’ve found most public space is built to keep ‘anti’ social behaviour out and in doing so detracts people from using them for social behaviour.”
As Euro 2020 comes into view and Dublin gears up to host group games at Lansdowne Road the cities ‘street football’ myth will once again be rolled out. By that time, a hotel will more than likely occupy the Vicar Street site.