Dalymount delayed but Bohs and Shels to move in for 2022
The 'Dalymount Roar' will live on for just a bit longer as plans by Bohemians to be playing in a brand-new stadium on the site which has been their home since 1901 have been delayed by two years.
However, officials are adamant that the Dublin City Council-led €25million project will definitely go ahead.
Bohs will now leave Dalymount at the end of the 2019 season, move in with Shelbourne at Tolka Park, during a two-year building programme, with the two clubs then sharing a new 8,000 all-seater stadium.
It will leave the two Dublin clubs with the highest-capacity stadium in the League of Ireland in 2022.
"We are fully confident that Dalymount will be fully redeveloped, it will happen. It will take two years longer than we envisaged but that won't impact on us too much," says Daniel Lambert, Strategic Planning Director with Bohs.
"Apart from the Shamrock Rovers games, it meets our capacity requirements for now. And I see this as a positive. We know that we need time to get our house in order off the pitch. There are certain things we want to have done off the field that are ready for when we move into a new stadium."
With involvement from the FAI and Government, including input from local resident and former Minister for Sport Paschal Donohoe, the 2015 deal, where Bohs handed over control of the Dalymount site to DCC so their debts were cleared, had a very ambitious time frame.
That would have seen Bohs (temporarily) end their residence at Dalymount at the end of this season, ground-share with Shels at Tolka while Dalymount was redeveloped into a 10,000 seated stadium, so the new-look Dalymount would be ready in time for Dublin to host games at the finals of Euro 2020.
There was even talk of the new Dalymount being used as a training facility by one of the competing teams at Euro 2020. Cristiano Ronaldo could have trotted out on the same spot where Beckenbauer, Boniek, Zidane and Gullit played.
Those plans have been tweaked: instead of having just two more games at Dalymount this season, Bohs will play there until the end of the 2019 season, play in Tolka with Shels for two seasons and then be back in Phibsboro, on the site previously known as Pisser Dignam's Field, for the start of the 2022 season.
"The original plan was for us to be out at the end of this season. That was way too optimistic. This is a very big undertaking and it's taken longer than we thought," says Lambert.
"The project will come in between €25m and €35m, and we are all learning all the time what a project of this size entails, working between DCC, the FAI, the Government, planning and putting the project out to tender. It's taken longer than we thought.
"But there is a steering group between ourselves, Shels, the FAI and DCC. It's working well and there are no issues."
One major change in the plans is the ground capacity, a drop of 20pc.
"The original plan was for 10,000 and we had long discussions about that, is 8,000 or 10,000 better? And we won't know until we move in but it will still be the biggest capacity ground in the League of Ireland," added Lambert.
"To me, 8,000 is better than 10,000, you can look to sell out the 8,000 for the Rovers game, or if Cork were coming up for a big match, you have a chance to get close to capacity.
"There was a big difference in the costings between a stadium for 8,000 and 10,000 so we have gone with the lower one but it will still be a UEFA Category 4 ground, up to standard for group stage games in the Champions League," he added.
The stadium plans were recently compared to a "mini-Aviva" and the new Dalymount will have two stands with 3,500 seats, with accommodation for 500 fans in standing areas behind each goal, with the teams playing on an artificial surface, which will be rotated from the location of the current pitch.
It's also hoped that potential issues over the sale of alcohol on what is DCC property can be cleared to allow both Bohs and Shels earn bar revenue.
Bohs fans have few quibbles about the Dalymount deal.
In truth, they had no choice. Debts from their financially chaotic behaviour in the Celtic Tiger years, when they borrowed €4million from Zurich Bank to keep funding the team while also fighting a losing legal battle with Albion Properties (see panel), caught up with them.
Without the DCC deal, which saw Bohs hand over the deeds to Dalymount in exchange for having their debts cleared, the club would have died.
Some Shels supporters have less enthusiasm for the deal which seems them leave Tolka Park (home since 1989) and ground-share with Bohs, with fears among Reds fans that they will struggle to have a voice in what has been Bohemians heartland for over a century.
But again, Shels officials maintain that the club have no other option if they are to survive, bar the notion of selling up completely and moving back to their heartland in Ringsend.
Those driving the project have studied similar developments across Europe. German side St Pauli, beloved of hipsters worldwide, are one model.
"Ourselves and Shels will be anchor tenants. It is a football stadium but the ancillary facilities under the stands will be multi-use and there will be community involvement, there has to be. The more people that get access to the stadium, the better for the community and the better for us as a club," says Lambert.
Despite tough times this season, like a flirtation with relegation and an early Cup exit, Lambert says that gates at Dalymount are up by 20pc, anecdotal evidence suggesting the presence of 100-150 foreign tourists at home games.
"People who don't know football might come to Dalymount and see a place that's crumbling a bit, but real football fans, especially tourists, love it.
"So two more years there gives us a chance to do things. but we'll miss it for a long time," he says.