Urban Pitch contributor Ignasi Torné Gualdo shares his experience at the wonderfully unique and fierce Dublin Derby — from the food, to the people, to the raucous atmosphere.
“Have you ever entered an empty stadium? Try it. Stand in the middle of the field and listen. There is nothing less empty than an empty stadium. There is nothing less mute than stands bereft of spectators.” – Eduardo Galeano
In my lifetime, the stories around football have always been more important than the game itself. More often than not, it’s the fans that are at the center of those stories. For what is football without the fans? Their passion fuels much of what we have all come to love about the sport.
And when it comes to passion and pride, few do it better than the Irish. That’s what was in my head when I decided to go to Dublin on a trip to try and experience the beast that is the Dublin Derby. Because Irish football is a ritual of faith.
As a football country, Ireland is full of contradictions. While the Irish have a very recognizable culture mixed with old stereotypes, they continually surprise me. Ireland is arguably one of the most emotionally engaging countries in the world.
Over the past few years a change has occurred, and the tradition of supporting Premier League sides has given way to supporting local teams. Perhaps the most telling indication of the new reality comes every time the Dublin Derby is played. Bohemians is the red and black side of the town with the three Dublin castles on the crest, while Shamrock Rovers are the green hoops with the traditional green three-leaf shamrock.
While the Premier League stands out as the world’s most admired and renowned football league, I love to see that Irish local football fans are an incredibly fascinating group of people. I know this sounds like small acts of kindness, but everyone you meet is as kind as the last. It’s heartwarming and this is how I felt during the entire trip in Ireland.
Is it possible to transform football society? We all experience football differently. Bohemians FC leans into the changing context of Irish football by emphasizing the local Dubliner community. The club actively participates in the democratization process of Irish Football. The city is famous and popular, so why not use football power to change some daily behaviors of Irish football fans by supporting their local team? All they need is a social conscience, a political understanding, and a desire to fight.
Bohemian FC likes the idea of closing the gap between modern football and the lack of sense of belonging to a football team in Ireland to tap into that nostalgic element of being a football fan and going to the stadium to support your local team. They believe that football is a community, not a commodity or business. Football is the very essence of what brings people together and provokes those feelings and connections that only football can make.
At Dalymount Park, it’s the fans that make the game the spectacle. It’s all about them and their love for these colors. You can see it. There aren’t many other things in life that will pull you in so many crazy directions during a short time.
Matchday. No alarm, just a full Irish breakfast and a quick visit to Guinness Brewery. Yes, it’s touristy, but my friend Max sorted me out for a ticket and I couldn’t say no to the full “black stuff” experience before the chaos of the derby.
Stuck in pub hours before the kickoff, in North Dublin, I see Bohemian fans enjoying themselves in ‘Més que un pub,’ replicating FC Barcelona’s iconic motto. It’s derby day and you can’t escape from this. The people have a sense of nervousness. Shamrock Rovers fans will make a lot of noise, they know. I speak with Gerry and he assumes that the boys will display a cool tifo with some flares.
“No pyro, no party. It’s a fucking derby!”
People get nervous When the players come onto the pitch. The banner rolls down, and flares start to go off while preparing smoke bombs. Bohs fans are shouting and singing at the top of their lungs. Shamrock Rovers fans do the same; they look like a compact group and are impressive. The whole experience is intense.
This is the kind of derby where you don’t need to know about the result. The match is the center point for a party, before, during and after. What matters is the game’s color, noise, pints, music, and smoke. Beer is a capital part of the experience, but so is the food. I got a steak and kidney pie with mash, peas and gravy, the kind of scran food content I’m always looking for when traveling.
I love to think that the Irish flag’s colors represent its most iconic and unique facts. The green because the island features an incredible array of different shades of the color, the white for the Guinness cream, and orange because I’ve never seen a country with so many redheads in my life, like my fella Paul.
I glugged what was easily the best pint of Guinness I’ve ever tasted, thanks to Conor and Paul (huge Shamrock Rovers fans and good friends). I consider them the ultimate Guinness pint hunters. I like the idea that although Ireland is one of the most rainy countries in the world; the stadiums have no roofs as the stands with roofs are unsafe to use. The Irish Football League is the coffee for coffee lovers. And I fucking love this.
Photography by Ignasi Torné Gualdo for Urban Pitch.