In any city there can be more than one derby going on simultaneously. Take London for example. You could have two of the London teams playing in the Premier League; take your pick from Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Place, Watford and West Ham. Moving down through the divisions the city could also be hosting say, QPR versus Fulham in the Championship, Charlton versus AFC Wimbledon in League One, Luton versus Barnet in League Two and Bromley versus Leyton Orient in the National League. You could drill down through the pyramid as deep as you want and still turn up London derbies.
Dublin is the same, albeit on a smaller scale. While Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians were battling it out in Tallaght for the bragging rights in last Friday’s high-profile, televised Dublin derby, there was another Dublin derby being played out in a different part of the city. Both home teams wore green and white and both away sides have red as one of their first-choice jersey colours, but the comparisons stopped there.
The game in Stradbrook was a lower-key affair, a much newer derby than the iconic Bohemians-Rovers fixture. It was a division down from the Premier Division and in front of a much smaller attendance in a much less-grand stadium but it mattered just as much to Cabinteely and Shelbourne that they got something from the game as it did to Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers. Cabinteely needed a win to try to move towards the top half of the table and Shelbourne needed a win to keep pace with UCD and Drogheda at the top of the table.
I brought my son Blaise to Stradbrook. He’s been asking to go back for a while, having visited a couple of seasons back when I paid the ground a visit for a First Division game in order to tick off one of the two remaining boxes on my ‘Twenty Club’ list [the other being Wexford Youths, as they were then].
If you’ve never been to Stradbrook, it’s a delightful ground. Blaise loved being able to watch part of the game directly from our car when he got too cold – we were able drive right up to the pitch – and another segment of the game from the comfort of a clubhouse armchair [when he got too thirsty and needed an orange juice].
It’s a ground with standing room only, not because of a full house, but because there are no conventional seats. I don’t see this as a bad thing – it was refreshing to stand on the wooden benching. Football is a game meant to be watched from a standing position, isn’t it?
Conor Keeley put ‘Cabo’ in front after 33 minutes from the penalty spot. I thought it was slightly against the run of play. With their noses in front Cabinteely defended well and got to half time safely. Blaise and myself spent the break watching Coronation Street through the window of one of the houses that backed onto the ground. The house had a big-screen television so we could see the drama unfold quite clearly. We didn’t feel like eavesdroppers; we felt it was a fair exchange because the people who lived in the house – like all of their neighbours – had a bird’s eye view of the football match, if they could just wrench themselves away from ‘Corrie’.
Shelboure tried hard in the second period to unlock the home side’s defence but couldn’t find the right key. Eddie Gormley’s men were well marshalled at the back and took the chance to extend their lead late on, through Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters. Job done.
The news from Tallaght was that Bohemians had taken the points with a winner after nine minutes of additional time. This amazed Blaise, who didn’t see how it would be possible to play that much time added. I explained to him that anything is possible in football. There’d been a dog on the pitch in Stradbrook before the game. Imagine, I told him, if the dog had run on during the action and refused to be caught, causing play to stop and time to be added on?!
This year’s First Division is shaping up to be a real battle. After Friday there was only four points between all five clubs in the top half of the table. In the Premier Division Bohemians, despite Friday’s win, are stuck in the middle of the table with Rovers and their other Dublin adversaries St Patrick’s Athletic. Lots of Dublin derbies left this year, perhaps even some that will help settle promotion or European qualification, and who knows what the FAI Cup will throw up!