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Who remembers Drumcondra FC?

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The children have been great at doing their home-schooling during lockdown. So much so that I offered to buy them all a present. For his gift Blaise wanted a football top, and he wanted one of Drumcondra FC. Given that he plays for the club’s U10’s and already has a jersey, he opted for an alternative piece of ‘merch’ – a branded training top.

His request struck a chord with me because I had been thinking about Drumcondra FC that day. My daily walk – now that I can go 5K – had taken me by Tolka Park via the Grace Park Road route, which meant I passed Clonturk Park, one of the pitches used by the current Drumcondra FC.

Clonturk Park is directly across from Tolka Park. The signs for Shelbourne FC and Drumcondra FC face off against each other, a battle between current and former League of Ireland members. With a few meters separating them, these grounds are possibly the closest two club grounds in Irish football, apart from ground-sharing clubs – ground staring rather than ground sharing!

Ironically Drumcondra used to actually play across the road in Tolka, during their League of Ireland tenancy [1928 to 1972]. What days they were. It’s hard to believe now that 15,000 regularly packed into the stadium in the 1950’s and 1960’s for Northside / Southside derbies between Drums and Shamrock Rovers [who played out of Milltown at the time].

Drumcondra originally joined the League of Ireland in 1928 after winning the double of FAI Intermediate and Senior Cups in 1927 and the Leinster Senior League in 1928. Four more FAI Cups were lifted during their League years, together with five League titles. Add in the 7 Presidents Cups, 4 League of Ireland Shields, 6 Dublin City Cups and 11 Leinster Senior Cups and you have glory days with a capital ‘G’ [even though they last won the Leinster Senior Cup in 1962, Drums are still fourth on the all-time roll of honour for this competition, ahead of Pats and Dundalk and behind only Bohs, Shels and Shamrock Rovers; my own club Bray Wanderers have never won it].

These glory years weren’t just tied down to Ireland – they took flight into many European adventures, with ties against the likes of Athletico Madrid and Bayern Munich [Drums actually recorded a 1-0 home win over Bayern in the 1962-63 Inter-City Fairs Cup, but lost the tie on aggregate].

Any study of these glory sees the name Sam Prole written large. He bought the club from the Hunter family in 1953 and invested heavily, transforming Tolka Park with floodlights and pitch-side advertising hoardings. The trophies came to pay back his faith, vision and finance.

While they lasted the glory years were glorious but they had ended by the early 1970’s. The club merged with Home Farm in 1972 and soon the Drumcondra part of Home Farm Drumcondra was dropped. Prole moved on to his native Dundalk.

The current Drumcondra FC dates from 2008 when two former successor clubs to the original Drumcondra FC [Drumcondra AFC and Drumcondra Athletic] merged. Clonturk Park, which is used by the club’s junior sides, has a rich history of its own – this quiet and unassuming pitch once hosted All Ireland Football and Hurling finals [in the 1890’s].

Wear your gear with pride Blaise. Drumcondra FC are growing stronger, and maybe one day will be a League of Ireland club again!

Brian Quigley

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