Republic of Ireland
Lansdowne Road

Ground No. 69
Visited - Wednesday 17th August 2005
Result - Republic of Ireland 1-2 Italy
Competition - International Friendly
Attendance - 44,000

With redevelopment plans in place for Lansdowne Road, I was hoping to get along before the building started to get a chance to see the famous old ground, and with the terraces being opened for a friendly match, then the game against Italy seemed the perfect choice.

Despite the game eventually selling out, getting tickets wasn’t a problem, with the Irish Ticketmaster being easy to use and relatively efficient, the one surprise was how cheap they were, just £13.63 (€20), which considering that I paid £30 to see England play Holland at Villa Park really goes to show what a rip-off the game in this country has become. Anyway, with tickets in hand, and flights booked, the date soon came around, and it was off over the Irish Sea, to the Emerald Isle and the city of Dublin.

I’d managed to find good times to fly from Birmingham, which meant there wasn’t much travelling on the trains, and after arriving in to Birmingham International Airport, it was soon through check-in and security and onto the plane. The flight itself didn’t take long, exactly 40 minutes from take off to touching down, and once out of Dublin airport, there was a bus waiting outside of the Arrivals building going to the city centre, which only cost €5 for an all day pass, so after a short bus ride, I arrived into Dublin city centre just after 12pm.

First of all I had planned to go down to the ground and take pictures. After a fairly long walk, I eventually got there, and went all around, unfortunately though I couldn’t get in, so had to make do with the pictures of the exterior, which generally showed a fairly tired ground, but an interesting one nonetheless, with the ivy (at least I think it was ivy!) covering the back of the South terrace. Another feature of note was the DART running under the West Stand, which gave a good view into the ground as you passed it whilst on the train.

After leaving the ground, I went off towards Croke Park, and did a tour around that ground, as well as spending some time in the centre of Dublin until checking into my hotel at about 5pm. After getting some much needed rest at the hotel, it was soon time to go back down to Lansdowne Road, so it was onto the DART at Tara Street, for the short journey back to the ground.

With not having much success earlier in the day, I had hoped to get some pictures of the ground relatively empty, so was quite surprised when going in a good 45 minutes before kick-off to find that it was already fairly full. The South Terrace was packed, and it was simply find a place to stand as opposed to look to get pictures, so sadly that didn’t really go to plan, and I was left with quite a while to read the programme, (not an easy thing to do on a packed terrace with the size of international programmes!).

As for the rest of the ground, it really is in need of the planned redevelopment. The stand we were in, the South Terrace was awful. Facilities were poor, and the terrace itself was virtually crumbling, that’s not to mention it being uncovered. To our left was the West Stand. This looked quite a good stand, despite being quite old it looked to offer good views, being two tiered and all-seated. To the two sides of it were small black and white timbered houses/pavilions, similar to the one that can be found at Craven Cottage, which helped to give the ground extra character. Opposite was the North Terrace, which looked similar to the one we were in, but slightly smaller. Finally, to our right, was the Guinness East Stand, which was three tiers high, and looked the newest structure at the ground. In the lower tier there was terracing, whilst above it two tiers of seating, and a rather unusually shaped roof, which as with the rest of the stand, half wraps around the south-east corner. Overall, it really does look quite tired, there may be character in abundance, but it certainly is a ground that has had its day, compared to the top grounds in England it really is quite poor. 

After surveying the ground, the two teams eventually came out, and lined up for the national anthems, and despite missing both Robbie and Roy Keane, Ireland put out a strong side, with the likes of Duff, Holland, O’Shea, Given and Finnan all starting. The Italians weren’t taking the game lightly either, and started with the likes of Nesta, Del Piero, Vieiri, Cannavaro and Zambrotta.
From the off, both sides went for it, but Italy had the pick of the early chances, with Shay Given really having to work hard, pulling off several good saves. The pressure from the visitors told though, when from a corner, and another fine save from Given, Andrea Pirlo drove home a shot through a packed penalty area, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance. It was all Italy after that, with them controlling the flow of the game, and they were unlucky not to increase their lead when Vieri, in one move, controlled a long pass and hit it on the volley lobbing the ball over Given, only for it to rebound off the bar. Even the home fans were clapping at that! They did make it 2-0 a few minutes later though, when after another fine save from Shay Given, Alberto Gilardino picked up on the loose ball and hit it past the keeper, who was still on the floor. That seemed like the game was over, with there still being no real Irish pressure, but just a minute later it was the home fans celebrating when Andy Reid hit a nice angled shot from the edge of the area to make it 2-1. That seemed to give the Irish more confidence, and with the atmosphere picking up, Ian Harte almost equalised, but for a deflection that sent the chance wide.

The second-half was more equal and in the early stages, it looked like Ireland could go on and win it, but the Italians lived up to their defensive reputation, and were never seriously threatened. The Italians did have chances to increase their lead, but it was the hosts who seemed most likely to score as the match wore on, especially in injury time when Clinton Morrison went close on several occasions, whilst another chance saw the ball agonisingly roll across the line, just begging for someone to breath on it, but it was cleared. In the final seconds Morrison did get the ball in the back of the net, but was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball, when it seemed more just to hit him in the hand. That was it though, and after several minutes of injury time, the referee blew his whistle to indicate the end of the match.

Throughout, the atmosphere hadn’t really been brilliant, although the match didn’t give the fans any inspiration being fairly boring throughout. As expected, there wasn’t a sign of trouble, at any time, with the crowd being fairly good-natured.

After leaving the ground, it was a fair wait to get back onto the DART towards the city centre, but eventually we got on it, and after a short journey, it was back to the hotel for the night.

Overall it was a good trip, the next day I saw the grounds of Bohemians, Shelbourne and St Patrick’s, as well as walking around the centre of Dublin, but as for the main entertainment, it was nice to see Lansdowne Road, to at least experience it once, although as with a lot of similar places, it might have character, but the redevelopment is desperately needed. Hopefully I can get back over once the ground has been rebuilt, the plans certainly look promising, and with any luck they will try to implement the unique features that make it stand apart from other stadiums around the world.

Rear of the West Stand

Looking towards the West Stand from Lansdowne Rd Station

A DART Train passing underneath the West Stand

Rear of the South Terrace

Rear of the South Terrace

Rear of the South Terrace

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the East Stand

The 'Schoolboys Terrace' 

One of the Pavilions inside the ground

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

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