A pleasing aspect of marathon training around Dublin has been the opportunities afforded to reacquaint myself with neighbourhoods I’ve previously lived, worked or socialised in, and exploring those with which I was completely unfamiliar. Landmarks can be a comforting sign a the run is nearly over, or a dispiriting reminder of how far one has left to go. They almost always instil a hunger to learn more about the area in which they stand, and modern technology has meant this research can be carried out, superficially at least, with just a few clicks of a mobile phone.
One route which I have recently been taking around the city has brought me past three League of Ireland football grounds: Richmond Park, home of St Patrick’s Athletic, Tolka Park, where Shelbourne play, and Dalymount Park, the Phibsborough ground in which Bohemians turn out. Each venue has a rich history, and the clubs an important place in their communities. Richmond Park in Inchicore was the venue of the first outdoor rock festival in Ireland in 1970, headlined by Mungo Jerry and with a little-known band called Thin Lizzy somewhere down the bottom of the bill. Bob Marley played his only concert in the Republic of Ireland, and the last outdoor show of his life, in Dalymount Park in 1980.
While the above was ascertained by a quick search online, I want to come to a better understanding of what the League of Ireland means to its fans. To that end, I asked former sports journalist and lifelong Shelbourne supporter, Francis Reilly, to join me for a podcast in which he imparted to me some of his hard-won knowledge and experience of following a League of Ireland team. As a football supporter myself, I have always looked to, and taken an interest in, the English league and am a proud and long-suffering fan of Norwich City Football Club. My knowledge of the League of Ireland, however, is shamefully scant. Have a listen below as Fran patiently takes me through the basics.
In terms of training, with less than a month to go to race-time, I’m worried. Covid-19, returning to the office and keeping abreast of college work have all eaten into my training time, and I’m concerned that I’ve left myself too much to do. I intend to give myself every chance of completing the course, but if a half-marathon would be the more prudent undertaking, I might have to grudgingly accept it. Thankfully I haven’t been hassling people for donations yet, so if I do decide to run the half rather than full marathon, I’ll be spared the ignominy of returning good natured donors’ cash to them.