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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 17 February, 2020
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The Shed is dead. Long live The Shed.

St Patrick’s Athletic players, fans and rivals recall the halcyon days of a visceral part of League of Ireland culture.

The Shed in all its glory.
The Shed in all its glory.

PAT DOLAN NEVER belonged.

Growing up in England he was viewed as the Paddy. “I was a hurling boy from Ardrahan in Galway,” he says. “So, the discrimination was massive.”

When he moved home to Ireland with an accent more London than Listowel, he was derided as the British boy. “Always the outsider,” he sighs.

And then he arrived in Inchicore at the end of the 1980s.

“125 Emmett Road,” Dolan beams. “St Patrick’s Athletic. St Michael’s Estate. The Shed. You know, The Shed is a place where I never felt like an outsider or different to anyone else. It was a place with a special energy and where you could be proud of who you were.”

The Shed is no more.

This week it was torn down, leaving a chasm of nostalgia for a generation of supporters, players and rivals who all associate it with St Patrick’s Athletic’s visceral dominance of Irish football.

Three league titles between 1996 and 1999 with Brian Kerr, Dolan and Liam Buckley at the helm.

Dolan was a player, manager and eventually chief executive over the course of three decades, with the greatest success coming during a time when The Shed was at its most primitive.

“Some elements of society are looked down on,” Dolan says. “Look at today, you see hurleys and rugby balls. Leo Cullen and Brian Cody, they are true Irish heroes. But they are the acceptable face, aren’t they, of Irish sport to the business world.

“St Michael’s Estate isn’t the acceptable face, but The Shed was such a powerful voice that the power of the people could be heard.

“Even now in 2020, there is very ugly class discrimination in this country but the people of Inchicore and the supporters who made The Shed their own became the catalyst for something incredible. Those young people, those kids that were looked down upon, they were the heroes of The Shed.”

Here are just some of those stories.

The Players

Eddie Gormley
(Former captain and three-time league winner)

I worked with two lads up in Walkinstown, John Foley and Gerry Davis. They used to go to all the home games and stand in the Shed End by the corner flag. We played one night, the atmosphere was just electric, and you do get so focused on the game, even with all the roaring and shouting.

I went to take a corner, took the corner not problem and then on the Monday I came into work and the lads were looking at me going, ‘you’re one ignorant so and so you are’. I was going ‘why, what you on about?’

“They told me they were shouting at me saying hello taking the corner kick and apparently I just blanked them. I said to them ‘Blanked you? I couldn’t hear you because there were 1,500 lunatics in The Shed and you think I’m going to hear you shouting at me?’

“It was just a special place. It was like an extra defender when you were defending that end or an attacker when you were going for a goal. It was iconic. You really did feel like you were doing it for them.

“It was always special to score a goal in front of the Shed. Two goals I remember more than any other. We played Cork, they equalised and within about 60 seconds of us tipping off I scored again. We went on that year to pip them for the league.

“One of the best goals I ever scored was down that end against Derry City. The ball got whipped in and was headed out. I just chested it, flicked it with my thigh and volleyed it into the far bottom corner. I would say that was my best goal I ever scored.

“Any goal was special down that end because it was always packed, there always seemed to be something happening down there. Flares going off, you loved playing into that end.”

richmond-park Pat Dolan crouches down in the snow in the goal at The Shed End. Source: Andrew Paton/INPHO

Brendan Clarke
(Supporter-turned goalkeeper; league and FAI Cup winner)

“My Da used to stand over where the shop is by corner of the Camac with his brothers and mates. I’d be in The Shed with my mates. When we scored, the rush from the steps at the back down to the front, you had to learn quick to use your feet and sense when a goal was coming. You had to be prepared.

“Maybe that could have attributed to me becoming a goalkeeper because you had to smell danger and that could be hard when there were Black Cats (fireworks) and bangers going off around you, the smoke all over the place. You come to around Halloween time, the main group of lads would split left or right, if you were caught in the middle you were done.

“I knew all the lads in there, then you go from The Shed to moving 20 yards ahead to being on the pitch and playing. That’s when you have to remove the emotion from it and it changes.”

Keith Fahey
(Three spells as a player; 2014 FAI Cup winner)

“There was a Drogheda game. Their fans were shouting at me and abusing me. I scored a free kick from about 30-35 yards and the way my head was at the time I thought ‘I’ll fucking show these now’. I was lifted up, Collie Foley has the look of disgust on his face because I have a shaved head and I’m sticking the fingers up at them.

I remember there used to be a fella standing in The Shed when we would be doing the warm-up. The ball would go over The Shed and off he went to get it. Or when it went into the river I think he had a little kayak or something to go after them.”

Stephen McGuinness
(Centre back and two-time league winner)

“We trained in The Shed. Possession football, runs, different exercises. When the weather was really bad that is where we would go.

“We had some great games with Cork. We were going for the league with them and I remember that mad reaction when Leon Braithwaite kept a header out. The joke we had going around was that The Shed roared the ball off the line. The Shed pushed it out.

john-caulfield-and-stephen-mcguinness-2311999 McGuinness (right) and John Caulfield battle it out. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It was a unique place, there is no doubt about it. I felt more comfortable defending down that end.  Definitely more confident. The smell of it, the sounds that came from it. Bangers going off, flares filling the place with smoke.

“The noise always seemed to reverberate and come out from under the roof. That is where you wanted to be, there seemed to be a connection. Any player who played in the era when it was full would have fond memories.”

The supporter

Catherine O’Mahony

“I can’t believe it’s gone. I started going to games in 1996 with my dad. I was nine and must have expressed some vague interest in football because before I knew it I indoctrinated. I loved it. I wasn’t allowed in The Shed till I was older.

“I started bringing my friend, Aoife Thompson. She’s an amazing footballer, she played underage for Ireland and Gaelic for Meath. She started coming down with us. We were 13, 14 thinking we were mad, it was where all the action was. Head to toe in Pats jerseys, the tracksuit. She had a fringe and a bob, I had a long ponytail with a scrunchie and my Nike Air Max.

robbie-forde-saves-a-penalty-2511998 Eddie Gormley has a penalty saved in front of The Shed. Source: © INPHO/James Meehan

“There were always loads groups of lads. We’d stand a metre away from the main group cause we didn’t know them but we still felt a part of it with the lads. I got slagged once for wearing a Leeds jersey and that was deserved.

“We had our own spot. A goal would go in and it was mad, you’d end up all over the place, you were one of the gang.

“I can still picture the girl that went around selling programmes and the ‘Rocket Man’ who went around selling coffee off his back, he’d walk by and everyone would be singing ‘Rocket Man’ at him.

“My Dad [Tom O’Mahoney] is president of Pat’s now and in 50 years of following the club I don’t think he’s ever been in The Shed. The Shed is part of who I am. It changed over the last few years and wasn’t the same but those are the memories that make you.”

The Rivals

Steve Williams
(Former Shelbourne goalkeeper 1999-2006)

“Richmond Park was a horrible place to go when I first arrived. Pat’s were the top team, they’d won two league titles in a row and it was an intimidating place, always really intense. You were so close to them at The Shed End, it was horrible sometimes.

“Being Welsh, how can I say this politely, there would be some comments made about me and my fondness for sheep. Let’s put it like that. You realised quickly not to try and give any verbals back to them.

They’d just come back harder at you and give it to you worse. You couldn’t ignore it. You had to concentrate on the game and I used to try and annoy the ones that were having a go by just agreeing with whatever they said.

“The games with Pat’s were too important. It was always Pat’s, Bohs and Shels. You knew if you got at [Shamrock] Rovers and went after them you could beat them but Pat’s were hard, they were strong and could play.

Paul Osam, Martin Russell, Eddie Gormley. You give a free kick away 30 yards out and you might as well give them a goal. There was a fear when you played them.”

John Caulfield

(Former Cork City player 1986-2001 & manager 2013-19)

“We had great battles. In that period, from the mid to late 1990s, there were two years were we just came up short to Pat’s. Inchicore was very similar to Turner’s Cross. Tight pitch and the fans right on top of you.

“The Shed at Richmond Park was their home. You could feel the buzz as a player coming from that part of the crowd. You were drawn to it as a player. There was a bit of a hill there at that end to and you used to try and spin them around so they weren’t playing to that end in the second half, you always felt as if it was a worth a goal to them.

shamrock-rovers-supporters-in-the-shed-end-in-richmond-park-let-off-flares-before-the-game Away supporters were housed in The Shed in latter years. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“We boyh had really good teams but they did us over those two years to win the league. Those occasions against Pat’s, it’s what the League of Ireland is all about; raw passion and aggression, you gave it your all and respected each other. My god, the abuse and the stick you would get when you went near The Shed. I loved it, it was so raw.”

 The Shed, in truth, was a shadow of its former glories for much of the last decade. Fans splintered and interest waned; away supporters were even housed in that part of the ground as the club allowed for the spirit of those glory days to be decimated.

But it was a Galway man and a Leitrim man walking together in The Shed that led to a lasting legacy when Pat Dolan and groundsman Andy Farrelly were deep in conversation over the possibilities for a club motto.

“Some people on the board wanted it in Latin,” Dolan recalls. “Andy asked me, ‘what do you want to say with it?’ I told him ‘that we have to be together’. So he suggested ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile’. There is no strength without unity.’

“That summed up the club and it sums up Inchicore.”

The Shed is dead.

Long live The Shed.

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