Dublin Sportsfest 2019, on September 23-29, is the second multi-sport event organised by Dublin City Sport and Wellbeing Partnership to promote opportunities for Dubliners to participate in a wide range of sports all year round, regardless of age, ability or background.
Sportsfest 2019 incorporates existing events like The Great Dublin Bike Ride, Park Run and The Daily Mile with additional special events for schools, women, families and senior citizens and all details are on www.dublincity.ie/sportsfest.
As part of Sportsfest’s #ThisIsMyDublin campaign, Bohemians’ midfielder Keith Buckley (29) speaks about the key part that sport plays in his life and in that of his native inner-city. Dalymount Park in Phibsboro is home to Bohemian FC, founded in 1890 and the oldest club in continuous existence in the League of Ireland.
“I grew up in the heart of the inner city, in the flats in Townsend Street, off Pearse St, which has a football pitch in the middle of them. I was actually a Shels fan as a kid because of my friend’s Mam, Joan Swaine, who works in the Pearse Area Recreation Centre. She was my manager, at Pearse Rangers, until I was 15, and she used to bring a load of us to all the Shels’ matches.
As a kid I sometimes did ballboy for Shels and I was a mascot once so I used to seeing these great players and teams. I remember being ballboy when Owen Heary was captain and eventually I played a few years with him and then he managed me. That’s a bit mad when you think about it.
But I ended up signing for Bohemians and I’m so long there now that I’m converted.
I was playing for Belvedere (Buckley won an FAI U17 Cup with Belvo’) and a few of the other lads were going to Bohs at the time. They were top of the table at the time and it was a big attraction as a young lad, to go to one of the top teams in Ireland.
I was only 18 and initially had a three-year plan in my head. I was thinking I’ll go to the U19s and then the Reserves and then the year after that I hoped to get into the first team, but the club had financial issues that worked out in my favour.
They had to bring through some youths very quickly and lucky enough I was there and made my senior debut at 18. I was in the right place at the right time and my three-year plan was gone in six months!
I’m not living far from home now, in Poolbeg Quay, and there’s a lot of sport going on now in the inner city. When I was growing up there used to be a three or four-day football tournament in the Docklands Festival. There was separate teams from Pearse St, Ringsend, Sherrif St and East Wall and we used to play every year and move the venue around. There used to be some good tackles going in and some tasty games!
There’s still a great ‘Street League’ going and it was great to see the Irish team winning a trophy at the Homeless World Cup there recently. One of my friends Dean Fitzpatrick played in it and Graham Tucker – a family friend that I’d nearly call my cousin – he helps coach them. They play on the pitch in Pearse St every Saturday morning. Before I had Saturday morning training with the club I used to try and go down and play a bit of seven-a-side with them and I still do it, as much as I can, when the season finishes. For me you meet so many diverse characters through football.
I don’t know anyone from my area who plays rugby. Maybe no one ever plays it but football definitely has people from all different backgrounds. I’m from the inner city yet one of my good friends is from Howth. He’s actually from the cliff of Howth so his view is very, very different from mine and I’d definitely never have met him if it wasn’t for football.
It’s a game where you get to meet people of all ages and different cultures. Just look at someone like Aymen Ben Mohamed. He’s a Muslim from Sandfyford and is now in Tunisia and recently played for them in the African Cup of Nations. You can now see so many different nationalities on the streets of Dublin which I think is a great thing, especially around Moore St and Parnell St. Recently they’re closing off the streets in the inner City on Sundays and you see so many people from different countries out doing things together – it’s a multi-cultural city now, like sport.
There’s a good feeling and a real buzz around the whole (Airtricity) league at the moment. All cultures are there and all are welcome and a lot of clubs, like ours, are doing a lot of good stuff through social media.
You seen it with Boh’s Bob Marley thing. The jersey didn’t go ahead but it gained interest from all over the world and there was orders from every continent for it! It got people asking ‘who’s this Bohemians club?’ which was a great thing.
Bohs is probably seen as a kind of a ‘hipster’ club at the moment. People do slag us about our IPA beers and our club poet and that but it all works and we have a very strong and unique identity. I can really see that because I’m there that long.
Obviously there’s talk of us doing a ground-share with Shels now. I’d prefer us to both have our own ground because Bohs have so much of our own history in Dalymount. Pele played on that pitch! So did Zidane! We also had Thin Lizzy and Bob Marley there too and that’s very unique. If we shared it with Shels it would be a combined history then which would be very different.
But from a football point of view the plans look great and people are probably going to have to accept it happening at some stage. It could be a great venue for underage internationals and also a small concert venue for the city. I’ll probably be finished playing before it’s sorted anyway.
I work outside football too. I worked in bars for years and now I do a couple of days a-week painting and decorating. You don’t earn enough of a living from football in Ireland or even in the lower leagues in England so you have to think about life afterwards.
Being a full-time footballer in Ireland would be good if you were financially rewarded but you have so much spare time on your hands too and I need to be always active. I think that working outside football is great for the mind as well.”
See the full #ThisIsMyDublin video series below: