Lansdowne Road

Lansdowne Road

Lansdowne Road ("Bóthar Lansdúin" [bʷoːɾ/bʷoːhəɾ ɫan̪ˠs̪ˠd̪ˠuːn̥] in Irish) is a sports stadium located in Dublin owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and used primarily for rugby union, but also for association football internationals and cup finals as well as for music concerts. It is currently out of use for a major redevelopment. It is the oldest international rugby venue that is still given to sports use.

Lansdowne Road is also the name of the adjacent street, from which the stadium gained its name.

Location

The stadium is situated in the neighbourhood of Ballsbridge in the city's Dublin 4 area. It crosses the River Dodder and is in proximity to many Victorian redbrick houses. The bridge is Herbert Bridge and connects with the junction of Herbert Road and Newbridge Avenue.

The stadium has convenient public transport links as the Lansdowne Road station of the Dublin Area Rapid Transit rail system is adjacent to the stadium and passes directly underneath the West Stand.

The stadium is named after the nearby road, which in turn is named after the Marquess of Lansdowne. The Marquis was also the Earl of Shelburne, and nearby Shelbourne Road is also named after him.

History

The Royal Irish Parks Stadium was the brainchild of Henry Wallace Doveton Dunlop (1844 -1930), though this term came into disuse in the early 20th century, in favour of the more casual Lansdowne Road Stadium. Dunlop, the organiser of the first All Ireland Athletics Championships. Dunlop, a decorated track walker and engineering graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, founded the Irish Champion Athletic Club in 1871.

After an initial meeting at Trinity College, the Provost of the College banned any further meeting on campus. Dunlop had to find a new home for his sporting endeavours. Writing in 1921, Dunlop stated: "I was therefore forced to look for another plot, and after careful consideration chose the present Lansdowne Road one. In conjunction with the late Edward Dillon (my trainer), I took a 69 year lease from the Pembroke Estate, paying a ground rent of £60 per annum, of part only of the premises stretching from the railway to about 60 yards from the Dodder. I laid down a cinder running path of a quarter-mile, laid down the present Lansdowne Tennis Club ground with my own theodolite, started a Lansdowne archery club, a Lansdowne cricket club, and last, but not least, the Lansdowne Rugby Football Club - colours red, black and yellow. On the tennis club grounds the first tennis championship was held long before Fitzwilliam meetings."Fact|date=February 2007

Dunlop founded Lansdowne Football Club in 1872 and that club has played rugby union ever since at the grounds, being one of the most prominent and successful rugby clubs in Leinster and Ireland. Wanderers Football Club, founded in 1869, joined Lansdowne at the grounds later. The two clubs have been tenants since that time.

Some 300 cartloads of soil from a trench beneath the railway were used to raise the ground, allowing Dunlop to utilise his engineering expertise to create a pitch envied around Ireland.

Rugby gradually became the main use of the grounds: the first representative rugby match was an inter provincial fixture between Leinster and Munster in December 1876, and on March 11th, 1878, Lansdowne Road hosted its first international rugby fixture, against England, making it the world's oldest rugby union Test venue. Dunlop charged the IRFU £5 and half of any profits over £50 after expenses. The first victory Ireland had at the ground took place on February 5th, 1887, against England. Around this time, the treasurer of the IRFU, Harry Sheppard, acquired the lease from Dunlop and when Sheppard died in 1906, the union paid his estate £200 for the lease.The IRFU built the first covered stand in 1908, alongside the railway. An uncovered stand was built over the Lansdowne club pavilion at the northwest corner of the ground.

The first international soccer match at the venue took place between Ireland and England on Saint Patrick's Day, March 17th, 1900, when the Belfast-based Irish Football Association controlled that game throughout the island. England won by 2-0. In 1926, the Irish Free State played an international game against Italy at Lansdowne Road and this was to be the last soccer game at the stadium until Waterford United played Manchester United in a European Cup tie in September, 1968.

The day after the United Kingdom declared war in August, 1914, three hundred and fifty rugby union players, of middle class and professional background with solicitors and barristers and many working in banks and insurance companies, assembled on the ground. They were addressed by FH Browning, the President of the IRFU, and they decided to volunteer to join the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers as a "pals" company, D Company. They marched from the grounds through the city on their way to the Curragh. Some were shortly commissioned as officers, others became NCOs and many of the others became specialists in the battalion, such as signallers, machine-gunners and medical orderlies. This unit saw action at Suvla Bay in the Dardenelles on 7th August, 1915, when many of them fell. A memorial to the IRFU members who died in the Great War was erected on the inside of the external wall of the stadium after the war. It is to be preserved in any rebuilding by condition of the planning permission.

After the First World War, the members of Lansdowne and Wanderers reclaimed land from the nearby River Dodder and created enough ground for two back pitches to be formed, enabling the main pitch to be turned out around to the configuration used ever since.

In 1927, the old East Stand was built and a terrace created under it. Soldiers of the National Army filled the stand to test its strength. Unfortunately, the roof of the stand was not erected in time for the first match against Scotland. The day of the match saw torrential rain, soaking the spectators and the day was long remembered for the appalling conditions.

Lansdowne Lawn Tennis Club was a tenant at the grounds and had grass tennis courts where the South Terrace was later located. During international rugby matches, the tennis courts were covered over with planks of wood to allow spectators stand and watch the rugby matches. In 1930, Lansdowne LTC left the ground to move across the Dodder river to Londonbridge Road, taking the turf from the tennis courts with them.

The IRFU, which has its offices within the stadium complex, allowed occasional other uses of the ground, including athletics (a crowd of 40,000 witnessed Olympic gold medalist Ronnie Delany run there in an international athletics meeting in the 1950s).

In 1952 Lansdowne Road hosted the first colours match between University College Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin. UCD took the honours.

In 1954, the arrangement whereby Ireland matches were shared between Ravenhill Stadium and Lansdowne Road ended with the building of the Upper West Stand at Lansdowne creating 8,000 additional seats. In future, all Ireland internationals were to be played at Lansdowne Road.

In 1977, the old West Lower Stand was demolished and the new West Lower Stand opened in 1978. The uncovered stand at the corner of the North Terrace was demolished and terracing extended. Lansdowne FC moved their clubhouse from under that stand to a new clubhouse within the grounds, near Herbert Bridge, beside the Dodder. The mock-Tudor tearooms of Lansdowne FC reverted to the IRFU.

The East Stand replaced the Old East Stand in 1983, being financed by the sale of ten year tickets. In October 2005, a small fire in the north terrace put the terrace out of commission for all of Ireland's Autumn internationals. This meant that people who had travelled from as far away as Australia and New Zealand could not attend the match. The terrace reopened for the first game of the 2006 Six Nations Championship.

The Football Association of Ireland first leased the ground for international soccer matches in 1971, and from 1990 to 2006, the ground was used by for the vast majority of home fixtures by the Republic of Ireland soccer team. The reason for this was that Dalymount Park, the traditional home of Irish soccer was no longer considered the best venue for hosting internationals due to its lower capacity and fewer seats. It was primarily to allow midweek international soccer matches to take place in the evening that floodlights were installed in Landsdowne in the mid 1990s.

The grounds have also occasionally been used for music concerts by artists including Celine Dion, Neil Diamond,Destiny's Child, Bon Jovi, U2, REM, The Eagles, Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Westlife and The Corrs.

Uses

Prior to the current rebuilding, the stadium had a total capacity of 49,250. However, competitive international soccer matches could not use the entire capacity because the stands at both ends of the ground (North and South) were standing-only terraces. FIFA and UEFA both mandate that international matches be played in all-seated venues. The International Rugby Board does not impose this restriction on international rugby venues. For non-competitive international soccer matches (friendly matches), the FIFA/UEFA all-seated mandate does not apply.

At the IRFU ground, Irish rugby and soccer international matches are played. Leinster have also used the ground on a number of occasions when crowd size has meant their traditional home of Donnybrook is not large enough. In 1999 and 2003 Lansdowne Road played host to the Heineken Cup final. Since 1990, Lansdowne has also hosted the FAI Cup Final.

Renovation

The stadium is set to be redeveloped by April 2010, creating a 50,000 all-seater soccer and rugby stadium. The redevelopment of the stadium was finally announced in January 2004 at a cost of approximately €365 million; of this, €190 million will come from the Irish government, with the remainder paid by the IRFU and Football Association of Ireland. The new stadium is designed by HOK SVE, Scott Tallon Walker and Buro Happold, with ME Engineers providing the building services design. The renovation was originally meant to begin in [http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2006/0731/breaking69.htm January 2007] but was delayed. The demolition work of the stadium commenced on 17 May 2007, and construction is currently underway.

The last international rugby match before renovation was a 61–17 Ireland win over the Pacific Islanders on 26 November 2006. The final soccer international was a 5–0 win for the Republic of Ireland over San Marino on 15 November 2006. The last soccer game ever before redevelopment was Derry City's FAI Cup final win against St. Patrick's Athletic on 3 December 2006. [ [http://www.ireland.com/sports/soccer/2006/1203/1164823942899.html Derry edge a thriller] Paul O'Hehir, Ireland.com (The Irish Times), 3 December 2006. Retrieved 4 December 2006. ] The last ever contest in the old Lansdowne Road Stadium was a rugby match that took place on December 31st 2006. Leinster beat Ulster 20 points to 12 in a Magners League game that set a record attendance of 48,000 for such a league match.

It has been decided that soccer and rugby games will be played in the 82,500-capacity Croke Park while Lansdowne Road is redeveloped. Croke Park is owned by the Gaelic Athletic Association, whose rules until recently did not allow "foreign" sports to be played on their grounds. Croke Park staged two rugby internationals and four soccer internationals during 2007. In 2008, Ireland again played their home games of the Six Nations at the GAA ground. In September 2006, Lars-Christer Olsson, CEO of UEFA, hinted that Lansdowne Road could stage the UEFA Cup Final in 2010. [ [http://www.rte.ie/sport/2006/0928/lansdowne.html "Lansdowne may host 2010 UEFA final"] from RTE] The 2010 final was ultimately awarded to Hamburg, but the stadium remains in contention for hosting the 2011 final. [cite news |url=http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/sport/2008/0329/1206144877602.html |title=FAI's bid for 2011 Uefa Cup final put on hold |date2008-03-29 |accessdate=2008-07-07 |first=Emmet |last=Malone |work=The Irish Times ]

References

ee also

* Stadiums of Ireland

External links

* [http://www.irishrugby.ie Irish Rugby Football Union (Owner)]
* [http://www.lrsdc.ie Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company]
* [http://irish.rugbynow.net/archives/2004/01/new_stadium_confirmed.php Lansdowne Road Redevelopment]


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