In terms of Irish sporting history, the Aviva Stadium is unrivaled in Ireland, and Ireland’s national rugby and soccer teams share the stadium equally. Ireland’s most popular international sports teams play in a world-class stadium that started as a playground for schoolboys.
Thanks to Henry Wallace Dunlop’s efforts, Lansdowne Road Stadium was built in 1872. Located on the banks of the River Dodder, this world-famous stadium is an important part of Irish and global culture.
The third Marquess of Lansdowne, who lived from 1786 until 1863, was the inspiration for the name of Lansdowne Road. Dunlop obtained a 69-year lease from the Pembroke Estates to build a multi-purpose sports complex for the Irish Champion Athletic Club (ICAC), also created by Dunlop. At the outset, the cinder running route and the Lansdowne Tennis club area were laid down with a croquet green, three football fields, and archery facilities. The Lansdowne Rugby Football Club – whose colors were red, black, and yellow – was founded by Dunlop because of his genuine dedication. When Ireland and England met in an athletics international for the first time in 1875, it was held at Lansdowne Road. Lords Pembroke and Longford gave financial support to ensure Dunlop’s vision did not sink in the Dodder. Many world-class athletes, including Ronnie Delaney and the Davin Brothers, competed there, as did women’s athletics great Francina Blankers-Koen. It was a spectacular setting for track and field. Until the late 1940s and early 1950s, Lansdowne Road hosted some of the best athletics competitions in the country.
The first interprovincial rugby match was held in 1876, and the friendly rivalry between the Leinster and Ulster sides lasted for decades. A proposal by Dunlop to the Irish Rugby and Football Union (IRFU) to use Lansdowne Road as an international stadium was refused in 1875. However, by 1878, Lansdowne Road had been known as a good stadium, and Dunlop was determined to capitalize on that. England defeated Ireland by a score of 1 try and two goals in the first rugby international to be played at Lansdown Road.
Over the years, Lansdowne Road has hosted some of the most unusual foreign performers to grace its stage. Lacrosse was introduced to Lansdowne Road in 1876 when two Canadian and American teams crossed the Atlantic to tour Britain and Ireland. In 1884, a group of Scottish immigrants organized the inaugural Caledonian Games, which introduced a new set of sports. Lansdowne Road saw the stadium’s potential as a top-notch entertainment facility, and they took full advantage of it. A Russian Cossacks equestrian exhibition in 1925 was followed by Michael Jackson, U2, and Lady Gaga in its last few years of operation at the stadium. It has even hosted well-known American sports teams like the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. In 1883, the Canadian lacrosse team faced off against European opponents in Belfast, Ireland. A museum (McCord’s)
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the IRFU took full control of the stadium. They launched a series of renovations, including constructing the first covered stand on the West side. The ICAC’s decline made it evident that rugby was Lansdowne Road’s sole primary sport. So, as a result, it’s been a place to see some of Ireland’s greatest footballers come to life. It started with the Original Maoris in 1905 and continued through the Anti-Apartheid era with the Springboks tour in 1965, against popular opposition. Scotland and Wales refused to take the chance in 1973, which was a huge disappointment for everyone involved. As a result of the Troubles and threats against them, the English rugby team arrived to play their match at Lansdowne Road, a historic moment. At a politically sensitive time in Ireland’s history, the Irish populace maintained its well-known quality of being incredibly courteous. That night, Pullin’s famous comment, “We may not be much good, but at least we showed there,” seemed to go on indefinitely as the English team walked off the field. It was one of the greatest days in the lengthy history of Lansdowne Road. The first time the Triple Crown was won in the heart of Dublin was in 1988, after more than 107 years of international competition. When the 2004 Irish team defeated Scotland to capture the Triple Crown on Lansdowne soil once more, it was a fantastic spectacle.
In addition to being the heart of Ireland’s international rugby, Lansdowne Road has had highs and lows in Irish soccer history. English soccer fans rioted at one point in 1995, and the city was put on lockdown. Lansdowne Road hosted its first international soccer match on April 23, 1927, against an Italian national team. Ireland lost 1-2, with Bob Fullam scoring the sole goal for Ireland. Until the 1970s, Lansdowne was only occasionally used for international soccer matches. At Lansdowne in 1986, Liam Brady struck an incredible destination in a 1-0 victory over Brazil. During Charlton’s tenure, Lansdowne Pitch developed into a fortress, making it impossible for opposing sides to penetrate the Irish defense. The Irish were unbeaten in competitive matches from 1986 until 1993. On September 1, 2001, Ireland defeated Holland 1-0 at the Lansdowne Road stadium. The 5-0 win over San Marino by the Republic of Ireland in November 2006 was the last international soccer match played at Lansdowne Road. Lansdowne Road was the site of 126 international contests involving the Republic of Ireland.
On the other hand, one of the most memorable games on record was Ireland’s friendly encounter against England on February 15, 1995. Approximately 400 members of the neo-Nazi organization Combat 18 came to watch the match in England. The English supporters in the bottom tier began tearing up seats in preparation for a brawl with the Irish supporters. There was no other choice for the match’s official as violence reached a new high. One person died due to the injuries sustained by around 30 people in the crowd. Despite its relative tardiness in Ireland’s sports landscape, football has quickly risen to prominence as the country’s most widely played team sport and the third most-watched spectator sport.
Amid the roaring ovation, the Irish Free State Army’s first military tattoo was unveiled at Lansdowne Road, with the IRFU Volunteer Corps HQ executing drills around the pitch. This stadium serves as a memorial to the people of Ireland and the country’s rich sporting past on the international stage. The stadium was made great by the players, the fans, and the visitors. Lansdowne’s 146-year history is littered with events that enthralled a country and forced people to look away from the Dodder.
The fact that Leinster and Ulster met on New Year’s Eve in a rematch of the first rugby match played at Lansdowne Road before the demolition guys entered the arena seemed particularly appropriate. The stadium was the site of the 2011 Europa League Final and is the only UEFA Elite Stadium in Ireland. The first Nations Cup was also held there. A vast improvement over Lansdowne Road’s final years, the Aviva Stadium stands in stark contrast. Small, wet dressing rooms were erected for teams of fifteen players. Now, there are gigantic ones. Space for up to twenty-eight players in a U-shaped changing room, including office space with video analysis rooms for team administration. Aviva Stadium’s spectacular architecture, cutting-edge engineering, and world-class sustainability leave all visitors awestruck. In addition, Aviva’s euphoria has kept the Lansdowne Roar’s spirit alive.