Bohemians take on Palestine as a packed Dalymount Park witnesses history

Footballers, musicians, poets, artists and Michael D combine to produce a unique night in the history of Irish sport

All you need is Love by The Beatles was blared as Bohemians and Palestine players strolled on to the pitch, setting the tone for a unique occasion in the history of Irish football.

Dalymount Park was packed to the rafters as Bohs’ hard-core fans in the Jodi Stand were drowned out by a sea of people, many new to football, giving the visitors a standing ovation. And that was only after the warm-up.

On this sun-kissed evening in north Dublin, when the gentle breeze saw thousands of Palestinian flags unfurled, the great and good showed up. Footballers, musicians, poets, artists and families created a festival atmosphere usually reserved for Katie McCabe’s Ireland team at Tallaght Stadium, or an actual festival.

The party started early and lasted long past the full-time whistle. What began with the Fab Four was ended by Annie Mac and her husband Toddla T, DJ-ing in the Mono Bar, one of two pubs inside the old ground.


In total, 4,390 paid through the turnstiles but it felt nothing like the League of Ireland men’s games that fill this stadium every other Friday night. The mere mention of the President of Ireland got Michael D Higgins a louder roar than he hears at a packed Aviva Stadium. Inviting players and officials from both teams to Áras an Uachtaráin last Monday clearly struck a chord.

Róisín El Cherif sang a stirring version of the Palestinian anthem, The Fedayeen Warrior that referenced the “volcano of my vendetta” and a promise to “die as a warrior – until my country returns”. Lankum’s Radie Peat responded with a pitch perfect Amhrán na bhFiann and away we went.

The game itself eventually came to life, sans vendettas, although plenty of warriors were on show. Bohs had the better of exchanges with teenager Savannah Kane catching the eye while Nour Youseff, the German-born striker who plays for Union Berlin, kept Tiegan Ruddy on high alert.

Youseff had the final say on football proceedings but the whistle for half-time felt like the opening goal as the entire crowd rose to serenade the players’ walk off.

Christy Moore was set to perform, 34 years after opening for Status Quo on the same grass, but his late withdrawal was no problem. Up stepped Mary Black. As the sun set over Dalymount, only a woman’s heart would do. She actually sang No Frontiers, which was equally apt.

The match programme is a collectable. Filled with poetry and paintings, some criticism was levelled at Fifa president Gianni Infantino and the state of Israel, but mainly it was a celebration of female athletes travelling from the West Bank and around the world to face Phibsborough’s finest.

“At the heart of sport lies the principle of sportsmanship,” wrote Rebecca O’Keefe, a former Ireland basketball player. “This friendly match between the Palestine and Bohemians gives the ordinary act of sportsmanship an extraordinary significance.

“At a time when joy and play and laughter feel somewhat guilt-ridden, or incompatible with the collective grief and trauma being experienced globally, sport can offer rare relief – momentary freedom, even.”

Bohs are midseason, currently sitting seventh in the Premier Division, so their conditioning appeared to tell early in the second half when Katie Malone scored. This sparked a pre-planned celebration as the entire home team huddled together to display a Palestinian t-shirt.

The 2-1 result to the visitors was irrelevant but Palestine heaped enough pressure on Bohs to force an own goal from Shauna Carroll. Unexpectedly, Youseff went and won it for them, evading two challenges to slip the ball past Bohs goalkeeper Rachael Kelly. It mattered to the players. The entire experience definitely mattered to them.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent