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Hoops mark Milltown 25th anniversary

http://extratime.ie/newsdesk/articles/7856/hoops-mark-milltown-25th-anniversary/

Article for extratime.ie

This week marked the 25th anniversary of Shamrock Rovers’ last game in Milltown. On Friday to commemorate that last game, Shamrock Rovers and their club’s Heritage Trust organised a walk from the monument outside Milltown to Rovers’ new home in Tallaght.

The walk began with a small ceremony in Milltown that was addressed by former Rovers player Mick Byrne, scorer of the last Rovers goal in Milltown, in front of a crowd of around 200 club supporters. The fans then set out on the 10km walk to Tallaght Stadium ahead of that evening’s game against Dundalk.

Extratime.ie spoke with Mick Byrne and asked him about his memories of Milltown.
“I used to walk through the gates here on Sunday and know we were going to win the match,” recalled Byrne who was an integral part of the Rovers team that won four-in-a-row league titles in Milltown in the 1980’s. “My fondest memory is just coming here and scoring goals here.”

The journey on Friday night took two hours to complete as the fans walked from Milltown through Dartry, Rathgar, Terenure, Templogue before arriving in Tallaght Stadium. The highly controversial decision by the Kilcoyne family to sell Glenmalure Park in 1987 meant it was a 22-year journey for the football club to get from Milltown to Tallaght.

Addressing the crowd on Friday evening was James Cooke who was involved in the Keep Rovers at Milltown (KRAM) campaign and is now a member of the Rovers Heritage Trust. “When those gates closed 25 years ago, this football club was effectively thrown on the scrap heap of Irish football,” said Cooke. “To have survived 22 years not knowing from season to season where we were going to play was a miracle. This football club is stronger now than at any other period in our history.”

At different stages after leaving Milltown, Rovers played games in Tolka Park, Dalymount Park, RDS, Morton Stadium, Richmond Park and even played one home game 200km from Milltown in Turners Cross in Cork. Rovers eventually played their first game in Tallaght three years ago.

When the club organised a ceremony at Milltown for the 20th anniversary back in 2007, at the time it remained to be seen would Rovers even get to Tallaght as the GAA had taken out a High Court Judicial Review over access to the stadium. This 25th anniversary has seen some ghosts laid to rest as in the five years since that last ceremony, the club is now firmly embedded in Tallaght Stadium, playing in front of crowds in excess of 3,000 and are back-to-back League of Ireland champions.

In the month that Louis Kilcoyne died, the club are in as strong a position as they have been since Kilcoyne sold Glenmalure Park for housing. So can the club close the chapter on the controversy of the sale of Milltown? “I think we should do now,” said Mick Byrne. “It is unfortunate that it happened at the time. But I think the club is in a much better place now and we have to get over it.”

When the fans arrived in Tallaght after the walk, the club laid on some drinks in the ‘Glenmalure Suite’ function room in the stadium as reward for making the 10km trek to Tallaght. On the pitch Rovers rewarded the fans with an impressive 6-0 victory over Dundalk.

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