In truth, Lansdowne Road’s history is rather more impressive than the dilapidated stadium that was demolished in 2006 to make way for the shiny new Aviva Stadium. Yet when the old ground bowed out in style – with Brian O’Driscoll’s stunning pass to himself, in a Leinster-Ulster game, becoming a YouTube hit – there were many who mourned its passing. “People loved it like they loved a pair of torn and faded old jeans,” write the co-authors.
We’ve picked a handful of memorable rugby occasions from the ground’s 137-year history (see page 16), but the options seemed endless. The Dublin venue began life as a running track, it being seven years before Wanderers rugby club moved in, and athletics provides one of the book’s best stories, with an American runner revealing how athletics promoter Billy Morton got round the amateur rules by striking up wagers. “I bet you 100 quid you can’t jump over that suitcase!” he’d propose.
In the early years Lansdowne staged everything from pigeon shooting to croquet, Cossack equestrianism to a nine-hour walking race (wonder why that didn’t bring in the crowds…). Rugby’s standing wasn’t helped by the long-time staging of Ireland Tests in Belfast, and, indeed, the 2003 Ireland-England game was the first time the Irish had played for a Grand Slam at Lansdowne Road.
Henry Dunlop, who set the ball rolling by leasing Lansdowne Road in 1872, once paddled over the flooded pitch in a canoe. Today, rainwater is funnelled into underground storage tanks. The ground has come a long way.
RW RATING 4/5
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This article appeared in the December 2010 issue of Rugby World Magazine
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