History of Islandbridge

The following extract has been taken from an article written by Tom Wolfe, from a booklet produced to commemorate the 75-year anniversary of the club in 2001. The article in its entirety details the formative years of the club and the challenges faced at that particular time. The extract below details the acquisition of the Civil Service playing field in Islandbridge and the development of the dressing rooms, a tale that bears particular relevance to the present as we attempt to develop these same facilities.

“I suppose it is no exaggeration to claim that Islandbridge has proved to be the fulcrum that has ensured the survival the Service Hurling and football clubs. Initially there was scant bond between the clubs. With the football club in swaddling clothes still as it were, three members who had served in the civil service under the British regime ambitioned to acquire a permanent home for the Service GAA units. The trio were Paddy O’Kelly, Paddy Kerins and Liam Lane, Islandbridge was the offspring. That was a unique initiative in the history of the GAA at club level in Dublin.

An interclub committee met through 1938 to promote the common ground project. It was chaired by Colm O’Sullivan of the hurling club, Joe Moylan represented the hurling club, I (the author of this piece Tom Wolfe) represented the football club and Delia Kelly whom I (the author) meet now again represented the camogie club. Islandbridge came on stream as a result in 1944. A former dump, transformation to a level playing pitch was a daunting task. Anything resembling arable soil there was a scarce commodity. We were lucky to get some 600 tons of good soil from Ballyfermot. Excavations there were in progress for the foundations of what has since become a major suburb. Armed with ‘insider trading’ knowledge and monitoring, we got a grant from the unemployment relief scheme that met the cost of depositing the soil in Islandbridge.

For the first decade recreation in Islandbridge tended to be more penitential than pleasurable. The scantier of grass covering saw to that. Good fortune came to our aid once more. As secretary to the Federation, the leasers of Islandbridge, I got a phone call one evening before the Spring Show in 1950 or 1951 to say that a man with a lime spreading machine – agricultural technology up to that point has long since become part of the heritage museum – was anxious to try it out in the relative seclusion of Islandbridge. An answer was wanted within a few hours. I sought and obtained professional advice. I was told that the application of lime would make no difference either way because of the absence of friendly soil. So with nothing to loose, I told the man with the machine to go ahead. Before the sun went down that evening six tons of lime covered Islandbridge from fence to fence. Before autumn had set in the pitch sprouted an elegant covering of lush grass and clover at no cost to the GAA

Up to that point, a two mini apartment wooden hut – without water or sanitation – did duty for dressing facilities for Islandbridge. By the autumn of 1951 the scenario was changed dramatically. Thanks to the combined efforts of the three clubs, a four-apartment concrete building with hot and cold showers, our sanitation was in place.

But before the development took place a legal problem had to be surmounted. Because of the scarcity of building materials consequent on World War II, there was a statutory limit of £750 outlay on recreational buildings. Our scheme – the voluntary labour of club members – the girls excluded, dug out the foundations – was estimated to cost up to £3,000. However the problem was readily solved. The statutory authority, the Department of Industry and Commerce, wasn’t notified.”