Promoting in Shelbourne....by Stuart Cosgrave
At the age of 11 I was bitten by the speedway bug having being brought to a meeting in Santry, Dublin. A year later, in 1950, Shelbourne Speedway opened in Dublin. Promoted by Ronnie Greene he basically ran his Wimbledon Dons team every Sunday afternoon at 3.30pm as the Shelbourne Tigers.
The team included Ronnie Moore and father Les, Cyril Brine, the late Ernie Roccio among others, a couple of years later they were replaced by an all American team captained by Nick Nicholades. Trevor Redmond also promoted speedway at Chapelizod (The Eagles) on Wednesday nights with Freddie and Eric Williams and Split Waterman on the team, all these meetings at both venues were open challenge matches.
Unfortunately, as was the trend attendances dipped and speedway was lost to Dublin, however I kept up my interest by attending the World final at Wembley over many years, and I get to at least six meetings a year in the UK and two or three grand prix rounds each year.
In 1970 I was approached by some novice riders who had ridden in second half races, who had formed a "Speedway Club" and who with some grasstrack riders wanted to revive speedway in Dublin. Because I was a director of Ireland's only motor racing track and my interest in speedway was known I was approached to be backer/promoter. Having negotiated a 10 meeting deal with Shelboune Park, I got contractors in to find the track! It had been grassed over. I got Mike Broadbanks of Swindon over to oversee the track preparation and arranged challenge matches with the Swindon junior team through Mike and Martin Ashby and the Sheffield juniors through Ian Thomas and Graham Drury. It would be so easy and enjoyable, or so I thought!
The riders and bikes were collected from the Ferry at DunLaoghaire by lorry and brought to Shelbourne, the late arrival of the ferry for the first meeting meant the riders only arrived at the track some twenty mins before the start time. The Shelbourne team consisted of 8 riders who had been practising on the strand at Dollymount but had never ridden on a speedway track! It became evident after heat one when the Irish captain landed on his back at the tapes when his bike reared that we were not up to the job, especially as the junior riders from Swindon looked to be a cross between Tony Rickardson and Jason Crump! After race one we were 5 -1 down!
Something drastic was called for, we had over 4,500 spectators looking for a home win and we faced a hammering. I called the English riders together and explained that for speedway to succeed we needed close racing, and I agreed to pay all of them points for a win regardless of where they finished and asked them to pass and repass in order to make it look exciting!
This worked quite well for a few races with a few 3-3 and 4-2 results until the scores were virtually level, however in about heat 8, both of the Shelbourne riders fell, and everytime the Swindon riders passed me on the centre green they were looking at me for guidance - I think they were prepared to fall if I wanted them to!
After the first meeting I met with the Shelbourne team (club) and suggested that we get some guest riders from the UK to strengthen the team and feed in the Irish riders as they improved, they flatly refused on the basis of their good showing in the first meeting, obviously I had not told them of my little arrangement!
It became uneconomical to run and the speedway club became like a union demanding to pick the team and as a result of their poor displays attendances dropped and I stepped down, handing the promotion over to the club who obtained a new backer but this only lasted a few meetings and I went back to enjoying speedway as a spectator!
I have had a number of approaches from the UK looking for a speedway venue in Dublin, but local objectors have ruled out Shelbourne and Halord's Cross (where speedway was run in 1929) and there appears to be no other venue.
This article was first published on 3rd October 2004
"I attended as a small boy the meets in Shelbourne Park. My hero was Ernie Roccio though I met Ronnie Moore too. A great pity it's gone for ever it seems, but with rising demographics etc etc is it not possible to revive? Anyway thanks for so many wonderful memories."
"I have enjoyed my visit to your site it brought back some happy memories, novice riding at Santry in the early fifties with Mike Tams as the teacher, I am a Scotsman and I had been working in the Hammond Lane Foundry as a Coppersmith I was known as "Jock" at that time, and it was a period in my life which still gives me a lot of pleasure when I remember those happy experiences."
"Really liked the article about speedway in Ireland. My father raced for Shelbourne Tigers his name was George Fitzgerald. I have plenty of memorabilia with photos etc."
"I saw the comment about Shelbourne Tigers Speedway. I raced with George Fitzgerald. He was a great lad and a talented rider. Ginger, Larry, Vinny and the rest of the lads were a real load of fun to know. I was called 'Blue Boy' and was never blue with those lads. I had a bad crash racing at 'Workington' and stopped racing, more's the pity."
"I enjoyed reading your Santry speedway article. It brought back a lot of good memories for me as I was a novice rider when Mike Tams was there. Ginger O'Brien, Mike Savage and Don Perry were all friends of mine. They were exciting times for me and just great to look back on."
"I grew up near Shelbourne stadium and watched Speedway standing on the corner. No Stand, we stood on a hill. Once I had to run for shelter in the horse shed I slipped and got covered in mud. Mother was none too pleased to see the state I was in. Still happy days.I was then 10 or 12 years old."
"I was a young kid when I saw my dad - Ginger O'Beirne - and the rest of the tigers try to roll back time. Enormous effort went into it - but eventually it had to be admitted that for Ireland, speedway had run its course."
"Does anyone have any info about Santry Speedway? When was it operational? Was it on the site that is now used for karting in that area?"
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