April 30, 2009 – Tinto Park, Govan, Glasgow
Tinto Park is a ground I have wanted to visit for a while, and this midweek fixture gave me the perfect opportunity.
The home of Benburb FC has to be amongst the most dilapidated football grounds I have ever been to. Signs of neglect are everywhere, yet with it’s colossal terrace it has to rank as one of the great temples of Scottish Junior football.
One of the attractions of this encounter with Larkhall Thistle was that it was very ‘do-able’ by public transport from where I live, even on an evening.
Tinto Park is located in Govan, not far from Ibrox subway which is barely a ten minute journey from Buchanan Street and the adjacent Queen Street mainline station.
The walk from Ibrox subway to Tinto Park takes you past Ibrox Stadium and further up Edmiston Drive. Once upon a time Benburb’s main rivals St Anthony’s also played in this area, but have since relocated a mile or so to Cardonald.
I’ve been a spectator at Ibrox on many occasions whilst watching Livingston. While I have yet to see a Livi win there and find the ‘atmosphere’ somewhat unsavoury at times, what cannot be argued is that it is a terrific stadium.
The Bill Struth main stand, designed by Archibald Leitch, really is a work of art and on my way along I took a moment to appreciate it’s impressive red sandstone frontage.
It would be stretching it a bit to suggest that Tinto Park was a stones throw from the home of Rangers but it’s pretty close – probably about a quarter of a mile all told.
In footballing terms the two grounds probably couldn’t be further apart though.
Ibrox is the epitome of big money, commercialised football, a polished all-seater with all the facilities the modern day football fan could possibly want.
Hidden up a back street, Tinto Park is crumbling, starved of investment and a target for Govan’s youthful ne’er-do-wells.
That shouldn’t be taken as a slight to Benburb FC’s committee who, as I understand it, have done some work recently to tidy up the place. What is clear is that they have a very long way to go to restore it to anything like it’s original pomp.
In it’s heyday, when Junior football attracted large crowds, Tinto Park must have been quite awesome. Even now, it’s quite special in comparison to most.
It is dominated by a vast covered terrace which stretched the full length of the field and could, if the need ever arose, probably accommodate several thousand supporters easily.
In fact, it could conceivably be largest remaining terrace in Scotland, with the open side at Somerset Park and Queen of the South’s Portland Terrace end the only two which even come close in comparison.
In the most part the cover and terrace are serviceable but there are areas which have degenerated and have become covered with weeds. This is especially the case at the ends and towards the front.
There’s also some signs of vandalism – the roof of the visitors dugout could be found strewn across the bottom few steps.
In comparison to most of the rest of the ground it is in good nick. The end furthest away from the pavilion and the side opposite the cover are both very overgrown, although evidence of the original steps can be seen beneath all the trees and vegetation.
I attempted to walk through these steep areas but gave up for fear of doing myself an injury.
The fourth side is a much shallower end which is also being eaten away at by nature. Behind it an exit path contained various pieces of debris, including a Calor gas canister and a large section of broken wall.
The other major feature is the pavilion, painted in Bens traditional royal blue and white colours and located in one corner. This building accommodates the dressing rooms and a tea bar while I heard mention of a bar on the upper floor.
There’s also what seems once to have been a social club adjacent to the ground, although it looks as though it has long since closed down.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Tinto Park is dilapidated. In all honesty it is probably just far too big for a small club like Benburb to keep on top of which is a shame.
If it was all cleared the ground would easily hold a five figure crowd. Easily. This run of the mill game drew a crowd which was someway off three figures.
That was a pity because as far as entertainment went this developed into an excellent game played out by two evenly matched teams.
Larkhall fielded the shortest goalkeeper I have ever seen. He was short even for an outfield player. For most of the first half he was untroubled but five minutes before half time Benburb got in front at a corner when Alan Campbell sent a looping header across goal, just beating a defender on the line.
After the break the game opened out considerably. Larkhall’s Joe Shields prodded home an equaliser from 6 yards but Benburb’s big and bustling no 9 Tony O’Neill restored the home side’s lead shortly afterwards with an excellent downward header.
The action continued relentlessly, and an excellent drive through a packed penalty area from Larkhall’s no 7 Andy Dorrans restored parity once again.
The play raged from end to end, making it a difficult game for the referee to handle in the absence of any linesmen.
Benburb got a lucky break when a Lorn Gibson shot took a sizeable deflection to put them 3-2 up with a little over ten minutes left.
From then on, the home side indulged in more than a little timewasting, with their goalkeeper particularly shameless.
The Larkhall bench and their small knot of travelling supporters weren’t impressed but there was possibly some justice in injury time when Andy Forrester stooped to head home a last gasp equaliser after a fine stop initially from the Bens keeper.
The draw was probably a fair result in the end, after what became a really good contest between two technically limited yet wholehearted teams.
Once again, the Junior ranks came up trumps on this occasion – a value for money game at a wonderful ‘must see’ old ground.
Scoring – 1-0 Campbell, 1-1 Shields, 2-1 O’Neill, 2-2 Dorrans, 3-2 Gibson, 3-3 Forrester
Attendance – 71 (h/c)
Admission – £4
Programme – £1
Ground – 8/10 – Wonderful but has definitely seen better days
Game – 7/10. Came to life in the second half
Overall experience – 7/10. Another good West Region outing
Match Report Links
On Tinto’s Slopes (Benburb FC blog)