The semi-finals and the final of this year’s Irish Cup will be hosted at Mourneview Park, the home of Glenavon. It will be the first time in 6 years that the Irish Cup showpiece has not been held at Windsor Park. It has been moved due to renovations at the National Stadium.
Throughout the Irish Cup’s long and storied history, the final has been held at a number of different locations across Ireland. This list counts down which stadiums have hosted the final since the competition started in 1880. (The number of finals includes replays)
Windsor Park- 75 finals
The Irish Cup final is synonymous with Windsor Park but it did not host a final until 1909. The development of the stadium began in 1903 and it officially opened in 1905 with a clash between city rivals Linfield and Glentoran. Archibald Leitch was the chief architect, he also designed Old Trafford and Ibrox to name a few.
The first final held at Windsor was a 0-0 draw between Cliftonville and Bohemians (the replay was at Dalymount Park, Dublin). It was Cliftonville’s 7th appearance in the final and a first appearance for Bohemians.
However, the final would not be held at Windsor Park again until 1917 when Glentoran won their second Irish Cup in a 2-0 win over Belfast Celtic. As the 20th century progressed Windsor Park began to establish itself as the main venue for the final. The longest spell of consecutive finals at the National Stadium is 14, held between 2000 and 2014.
The Oval- 25 finals
The last Irish Cup final outside of Windsor Park took place at The Oval in 2015 when the home team Glentoran won 1-0 against Portadown. Before that, 1995 was the last time the grand finale of the season was staged on Mersey Street, that was a 3-1 win for Linfield versus Carrick Rangers.
The Oval opened in 1892 and staged its first final in 1898 which ironically was won by Linfield. The Blues defeated St. Columb’s Celtic who would later reach the final again as Derry Celtic.
It was another 12 years before The Oval hosted the fixture again when Distillery won their 9th crown against Cliftonville.
Solitude- 23 finals
Solitude in North Belfast ranks 3rd for Irish Cup finals but they have not had one since 1970. That match 51 years ago saw Linfield lift their 30th Irish Cup aloft against Ballymena United.
The home of Cliftonville is the oldest football ground in Ireland and The Reds are the oldest club in Ireland. It’s first final was in 1891 when Linfield won their first cup against the now defunct Ulster FC. Ulster were looking for their second cup triumph but lost 4-2 to the South Belfast side.
The 1892 final was also at Solitude and once again, Linfield were the champions. They beat another now defunct team, The Black Watch. It seems hard to imagine now that military teams were competing in the Irish Cup final. That was the only final that The Black Watch reached.
Celtic Park- 12 finals
Celtic Park was the home of Belfast Celtic, 8 times Irish Cup winners. Like Celtic Park in Glasgow, the ground was referred to as “Paradise” by fans. However, it stopped hosting competitive football in 1949 after the dissolution of Belfast Celtic.
It’s first Irish Cup final was in 1907 when Cliftonville drew 0-0 with Shelbourne. The replay was held at Dalymount Park, like in the final of 1909.
The last final staged at Celtic Park was between Linfield and Coleraine. It was a first final for the Bannsiders but they suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Linfield. This was a 24th cup win for the Blues and their 3rd in 4 years.
Dalymount Park- 8 finals
Dalymount Park is located in Phibsborough in Dublin and it is the home of Bohemian Football Club, known as Bohemians. The ground often known as “the home of Irish football” first hosted the cup final in 1903. That final featured Bohemians in their second Irish Cup final. There was no victory for the home side as they lost 3-1 to Distillery. It was Distillery’s 7th Irish Cup win.
All of the Dalymount finals were held over a period of 8 years, this is mainly because it was regularly used for final replays. The 1911 Dublin derby final between Shelbourne and Bohemians was the last to be held at Dalymount. Once again, there was no home advantage for Bohs as they lost 2-1 in the replay following a 0-0 first match.
Grosvenor Park- 8 finals
The former home of Distillery on the Grosvenor Road in West Belfast hosted 8 cup finals also. It was the home of Distillery from 1880 to 1971 until it relocated to the new Grosvenor Stadium in Ballyskeagh, County Antrim.
The first final at Grosvenor was in 1897 as Cliftonville won 3-1 against Sherwood Foresters to seal their 3rd Irish Cup win. It was a happy hunting ground for The Reds as they won their next two Irish Cups at Grosvenor in 1900 and 1901 against Bohemians and Freebooters respectively.
The last final at the former home of Distillery was the first replay of the 1919 final between Linfield and Glentoran. The first encounter was a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park and the replay a Grosvenor was a 0-0 draw. The outcome was finally decided in the second replay at Solitude when Linfield won 2-1 for their 13th Irish Cup.
Ulster Cricket Ground- 7 finals
It sounds like an oxymoron for a cricket ground to host the Irish Cup final but that’s what happened on 7 occasions. The Ulster Cricket Ground was located in Ballynafeigh, Belfast and was the home of Irish Cup champions Ulster FC. It also hosted international rugby matches.
It hosted the second ever final in 1882 which was won by Queen’s Island against Cliftonville. It then hosted 3 consecutive finals from 1885 to 1887, all of which were won by Distillery, one against Wellington Park and two against Limavady.
The last final it hosted was the first match of the 1890 final between Gordon Highlanders and Cliftonville. It finished 2-2 and the tournament was eventually won by the Highlanders. It was their one and only Irish Cup win.
Ulster Cricket Round has since been demolished and is now Ulidia Playing Fields.
Ballymena Showgrounds- 3 finals
The Showgrounds hosted 3 Irish Cup final matches but they were all replays of the same match. It could be argued then it was only one final. In 1975 Colerane faced Linfield 3 times at Warden Street, drawing the first two matches 1-1 and 0-0.
In the second replay the deadlock was finally broken and Coleraine won 1-0 for their third Irish Cup title. The Bannsiders had won the cup three years previously in 1972.
Ulsterville- 2 finals
The final took place at Ulsterville in 1890 and 1893. The 1890 final was the replay of Gordon Highlanders v Cliftonville which the Highlanders won.
Bloomfield- 1 final
Bloomfield was the home ground of Knock FC, one of the founding members of the IFA. Behind Cliftonville, Knock were the second football club in Ireland and they defeated Cliftonville 2-0 in Ireland’s first competitive match.
The 1883 final was held at Bloomfield, it saw Cliftonville take on Ulster FC. It was third Irish Cup final and a third final appearance for Cliftonville. They lost the first two but finally tasted victory at Bloomfield.
Broadway Ground- 1 final
The Broadway Ground was the destination for Cliftonville and Ulster FC in the 1887 final. It was a repeat of the Bloomfield final and Ulster FC got their revenge on The Reds. A 3-0 win gave Ulster their one and only Irish Cup success.
Cliftonville Cricket Ground- 1 final
Last but not least is Cliftonville Cricket Ground, the former home of Cliftonville, where the first ever Irish Cup final was hosted. The first Irish Cup final took place in 1881 and was won by Moyola Park against Cliftonville. It was the only Irish Cup won by Moyola who are based in Castledawson and now compete in the Premier Intermediate League.
Mourneview Park- 1 final
In a few weeks Mourneview Park will add its name to the list of grounds to host an Irish Cup final, who wins it is anyone’s guess.