Characterization of spatial variation of urban soil geochemistry especially heavy metal pollution is essential for a better understanding of pollution sources and potential risks. A total of 294 surface soil samples were collected from a roadside sports ground in Galway, Ireland, and were analysed by ICP-OES for 23 chemical elements (Al, Ca, Ce, Co, Cu, Fe, K, La, Li, Mg, Mn, Na, Ni, P, Pb. S, Sc. Sr, Th. Ti, V, Y and Zn). Strong variations in soil geochemistry were observed and most elements, with the exception of Cu, Pb. P, S and Zn, showed multi-odal features, indicating the existence of mixed populations which proved difficult to separate. To evaluate the pollution level of the study area, the pollution index (PI) values were calculated based on a comparison with the Dutch target and intervention values. None of the concentrations of metal pollutants exceeded their intervention values, indicating the absence of serious contaminated soil, and the ratios to target values were therefore employed to produce the hazard maps. The spatial distribution and hazard maps for Cu, Pb and Zn indicated relatively high levels of pollution along the southern roadside extending almost 30 in into the sports ground. revealing the strong influence of pollution from local traffic. However, heavy metal pollution was alleviated along the eastern roadside of the study area by the presence of a belt of shrubs. Therefore, in order to prevent further contamination from traffic emissions, the planting of hedging or erection of low walls should be considered as shields against traffic pollution for roadside parks. The results in this study are useful for management practices in sports and parks in urban areas. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.