Croke Park!

4 Nov

This Friday, I had the exciting opportunity to visit Croke Park, Ireland’s premier venue for Gaelic Athletic Association events. Before attending this tour and visiting the GAA museum housed within Croke Park, I did not know what I was about to see. In my mind I had compared Croke Park to M&T Bank Stadium, the American football stadium nearest to my home in Maryland. While Croke Park and M&T Bank Stadium do share some similarities, I was surprised by much of what I learned about the history and details of the inner workings of Croke Park.

This enormous stadium holds up to 82,400 viewers for classic GAA events such as hurling and Gaelic football. There are additional athletic events that sometimes are played in this stadium, such as internationally hosted soccer matches. They even host concerts for major celebrities like Billy Joel, One Direction, and Garth Brooks!

I really appreciated learning about the sense of community inherent in how Croke Park has been managed both historically and presently. For example, a single man bought the land on which the Park is seated independently for a hefty sum of in 3,250 pounds in 1908. He used his own money to purchase the land because he believed that there should be a place for all Gaelic events to be played and enjoyed, and he stepped in to monetarily furnish the Park because the GAA could not afford to do so itself at the time.

Another community aspect of Croke Park is the fact that there is only one player’s lounge. On out tour of the Park, we were informed that for each team playing at the park there is a separate dressing room to use before the match. After the match, though, there is only one lounge for both teams to get food or drinks. Our tour guide Chivonne informed us that this design was intended to bring players of two different teams back together after a match, to show that they can still be civil and friendly after a match has been played. Of course, on some occasions (especially important matches like the All-Ireland Finals), teams might not want to engage with members of the opposing team, but the concept of friendliness and camaraderie intended by the Park does not go unnoticed.

A final example that I saw reflecting the emphasis on community put forth by Croke Park was in regards to the side of the Park known as Hill 16. One of the people on our tour asked Chivonne why there was one side of the park that is not as tall as the other sides. She informed us that among reasons regarding the ownership of that space (it lies above a rail line that does not belong to the GAA), the GAA has chosen not to build up on the Hill 16 because it would block so much of the natural light for the neighborhoods lying beyond the Park. If that isn’t a community-oriented stadium, I don’t know what is!

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