Croke Park’s Patriotic Roots

5 Nov

This past weekend I was able to tour the fourth largest sports stadium in all of Europe: Croke Park. Located under 20 minutes outside the city center of Dublin, Croke Park is nestled in the center of a small neighborhood. The stadium’s total capacity is 82,300 people and is usually completely filled during big games. Hurling, Gaelic football, and soccer are the three main sports played in Croke Park since 1884 when it first opened. After touring the park and learning all of its history, what really stuck with me were the alternate lives of the players. Many of the players have jobs, families, and other responsibilities besides competing in front of thousands of fans.

The sheer love for the sport alone reflects the strong community here in Ireland and a great love for their county and country as a whole. The players are completely dedicated to their teams and represent the hard workingman here in Ireland. It was fascinating to walk through the museum at the park to look through the history of it and the many great players that have competed there. Henry Shefflin in particular, is known in Ireland to be one of the greatest Hurlers ever to play the sport. He plays center forward for Killarney, and is the only hurler to have ever won nine All-Ireland Senior winner medals on the field. He also has twelve Leinister Senior Hurling Championship medals and five National Hurling League medals. He is the highest scorer in a championship game ever, and has played in more All Ireland Finals than any other other person to play the game. Shefflin currently works with a bank that coincides with Bank of Ireland in the finance department for local sales in the eastern region of the country. He is now 34 and has been playing the sport since he was 14 years old. Henry’s dedication to the sport is inspiring to people all around the world because of his unbelievable ability, courage, and leadership on and off the field. The fact that he has a day job and family while he continues to perform pristine on the field is truly inspiring to those who look up to him.

One aspect of the game that was vexing to me was if the players got paid or not. According to the article, “Head-to-Head: Should the GAA go pro?” by Séan O’Neill, “The President of the GAA, Liam O’Neill, earns in the region of €100,000 a year while the players only get a few hundred euro, depending on their progress throughout the year” (O’Neill). It is frustrating that the players that work so hard and dedicate hours of their time do not get paid as a professional athlete like they should be. The President of the organization is entitled to make money himself because he is in charge of the overall programs, but the players have no incentivizing for any bonus capital. On the contrary, the accreditation of being a town hero is the best feeling one can have in their community. The atmosphere at a game in Croke Park is unknown to me, but I can infer that for a local Irish person it really makes them feel apart of their community and deeply patriotic. This stadium not only represents great Craic, but a deep, rich sense of Irish culture.

Erica Nesses

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