Croke Park

22 Nov

My excursion to Croke Park, the GAA stadium in Dublin impressed me very much. From the outside, Croke Park seems very unassuming. With high gray walls surrounding it, the stadium resembles a maximum security prison, rather than the home field of Gaelic games. Croke Park is used for all GAA sports, including Men’s Hurling, and Gaelic Football. Women’s Camogie teams play in the stadium as well. The park was opened in 1913, and consisted of only two stands. Gradually, the stadium grew, adding massive stands, and an area known as Hill 16, which was built form the rubble of the Easter Rising, or 1916 Rising, hence the name. Now, the stadium holds enough room to seat a remarkable 82.300 people.

Croke Park is the home field for every Gaelic football and Hurling team in the country. Because of this, there are games played by a different county every week. The changing rooms, and players’ lounge room are also nondescript, catering to every team. Our tour guide at the stadium showed all of this, including as well the warm-up room, corporate box seats, and the VIP seating section. The guide was a very passionate sporting fan. He described in incredibly accurate detail a game between his home team Dublin and Mayo. He recounted the entire game from memory with much emotion and literally had all of us on the edge of our seats, as if we were actually at the game ourselves.

Much of Irish sporting history is contained at Croke Park, as well as Irish and British conflict. On the 21st of November 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, civilians in Croke Park were attacked by the Royal Irish Constabulary and the British Auxiliary Division. The attack, prompted by the assassinations of several British intelligence officers, by the order of Michael Collins.The two British defense forces entered the grounds of the park and shot at will at the crowd, killing 14 people, including the captain of the Tipperary Gaelic football team, Michael Hogan. These shootings eventually became known as Bloody Sunday. In honor of Michael Hogan, the next stand build in 1924 was named after him, and became the Hogan Stand.

Croke Park is very much a symbol of Irish national pride. Until 2007, GAA sports were played at the stadium primarily. When the Aviva Stadium, used by Irish rugby and soccer teams was being reconstructed, those teams had to play at Croke Park for a couple of years. This caused major political controversy within the GAA. The GAA has always been opposed to English sports, like rugby football and cricket, going so far as to make a rule that would ban any member of the GAA from playing its games if they were found to be taking part in any English sports associations. When it was finally agreed upon that the Rugby and soccer teams could play at Croke Park, it was still met by some opposition. The rugby game between England and Ireland was especially symbolic because of the events of Bloody Sunday.

Overall, the visit to Croke Park was a very enlightening experience. Even when the stands were completely empty, I could still feel the power of the stadium and could easily imagine thousands of people cheering.

 

-Sachin Mehta

 
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