Croke Park, the fourth largest stadium in Europe, is a GAA stadium located in Dublin, Ireland. Croke Park also serves as the headquarters for the Gaelic Athletic Association.
The GAA was first formed in 1884 by Michael Cusack. Cusack moved to Dublin in 1877 in order to launch his academy for Irish students preparing for the civil service examinations. Cusack also emphasized the importance of sports and encouraged his students to play cricket, rugby, etc. In the 1880s, Cusack became interested in Gaelic sports and joined the Dublin Hurling Club in 1882. The club hosted weekly games in Phoenix Park until 1884. Cusack had formed the Metropolitan Hurling Club and they were playing against Killiomor in Galway when the match had to be stopped due to the two teams playing the game to different sets of rules. Cusack soon realised that the rules of the Gaelic Games needed to be standardised and an Irish sports government needed to be established.
On November 1, 1884 at Hayes’ Commercial Hostel, Cusack held the first meeting of the “Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of National Pastimes.” Now, you would think Cusack would have been elected President of the GAA since he formed it, but Maurice Davin was elected instead. Cusack was elected Secretary, along with two other men.
Before Croke Park was built, the Jones’ Road sports ground was the place where most sports were played. In 1908, Frank Dineen, a GAA member, bought the land for £3,250. In 1913, the GAA bought the land from Dineen for an extra £250, and was renamed Croke Park in honour of Archbishop Thomas Croke, one of the first members of the GAA. In 1913, the grounds only contained two stands, which are now called the Hogan stands. Croke Park continued to expand, and new stands were added every few years. In 1936, the first double-deck Cusack stand was created, and could hold 5,000 people. The largest attendance ever recorded at an All-Ireland Football Championship Final was 90,556 in 1961 (Offaly v. Down).
One of the most important events in Irish history during the 20th century occurred in Croke Park. Bloody Sunday occurred on November 21, 1920 when the Royal Irish Constabulary walked into Croke Park during a Dublin-Tipperary football match and killed 14 people. Thirteen spectators and Tipperary’s caption, Michael Hogan, were killed during the massacre. Bloody Sunday occurred during the Irish War of Independence, and is a day all of Ireland will remember.
On a happier note, Croke Park will also be hosting One Direction for three days (May 23-25) next year for their Where We Are tour. (Just in case you wanted to go…)
When I visited Croke Park about a month ago, I was extremely excited to go because I’ve never been in a football stadium before, and just knowing the stadium is a key part of Ireland’s history was amazing. I still can’t believe I was in the stadium… I wish I had attended a game though. Maybe next time! Anyways, the view from the seats and from the field was incredible. The tour guide also pointed out the Cusack and Hogan stands, which I mentioned before. She also mentioned Bloody Sunday and showed us where the British came into the stadium from. It’s still unbelievable that such a dramatic event happened in the stadium, but it just goes to show great things can come out of tragedies.