Croke Park, the GAA’s principal stadium and headquarters, towers over northeast Dublin. The Park is much more than a field surrounded by stadium seating. It has been a piece of Irish history and culture since its construction almost 130 years ago. On Friday, November 1st, we toured it; inside and out.
We were running late. After dodging Dublin traffic and sprinting up the steps of Connolly station, we finally met up with the rest of the group (only a few minutes late). From Connolly Station, we walked to Croke Park, maybe a fifteen minute walk through the streets of Dublin 2. As you approach the Park, the mammoth building casts a shadow over the buildings and onto the streets where we were walking. After entering Croke Park, our tour started by giving us a comprehensive history of the park and of Gaelic Sports in general. Having already been to the GAA mobile seminar, I had learned a bit about Gaelic Sport history and its role in Irish society. The tour then led us through the inside facilities of the park: locker rooms, the post game lounge, and warm-up rooms. All of this was very interesting, but the best part of the tour was yet to come. As we walked out of the warm-up room and into a small hallway, the light at the end signalled that we were going outside. I stepped out, and found myself level with the green field of Croke Park. 360 degrees around, stadium seating towered over me. It is one thing to hear about a place or even see pictures, but truly another to actually be there. Standing where 130 years of history had helped to define a nation was awe-inspiring. The 1920 Bloody Sunday Massacre is an especially significant event, not only in the history of Croke Park, but of Ireland as a whole.
Visiting Croke Park was much more than simply sightseeing where the All-Ireland Final is played and major concerts are held. Visiting the Park was taking a peek directly into Irish history.