The island of Ireland has been deeply rooted in sports for thousands of years. The governing body of traditional Irish games such as Hurling and Gaelic football is the GAA, or Gaelic Athletic Association, and they have constructed the largest stadium in Ireland, here in Dublin. Known as Croke Park and situated on the north side of the city, it holds 82,300 screaming spectators every Sunday in September for the men’s and women’s All-Ireland finals in Hurling and Football. Up until very recently, the GAA placed a ban on all foreign games being played within Croke Park. For clarification: the GAA meant foreign games to be British games such as soccer and rugby. This coming fall, Croke Park with host an American collegiate football game played between Pennsylvania State University and the University of Central Florida. Aside from its modern day glory, Croke Park is rich in history and its stands are named after GAA legends. The two most notorious stands are the Cusack Stand and the Hogan Stand. The Cusack Stand is named after Michael Cusack who founded the GAA in 1884. The Hogan Stand is named after Michael Hogan who was tragically shot and killed while playing in a Gaelic Football Match in Croke Park in 1920. The Royal Irish Constabulary, who were of British loyalty, opened fire within the stadium grounds and killed 14 people including star player Michael Hogan. Interestingly enough, no one athletic club calls Croke Park home and it is meant to serve as the home for all Gaelic Athletic Clubs. Today, Gaelic Athletic Clubs can be found all over the world in places including Australia, South Korea, Germany, the United States and Canada. Though I have no intention of playing the violent sports of Hurling or Gaelic football, it was absolutely extraordinary to learn and view such a stunning venue. It appears as though I will need to return to Ireland one day in an upcoming year in order to witness the atmosphere that surrounds Croke Park on match day.
By: Ryan Waetjen