Today, we visited Croke Park-the main stadium and headquarters of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association). The GAA focuses on promoting Irish sport and the surrounding culture, with the two main sports being hurling and Gaelic football, both of which are played within Croke Park. Our tour began watching a movie that explained what an All-Ireland championship game day is like. We then proceeded to walk through tunnels underneath the stadium seating, leading us to the player’s clubhouse. It was very nicely decorated, all with materials from Ireland, and there was a beautiful chandelier made of Waterford crystal, with 70 sliotars and 32 footballs, representing the 70 minutes of a game and the 32 counties respectively. It is lit up with both competing teams’ colors. We then went into a dressing room and our guide explained how loyal Irish citizens are to the club that trained them and to their counties. I found it interesting that players do not get traded like in American sports, creating even stronger rivalries between counties. Then came the main event, we went up to the field. It was massive; the size of two American football fields, and the stadium itself was also large and overwhelming. It can seat over 82,000 fans, making it the fourth largest stadium in Europe after Barcelona, England, and Madrid. Our guide explained how sections of seating are named after influential Irish citizens like, the first president of the GAA, Maurice Davin and a player who was killed on Bloody Sunday, Michael Hogan, and After some photo taking opportunities we went to the third tier of seating to see a different view of the stadium-making it look even bigger from higher up. Our last stop on the tour (after taking a detour to see a sky box) was the GAA Museum. There we tried our hand at hurling and other agility tests.
Some interesting facts we learned on our tour were that each county is allotted three days a year with the field and can use it how they want, so most often young children in leagues can come play on the field. There are over 2000 different clubs throughout Ieland. If the fourth side of the stadium was built to match the height of the rest of the stadium seating the buildings behind would get no sunlight. The field is a foot higher in the middle than on the sides not for irrigation but so people in the third tier seating won’t get dizzy-as the field appears flat to them from all the way up there. The field is made of real grass, not turf, and it needs large sun lamps to help it grow.