Going to Croke Park, was one of the most astounding and mind broadening experiences I have had during my stay in the Republic of Ireland. Not just because of its immense size and stature, by holding nearly 83,300 people, but also because of its rich cultural and historical presence in the city of Dublin.
Croke Park is the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association, or GAA, and hosts Gaelic games such as Gaelic Football and Hurling. My understanding of these sports is limited, though I now appreciate and respect the fact that it takes an immense amount of skill and aerobic shape to participate, and that both of these sports are furiously violent and confrontational as well. The stadium, unlike seemingly all athletic stadiums in the United States, is considered to be the national stadium, meaning that all teams from Ireland can call Croke Park home turf. Another fact that astounded me was that both the males and female Gaelic sports, hurling and Gaelic football, are unpaid and that the athletes consist of teachers, Garda officers, and other seemingly average members of Irish society. Also, players are rarely traded to other teams so that athletes are playing for their counties, which consequentially, makes camaraderie and historical rivalries a richer tradition than anything that you can find within the United States where players are emotionlessly bought and sold like financial assets.
One touch that I favored greatly was the Hogans Stands. These stands, located on the eastern portion of the stadium, are named after Michael Hogan who was killed while playing in a Gaelic Football Match in Croke Park in 1920. These stands were put in place in 1924 in remembrance of the event Bloody Sunday; in which British officers with the task of searching the crowd for weapons, instead shot and killed 14 people including the Gaelic footballer Hogans. The stands lay there as a symbol of remembrance and a solemn reminder to the history of the stadium.
I unfortunately will not have the satisfaction of seeing a game in Croke Park, though if my feet ever lay in Dublin again I will make it a priority to see one.
References Crokepark.ie. 2014. Stadium History of Croke Park. [online] Available at: http://www.crokepark.ie/about/history [Accessed: 13 Apr 2014].
Crokepark.ie. 2014. Croke Park | GAA Museum & Tours | Library & Archive | Articles on the history of the GAA | Bloody Sunday, 1920. [online] Available at: http://crokepark.ie/gaa-museum/gaa-archive/gaa-museum-irish-times-articles/bloody-sunday,-1920 [Accessed: 13 Apr 2014].