I thought the trip to Croke Park was a very cool experience. I found it amazing learning about the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and how the players are amateurs playing simply because they love the game. It is crazy when you compare it to professional athletes in the US and consider that many of them are getting paid millions. We learned that the players in the GAA are just as dedicated to their sport, just as popular as these American athletes, but the only thing that makes them amateurs is the fact they play for free. The GAA athletes have full time jobs but still train, practice, and play these sports essentially at a professional level.
We learned primarily about the two most popular sports in GAA, Gaelic Football and Hurling. If they had to be compared to American sports, Gaelic Football would be similar to Rugby, and Hurling would be similar to a combination of Lacrosse and Baseball. Our tour guide explained that it has been open since 1913 and since its renovation in 2004 it can now hold over 82,000 people. It is definitely the largest stadium I have been in and I can only imagine how intense would be playing there during an All-Ireland Final when it is filled to capacity with screaming fans. I found the dedication these players had and work ethic very impressive and admirable. It seems more meaningful to these players since they almost always play for their home team and they are in some aspects just ordinary people with normal full time jobs playing these sports at such a competitive level.
Our tour guide also explained how if a player moved and could no longer play for their home team they can still play for a new team where they moved and that the GAA sports are expanding all over. There are now teams from London as well as New York that can compete for an All-Ireland Final because there is such a high concentration of people playing there. Croke Park does not only host GAA events however. They also host international concerts and all kinds of different sporting events. I definitely want to revisit Croke Park for a real event before I leave Ireland because it is an incredible stadium.