With limited interest in sports or in sporting arenas, I couldn’t say that I was jumping out of my seat with excitement before our class trip to Croke Park. Yet, despite my hesitations, I realized throughout the tour the monumental significance the stadium holds and gained an appreciation for the facilities. Croke Park, located to the north of Dublin City Center, is the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and is the hub of Gaelic sports, with the capacity for 82,300 fans. The stadium hosts strictly Gaelic sports, that being Gaelic Soccer and Hurling.
The stadium was founded in 1914 and has since lived through many historical events. Many of these landmark events are commemorated in the stadium. For example, each of the stands is named after a significant event or person. One stand called Dineen-Hill 16, originally constructed in 1917, was build using the rubble and remains of buildings that were destroyed on O’Connell street during the Easter Rising. Another stand is called Hogan, named after athlete Michael Hogan who was killed at Croke Park during the massacre of Bloody Sunday. After learning more about the history of Croke Park I came to understand that it is much more then a sporting arena.
It is clear that Croke Park is a source of immense pride by the care and attention that is put into it. The pitch, for example, is meticulously looked after. It is natural grass and requires constant care. It is cut with a hand mower to avoid damage; every detail is looked after. The pitch is also slightly higher in the middle for proper draining, and there are large sun-lights that are placed in areas that do not receive enough sun to encourage the grass to grow evenly.
I most enjoyed my visit to Croke Park because it gave me better insight into the caring and close culture that is of Ireland. The park is not only an enormous arena dedicated to Irish sports, but also it is a community center, a concert venue, and conference space, a museum, and a meeting space. After each game, both the winning and losing teams meet in a hall within the stadium for dinner, refreshments, and lively conversation. This example of sportsmanship seems to be very telling of Irish people. They place family and community first, but are also up for a good competition.