We walked into the Croke Park museum and towards a theatre that holds about 100 people. The lights went off and on the large screen in front played an inspirational video displaying Irelands two national sports, Gaelic football and Hurling. For someone who has never seen a game of either sport, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw men running and bouncing a ball off their foot at the same time. The stadium in the video was run by hundreds of people in preparation for the games, and once the stadium was filled with people it was roaring with excitement. I then got to tour the amazing establishment and from the moment I saw the field I knew that I would have to attend a game before I leave Ireland; it just looks like too much fun.
Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, holds 80,200 people. The large stadium does not only represent the national sports of Gaelic football and hurling but a significant historical aspect of Ireland. The great Irish famine took a large toll on the morale of Ireland and it was the renewal of Gaelic sports that helped bring back excitement and a sense of community among the counties of Ireland.
Archbishop Thomas Croke was the GAA’s first patron, and in 1913 the Croke Memorial tournament was held to fund a monument for him. The final of this tournament included Kerry facing Louth, and this final was so popular that in July of 1913 the Central Council decided to buy the grounds and re-name it as Croke Memorial Park. Accommodation for spectators in 1913 was minimal including two stands. The GAA’s first effort at modernization was in 1917 using the rubble from the 1916 uprising on O’Connell Street, to build a terrace. In 1924 the GAA built a new stand and named it the Hogan Stand, in honor of Michael Hogan who had been shot during Bloody Sunday along with twelve other people.
The park is run mainly with volunteers as many of the profits are redistributed to places around Ireland such as Sligo. The vast green field is all natural turf and is heated through with 2 miles of pipeline. There are lights that shine on the turf to grow it, and because the regulated length of grass for hurling is different than Gaelic football they compromise with a length in-between the regulated lengths. Today Croke Park is one of the largest stadiums in Europe and is the crowning glory of the Association
— Savannah Kinzer