I have a confession. Despite living within walking distance of Ireland’s famous Croke Park for most of my life, I had never been inside its gates until the other week.
I never really thought about the fact that Croke Park was a tourist attraction to visitors to Ireland. To me, Croke Park was the source of gridlock traffic during summer months, when I would impatiently will the bus cut through the hoards of supporters blocking up the streets as my usual ten minute bus journey to work stretched to twenty-five minutes.
Croke Park provided distorted background music to our teenage drinking in fields. The wind would carry Bono’s distinct voice and Westlife’s croning all the way to our ears.
Since 1884, Croke Park has been home to Gaelic sports like hurling, Gaelic football and camogie. With a capacity of 82,300, it is the third largest stadium in Europe.
Croke Park was also the place of a moment in Irish history that always stuck with me, Bloody Sunday. During the Irish War of Independence in 1920, the UK RIC, Auxiliaries and Black and Tans opened fire on the crowd at a Dublin-Tipperary match and killed 14, including the captain of the Tipperary team.
Returning from nomad life really makes you appreciate your own country. I often catch myself getting overly enthusiastic about one of Dublin‘s many attractions that I never had time for before.
Now that I no longer work weekends, and am no longer forced to endure a Croke Park rush hour, my feelings for Croke Park have softened.
Sean is a long time Croke Park visitor. This summer, I joined him for a match. I had a great time, and I’m very glad that the next time someone asks me about Croke Park, I can answer safe in the knowledge that I have actually been inside.
Here are some photographs from one day in Croke Park, and the walk home along the canal.