Croke Park is considered to be at the centre of Irish sport. It is the crown jewel in the Irish sporting glory, with a capacity of 80 000. It is the creation of the Gaelic Athletic Association with the purpose to play Irish games in. These included Gaelic Football as well as Hurling. The history stretch as far back as the turn of the twentieth century and many Irish sports fans has flocked there in support of their countrymen.
Croke Park is, however, also a historic landmark too. To create a better view onto the pitch, the rubble of the Easter Rising of 1916, was gathered to form a grass-covered hill, which is known today as Hill 16. During the Easter Rising, there was a match held between Tipperary and Dublin, when British tanks and troops entered the stadium and started shooting into the crowds, killing eleven people as well as Michael Hogan, Tipperary’s captain. Today one of the stands in the stadium is carrying his name, reminding all of Bloody Sunday. For a very long time afterwards, the GAA closed the stadium off for any foreign games, except for sometimes making the exception for American football and boxing. This meant that no rugby or soccer was allowed to be played on the field either and most definitely no games against the English.
The Six Nations Championship
In 2006 a challenge arose for the Irish sporting union. Lansdowne Road stadium, which served as the home to soccer and rugby games had to be closed down for maintenance. This meant that Irish Rugby had to find a venue for the Six Nations Championship. Their options were to play it on a different field, possible in England, or to beg the GAA to use their stadium.
After a challenging struggle, they convinced the GAA to temporarily give lenience on their Rule 42 guideline which prohibited rugby and soccer in the stadium. When the English and the Irish finally met each other in Croke Park for the Six Nations Championship, it was the first time that the English saw the stadium’s inside, since Bloody Sunday. Uncertainty hanged in the air about what would happen when the English anthem was to be sung, yet when the moment arrived, the Irish didn’t protest against the once oppressor of their nation. They stood in silence and respect. When it was, however, their turn to sing the Irish anthem, it could be heard miles away.
That precious moment while the anthem got sung, a country’s division was brought back to unity, the differences about bringing an enemy into their heart and soul to play and compete were resolved, and Ireland stood firm and won the game that day. Great moments in history are created by more than excellent play, skills and athletes. It is moments when the unexpected happens, moments of brilliance.