Croke Park in Dublin is so much more than an impressive sports stadium. “Croker”, as it is locally known, is in many ways is a bastion of Irish identity that protects the spirit of Gaelic games from forces seeking to dislodge it. If this all sounds a bit dramatic you should take the fantastic Croke Park Experiencetour to get a very real sense of just how important and deeply ingrained the GAA and Gaelic games are to Ireland’s sense of itself.
A World-Famous StadiumCroke Park certainly is impressive, however. It’s Ireland’s largest stadium, and with the capacity to seat 82,000 sporting fans, it is the fourth largest in Europe. During matches the noise and chants from the crowd can be heard all over the city of Dublin.
Named in honour of Archbishop Thomas Croke, the site of the present-day stadium has been used to host Gaelic games since 1884. Today the stadium not only hosts the most important matches it is also the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
Getting to Croke ParkA visit here is a must for any sporting enthusiast and anyone with a more general interest in Irish culture. Even the most casual observer cannot help but feel impressed by the majesty of the stadium, which can be found in Jones’ Road, Dublin 3. It is well served by public transport options with bus, rail, DART and LUAS transport all dropping you off within a 15-minute walk to the stadium.
More Than SportThe hallowed turf has seen more than just sporting action. As a key location in the events of the Irish War of Independence, Croke Park has infamously gone down in history as the scene of a massacre by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) on Bloody Sunday. The shouts ringing out from the stadium today are in response to music concerts that are regularly given here by major international acts such as U2, Elton John, One Direction and Take That. Recently even Pope Benedict XVI has given an address over video link to a full capacity crowd.
Birds Eye Views of DublinThe stadium regularly hosts hurling, football and rugby matches but if you cannot get a ticket you can still savour the splendour of the stadium on the Croke Park Experience tour and in the museum. The twice-daily tours are always open to visitors, except on match days, and include a guided tour around the stadium roof known as Skyline. Here you’ll get a very real sense of the size, scale and grandeur of the stadium as well as the chance for some truly spectacular views of Dublin from specially created viewing platforms. The final platform is the showstopper as it extends right out till the pitch is below your suspended feet.
Take the tour, feel the excitement but don’t lose your nerve up there in the gods!