Croke Park

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Croke Park
Páirc an Chrócaigh
View from the Hill in Croke Park
Location D3, Dublin, Ireland
Coordinates 53°21′38.70″N 6°15′4.80″W / 53.3607500°N 6.2513333°W / 53.3607500; -6.2513333Coordinates: 53°21′38.70″N 6°15′4.80″W / 53.3607500°N 6.2513333°W / 53.3607500; -6.2513333
Public transit Drumcondra railway station
Owner Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)
Capacity 82,300 (73,500 seated)
Field size 144.5m x 88m
Surface Desso GrassMaster
Broke ground 1880
Opened 1884
Renovated 2004
Construction cost €260 million (for 2004 renovation)
Architect Gilroy McMahon
Project manager Seamus Monahan & Partners
Structural engineer Horgan Lynch & Partners
Gaelic Athletic Association

Croke Park (Irish: Páirc an Chrócaigh, IPA: [ˈpaːɾʲc ən̪ˠ ˈxɾˠoːkˠə]) is a GAA stadium located in Dublin, Ireland. Named in honour of Archbishop Thomas Croke it is often called Croker by some GAA followers in Dublin,[1] it serves both as the principal stadium and headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

Since 1884 the site has been used primarily by the GAA to host Gaelic games, most notably the annual All-Ireland finals in football and hurling. Both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2003 Special Olympics, as well as numerous music concerts by major international acts, have been held in the stadium. During the construction of the Aviva Stadium, Croke Park hosted games played by the Ireland national rugby union team team and the Republic of Ireland national football team. In June 2012, the stadium was used to host the closing ceremony of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress during which Pope Benedict XVI gave an address over video link to approximately eighty thousand people.[2][3]

Following a redevelopment programme started in the 1990s, Croke Park has a capacity of 82,300,[4] making it the third largest stadium in Europe, and the largest not usually used for association football.

City and Suburban Racecourse[edit]

A fireworks and light display was held in Croke Park in front of 79,161 fans on Saturday 31 January 2009 to mark the GAA's 125th anniversary

The area now known as Croke Park was owned in the 1880s by Maurice Butterly and known as the City and Suburban Racecourse, or Jones' Road sports ground. From 1890 it was also used by the Bohemian Football Club. In 1901 Jones' Road hosted the IFA Cup football final when Cliftonville defeated Freebooters.[5]


Recognising the potential of the Jones' Road sports ground a journalist and GAA member, Frank Dineen, borrowed much of the £3,250 asking price and bought the ground in 1908. In 1913 the GAA came into exclusive ownership of the plot when they purchased it from Dineen for £3,500. The ground was then renamed Croke Park in honour of Archbishop Thomas Croke, one of the GAA's first patrons.

In 1913, Croke Park had only two stands on what is now known as the Hogan stand side and grassy banks all round. In 1917, a grassy hill was constructed on the railway end of Croke Park to afford patrons a better view of the pitch. This terrace was originally known as Hill 60, after the Battle of Hill 60 during the Great War. Some decades later, it was later renamed Hill 16 and a myth allowed to develop that it was built from the ruins of the Easter Rising.

In the 1920s, the GAA set out to create a high capacity stadium at Croke Park. Following the Hogan Stand, the Cusack Stand, named after Michael Cusack from Clare (who founded the GAA and served as its first secretary), was built in 1927. 1936 saw the first double-deck Cusack Stand open with 5,000 seats, and concrete terracing being constructed on Hill 16. In 1952 the Nally Stand was built in memorial of Pat Nally, another of the GAA founders. Seven years later, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the GAA, the first cantilevered "New Hogan Stand" was opened.

The highest attendance ever recorded at an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final was 90,556 for Offaly v Down in 1961. Since the introduction of seating to the Cusack stand in 1966, the largest crowd recorded has been 84,516.

Bloody Sunday[edit]

Bloody Sunday remembrance plaque
Main article: Bloody Sunday (1920)

During the Irish War of Independence on 21 November 1920 Croke Park was the scene of a massacre by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). The Police, supported by the British Auxiliary Division entered the ground, shooting indiscriminately into the crowd killing or fatally wounding 14 during a Dublin-Tipperary Gaelic football match. The dead included 13 spectators and Tipperary player, Michael Hogan. Posthumously, the Hogan stand built in 1924 was named in his honour. These shootings, on the day which became known as Bloody Sunday, were a reprisal for the assassination of 15 people associated with the Cairo Gang, a group of British Intelligence officers, by Michael Collins's 'squad' earlier that day.

Stadium design[edit]

In 1984 the organisation decided to investigate ways to increase the capacity of the old stadium. The design for an 80,000 capacity stadium was completed in 1991. Gaelic sports have special requirements as they take place on a large field. A specific requirement was to ensure the spectators were not too far from the field of play. This resulted in the three-tier design from which viewing games is possible: the main concourse, a premium level incorporating hospitality facilities and an upper concourse. The premium level contains restaurants, bars and conference areas. The project was split into four phases over a 14-year period.

The outside of the Cusack Stand

Phase one[edit]

The first phase of construction was to build a replacement for Croke Park's Cusack Stand. Completed in 1995 at a cost of £35 million, the new stand is 180 metres long, 35 metres high, has a capacity for 27,000 people and contains 46 hospitality suites. The new Cusack Stand contains three tiers from which viewing games is possible: the main concourse, a premium level incorporating hospitality facilities and finally an upper concourse.

Phase two[edit]

Phase Two of the development started in late 1998 and involved extending the new Cusack Stand to replace the existing Canal End terrace. It is now known as The Davin Stand (Irish: Ardán Dáimhím), after Maurice Davin, the first president of the GAA. This phase also saw the creation of a tunnel which was later named the Ali tunnel in honour of Muhammad Ali and his fight against Al Lewis in July 1972 in Croke Park.[6]

Phase three[edit]

Phase Three saw the building of the new Hogan Stand. This required a greater variety of spectator categories to be accommodated including general spectators, corporate patrons, VIPs, broadcast and media services and operation staff. Extras included a fitted-out mezzanine level for VIP and Ard Comhairle (Where the dignitaries sit) along with a top-level press media facility. The end of Phase Three took the total spectator capacity of Croke Park to 82,000.

Phase four[edit]

After the 2003 Special Olympics, construction began in September 2003 on the final phase, Phase Four. This involved the redevelopment of the Nally Stand and Hill 16 into a new Nally End/Dineen Hill 16 terrace. It was officially opened by the then GAA President Seán Kelly on 14 March 2005. For logistical reasons (and, to a degree, historical reasons), and also to provide cheaper high-capacity space, the area is a terrace rather than a seated stand, the only remaining standing-room in Croke Park. Unlike the previous Hill, the new terrace was divided into separate sections – Hill A (Cusack stand side), Hill B (behind the goals) and the Nally terrace (on the site of the old Nally Stand). The fully redeveloped Hill has a capacity of around 13,200, bringing the overall capacity of the stadium to 82,300. This made the stadium the 2nd biggest in the EU after the Nou Camp, Barcelona. The new Wembley stadium has now taken over second place with Croke Park in third However, the presence of terracing means that for international football, the capacity is reduced to approximately 73,500, due to FIFA's statutes stating that competitive games must be played in all-seater stadiums.

A panorama of Croke Park during the All-Ireland Football Final in 2004

Future expansion[edit]

There are currently no plans for future expansion of the stadium. The Hill 16 end is unlikely to be developed further in the near future with a second upper tier (in line with the other three sides) due to the proximity of the railway line and the fact that there are houses immediately behind the raised wall on which the rail line runs. The GAA would have to buy some of the houses on Clonliffe Road to expand Hill 16 to anything more than a terrace. A further complication is that the railway line does not run directly parallel to the end of the pitch, which results in the terrace being smaller at the Hogan Stand side of the big pitch.


Croke Park floodlights in use during Six Nations Championship match

The pitch in Croke Park is a Desso GrassMaster pitch which was laid in 2002 replacing the existing grass pitch. This is a modern development in pitch design which couples natural grass with a stitching of synthetic fibres. The close proximity of the stitching and the natural grass roots growing around the stitching is what gives the pitch its stability and is the key to the success of this type of surface. The system is employed in sports venues in the Netherlands, England and the US.

Since January 2006, a special growth and lighting system called the SGL Concept has been used to assist grass growing conditions, even in the winter months. The system, created by Dutch company SGL (Stadium Grow Lighting), helps in controlling and managing all pitch growth factors, such as light, temperature, CO2, water, air and nutrients.[7]


With the 2007 Six Nations clash with France and possibly other matches in subsequent years requiring lighting the GAA installed floodlights in the stadium (after planning permission was granted). Indeed, many other GAA grounds around the country have started to erect floodlights as the organisation starts to hold games in the evenings, whereas traditionally major matches were played almost exclusively on Sunday afternoons. The first game to be played under these lights at Croke Park was a National Football League Division One match between Dublin and Tyrone on 3 February 2007 with Tyrone winning in front of a capacity crowd of over 81,000 – which remains a record attendance for a National League game, with Ireland's Six Nations match with France following on 11 February.[8] Temporary floodlights were installed for the American Bowl game between Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers on the pitch in 1997, and again for the 2003 Special Olympics.


U2's Vertigo Tour at Croke Park in 2005
U2's 360° Tour at Croke Park in 2009
Concerts at Croke Park
Date Artist Tour Attendance
29 June 1985 U2 The Unforgettable Fire Tour 50,000
1986 Simple Minds
27 and 28 June 1987 U2 The Joshua Tree Tour 114,000
28 June 1996 Tina Turner Wildest Dreams Tour -
16 and 18 May 1997 Garth Brooks World Tour II -
29 and 30 May 1998 Elton John & Billy Joel Face To Face Tour -
24, 25 and 27 June 2005 U2 Vertigo Tour 246,743
20 May 2006 Bon Jovi Have a Nice Day Tour 81,327
9 June 2006 Robbie Williams Close Encounters Tour -
30 May 2008 Celine Dion Taking Chances Tour -
1 June 2008 Westlife Back Home Tour -
14 June 2008 Neil Diamond -
13 June 2009 Take That Take That Present: The Circus Live -
24, 25 and 27 July 2009 U2 U2 360° Tour 243,198
5 June 2010 Westlife Where We Are Tour -
18 and 19 June 2011 Take That Progress Live 154,828
22 and 23 June 2012 Westlife The Farewell Tour -
26 June 2012 Red Hot Chili Peppers I'm with You Tour -
23, 24 and 25 May 2014 One Direction Where We Are Tour 235,008
20 June 2015 The Script & Pharrell Williams No Sound Without Silence Tour 74,635
24 and 25 July 2015 Ed Sheeran X Tour 162,308


Controversy on playing non-Gaelic games[edit]

There was great debate in Ireland regarding the use of Croke Park for sports other than those of the GAA. As the GAA was founded as a nationalist organisation to maintain and promote indigenous Irish sport, it has felt honour-bound throughout its history to oppose other, foreign (in practice, British), sports. In turn, nationalist groups supported the GAA as the prime example of purely Irish sporting culture.[9]

Until its abolition in 1971, rule 27 of the GAA constitution stated that a member of the GAA could be banned from playing its games if found to be also playing association football, rugby or cricket. That rule was abolished but rule 42 still prohibited the use of GAA property for games with interests in conflict with the interests of the GAA. The belief was that rugby and association football were in competition with Gaelic football and hurling, and that if the GAA allowed these sports to use their ground it might be harmful to Gaelic games, while other sports, not seen as direct competitors with Gaelic football and hurling, were permitted, such as the two games of American football (Croke Park Classic college football game between The University of Central Florida and Penn State, and an American Bowl NFL preseason game between the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers) on the Croke Park pitch during the 1990s.[10]

On 16 April 2005, a motion to temporarily relax rule No. 42 was passed at the GAA Annual Congress. The motion gives the GAA Central Council the power to authorise the renting or leasing of Croke Park for events other than those controlled by the Association, during a period when Lansdowne Road – the venue for international soccer and rugby matches – was closed for redevelopment. The final result was 227 in favour of the motion to 97 against, 11 votes more than the required two-thirds majority.

In January 2006, it was announced that the GAA had reached agreement with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to stage two Six Nations games and four soccer internationals at Croke Park in 2007 and in February 2007, use of the pitch by the FAI and the IRFU in 2008 was also agreed.[11] These agreements were within the temporary relaxation terms, as Lansdowne Road was still under redevelopment until 2010. Although the GAA had said that hosted use of Croke Park would not extend beyond 2008, irrespective of the redevelopment progress,[11] fixtures[12] for the 2009 Six Nations rugby tournament saw the Irish rugby team using Croke park for a third season. 11 February 2007 saw the first rugby union international to be played there. Ireland were leading France in a Six Nations clash, but lost 17–20 after conceding a last minute (converted) try. Raphael Ibanez scored the first try in that match; Ronan O'Gara scored Ireland's first ever try in Croke Park.

A second match between Ireland and England on 24 February 2007 was politically symbolic because of the events of Bloody Sunday in 1920.[13] There was considerable concern as to what reaction there would be to the singing of the British national anthem "God Save the Queen". Ultimately the anthem was sung without interruption or incident, and applauded by both sets of supporters at the match, which Ireland won by 43–13 (their largest ever win over England in rugby).

On 2 March 2010, Ireland played their final international rugby match against a Scotland team that was playing to avoid the wooden spoon and hadn't won a championship match against Ireland since 2001. Outside half, Dan Parks inspired the Scots to a 3-point victory and ended Irish Hopes of a triple crown.[14]

On 24 March 2007, the first association football match took place at Croke Park. The Republic of Ireland took on Wales in UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying Group D, with a Stephen Ireland goal securing a 1–0 victory for the Irish in front of a crowd of 72,500. Prior to this, the IFA Cup had been played at the then Jones' Road in 1901, but this was 12 years before the GAA took ownership.

Negotiations took place for the NFL International Series's 2011 game to be held at Croke Park but the game was awarded to Wembley Stadium.[15][16] In July 2013, it was announced that Penn State would open their 2014 college football season against Central Florida at Croke Park.[17]

World record attendance[edit]

On 2 May 2009, Croke Park was the venue for a Heineken Cup rugby semi-final, in which Leinster defeated Munster 25–6. The attendance of 82,208 set a new world record attendance for a club rugby union game.[18] This record stood until 31 March 2012 when it was surpassed by an English Premiership game between Harlequins and Saracens at Wembley Stadium which hosted a crowd of 83,761.[19]

Skyline tour[edit]

A walkway,[20] known under a sponsorship deal as Etihad Skyline Croke Park, opened on 1 June 2012.[21] From 44 metres above the ground, it offers views of Dublin city and the surrounding area.[22][23] The Olympic Torch was brought to the stadium and along the walkway on 6 June 2012.

GAA Hall of Fame[edit]

On 11 February 2013, the GAA opened the Hall of Fame section in the Croke Park museum. The foundation of the award scheme is the Teams of the Millennium the football team which was announced in 1999 and the hurling team in 2000 and all 30 players were inducted into the hall of fame along with Limerick hurler Eamonn Cregan and Offaly footballer Tony McTague who were chosen by a GAA sub-committee from the years 1970–74.[24] New inductees will be chosen on an annual basis from the succeeding five-year intervals as well as from years preceding 1970.[25] In April 2014, Kerry legend Mick O'Dwyer, Sligo footballer Micheál Kerins, along with hurlers Noel Skehan of Kilkenny and Pat McGrath of Waterford became the second group of former players to receive hall of fame awards.[26]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "News". 
  2. ^ "- 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012". 
  3. ^ Sinead O'Carroll. "Eucharistic Congress: 80,000 pilgrims gather in Croke Park for closing Mass". 
  4. ^ "Croke Park Stadium Facts and Figures". 
  5. ^ "IFFHS". 
  6. ^ "Rate Card" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2009. 
  7. ^ SGL. "Stadium Grow Lighting - Homepage". 
  8. ^ "Dublin and Tyrone look set to play under lights". RTÉ News. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2007. 
  9. ^ Dr W. Murphy lecture, Sept 2010
  10. ^ Cummiskey, Gavin (1 December 2011). "Croke Park bid to host lucrative NFL game". Irish Times. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Croker to host rugby and soccer in 2008". RTÉ News. 17 February 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2007. 
  12. ^ "official fixture list". Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  13. ^ "Symbolic step of peace at Irish stadium". Retrieved 25 February 2007. 
  14. ^ "Parks' penalty denies Ireland Triple Crown : Match Centre - RBS 6 Nations - Official Website". 
  15. ^ "Croke Park is linked to hosting NFL". RTÉ Sport. 27 January 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  16. ^ Battista, Judy (18 April 2011). "Lockout Could Jeopardize Game Set for London". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  17. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Leinster 25–6 Munster. BBC Sport (2 May 2009)
  19. ^ "World record crowd watches Harlequins sink Saracens". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  20. ^ "Etihad Skyline Croke Park". Skyline Croke Park. 18 June 2012. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  21. ^ "Euro 2020 vision at HQ". Irish Examiner. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  22. ^ Hogan, Louise (24 May 2012). "Sky's the limit for new Croke Park walkway". Irish Independent. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  23. ^ "Ever wanted to see Dublin from 17 storeys up? A new skyline tour at Croke Park will wow thrillseekers, and fans". Evening Herald. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  24. ^ "GAA open Hall of Fame in Croke Park". 12 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  25. ^ "Cregan and McTague join Hall of Fame inductees". Irish Times. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  26. ^ "Kerry legend Mick O'Dwyer among four inductees to the GAA Museum Hall of Fame". Irish Independent. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 

External links[edit]