When I first heard that our group was going to Croke park on St. Patrick’s Day to watch the All-Ireland Club Championships I was giddy, I could not keep my mind off the subject. I could not have thought of anything more fitting than to spend my St. Patrick’s Day watching Ireland’s native sports at the historic Croke Park. While I had had some exposure to both Hurling and Gaelic football before coming to Ireland, that afternoon I was completely awestruck. Not only did I get to experience these games first hand, but also I got to do so with people I am ever so grateful to call friends.
One of the things the first hit me on our walk to the park was its location. I had a professor back at school tell me that Croke Park does not have too many events because it is situated in a neighborhood. At the time I did not really grasp what she meant, but I quickly understood that afternoon. The stadium is set a stone’s throw (or should I say sliotar’s throw) from homes. For me this seemed to ground the stadium and the games in the community. In America, stadiums are so over-the-top and these types of events seem so much larger than life and disjointed from the normal person, but in Ireland I felt the opposite effect, the stadium seemed like it really worked to connect the sports with the average individual. That feeling made me feel more welcome, and even more excited for the games.
Once our group entered through the turnstiles and found our seats I was exhilarated and ready to watch some Hurling and Gaelic Football, and watch I did. Although neither game was really that close, I caught a glimpse of the athleticism and skill required for each sport, the precision and strength behind the passes and shots and of course the impressively seamless solos. I saw the type of skill in those players that to a bystander seems so natural almost like the players are barely trying, simply because it was second nature.
Needless to say, I left that stadium even more impressed with both games and chomping at the bit to play them myself. All in all, I think spending the afternoon at Croke Park was the best St. Patrick’s Day celebration I have ever experienced and have yet to think of a better way I could have spent my day.