New Stand, Croke Park, Dublin 3. Phone + 353 1 855 8176.
Fax + 353 1 855 8104.
The most modern museum in Ireland, the Gaelic Athletic Association's new museum at Croke Park uses modern multimedia techniques to guide you through the his „
~ ~ Before I go on to describe to you the GAA Museum at Croke Park in Dublin, it is necessary that you have just a little background to exactly what GAA games actually are. For those of you still unaware of what GAA stands for, it is the “Gaelic Athletic Association”, which is the governing body for Gaelic football and hurling, both here in Ireland and overseas. Gaelic Football ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Gaelic football, for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it played, is a kind of mixture of rugby and soccer. Played with a round ball as in soccer, the ball can be played with either the feet, or handled and passed as in rugby. The goalposts used are the same as in rugby, but both goals and points can be scored; goals when you put the ball between the posts and under the bar as in soccer, and points when you put the ball between the posts but over the bar, as in rugby. A goal is the equivalent of three points, and one point is scored for a shot over the crossbar. It is played fifteen to a side, and is the fastest and most furious sport you are ever likely to witness anywhere, with the possible exception of the other Gaelic sport, hurling. Hurling ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ In hurling, points and goals are scored in the same way as in Gaelic football. But this is a “stick and ball” game, each player having a “hurley”, which is vaguely similar to a hockey stick. There is a small round ball called the “slioar”, and again, as in football, the ball can be played with foot, hand, or stick. There is no “above the head” foul for a high ball, and normally protective headgear is worn to ensure there are not serious head injuries sustained. Anyone who has ever watched this game will be amazed, not only that there are so few head injuries, but that there are not FATALITIES, such is the pace and vigour at which it is played. Hurling has to be one of the fastes t and most fiercely competitive games I have ever witnessed, and the fact that all of the participants are amateurs takes your breath away, when you consider the level of fitness that must be required to play this sport. ~ ~ These two sports are by far and away the most popular games here in Ireland, at both a participant and spectator level. The sport is played at both club and county level, and the two main trophies that are played for on an annual basis are the Sam Maguire Cup (football) and the Liam McCarthy Cup. (hurling) So popular is it that there is hardly a village or town in the whole country that doesn’t have its local club and pitch, and the Inter-County games are watched and followed by crowds that would put soccer anywhere in the world to shame. ~ ~ These Inter-County matches culminate in the Autumn of each year in the “All Ireland Finals” at the home of the sport, the Croke Park Stadium in Dublin. These days are not just sporting occasions, but actual festivals, when people from all over Ireland, both North and South, travel to Dublin for the weekend, let their hair down, and simply have a ball of a time. If you ever get a chance to be in Dublin on one of these weekends, you will never experience a buzz like it in any other city in Europe. If there is one thing the Irish know how to do really well, it’s how to have a good time and enjoy themselves. ~ ~ So that’s a (very) brief description of the two main Gaelic sports, the history and background of which you will find extensively covered in the GAA Museum in Croke Park in Dublin. The GAA Museum ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Croke Park, the home of the GAA, is situated in North County Dublin, in Drumcondra. Access to the Museum is just a little awkward, as it is up a little side road called St. Joseph’s Avenue, that in turn is off Clonliffe Road in Drumcondra. The easiest way is to get a taxi (about a f iver from the centre, plug, plug!!) or a bus from the city centre (No. 51A), then ask the driver for directions. ~ ~ The Museum is exactly what you would expect, a treasure trove of facts, figures, and history of Gaelic sports going back to the foundation of the GAA itself in 1884. It looks at the birth and growth of the sport both here in Ireland and abroad, (it’s played extensively in both America and Australia) and the unique role that it has played in the national movement and cultural revival here in Ireland. ~ ~ There are various displays, many of which are interactive, that give an insight into the many different aspects and history of the game. Exhibits include biopsies of all the famous clubs and players down through the years, and many reports on many of the famous “All Ireland Finals”. ~ ~ Some displays are totally fascinating. Many of you reading will possibly have watched the recent film “Michael Collins”, about the famous Republican leader of the early 20th century, who did so much to bring about the formation of the Irish Republic. During that film there was a scene that depicted the British Army firing live rounds into the crowd at the All Ireland Football Final, and here you can find out about the truth behind what was later to be called “Bloody Sunday”. (not to be confused with the later “Bloody Sunday” in Derry during the recent “troubles” in the North) There is also an interactive display on the 1939 final, which was in the course of being played when the outbreak of the Second World War was actually announced. And yet another display telling you about the only time an All Ireland Final was played outside these shores. This was between Cavan and Kerry, and was played at the “Polo Grounds” in New York City in 1947, in commemoration of the “Great Famine” that saw so many Irish people emigrate to the USA. ~ ~ There are also exhibits outlining the history of women’s’ football and hurling, (camogie) which is one of the fastest growing participant sports in Ireland today. And another shows the history of the game internationally, and records famous International matches like the recent “combined rules” series of football games between Ireland and Australia, and various hurling matches with Scotland, where a very similar game to hurling, called “shinty”, is played. There is also a small souvenir shop where visitors can buy mementos of their visit, and a café where you can get a cuppa and light refreshments Conclusion ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The GAA Museum is open every day from May through to September from 9.30AM to 5.30PM, and from October to April from 10.00AM to 5.00PM (except Monday) Admission is £3, with children under 12 costing £1.50, and a family ticket (for four) ca n be bought for only £6. (all prices in Irish Punts, minus approx. 20% for Sterling equivalent) The telephone number (from the UK) is 353-1-855-8176.