Some of our overseas readers might be wondering at all the fuss about a rugby match being played at Croke Park, and so I thought maybe a little background would be in order.
The GAA is the Gaelic Athletic Association, which is a vast, nationwide, amateur sporting organisation, with clubs in every tiny village in every corner of Ireland. Its first two official sports are hurling and Gaelic football. Hurling is a traditional game, while Gaelic football was conceived in the late nineteenth century by Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA, combining the rules of rugby and soccer. (Rugby in Ireland pre-dates the GAA). The GAA’s main stadium is the huge Croke Park in Dublin, capable of holding 82,000 people.
Both rugby and soccer have long been viewed as “foreign games” by the GAA (in reality, meaning “English” games) and banned from all GAA facilities. This is, in a certain sense, unsurprising, considering the events of 21st November, 1920, when British forces entered Croke Park and machine-gunned the crowd, killing fourteen civilians. The incident came to be known as Bloody Sunday. Therefore, it was a hugely symbolic gesture when the GAA allowed its flagship stadium to host an international rugby match against – of all people – England. The reason for it was to allow the Lansdowne Road stadium to be redeveloped, for joint use by rugby and soccer.
Imagine: God Save the Queen to be sung in Croke Park!
Now, personally, I don’t see what all the objections were about. After all, the Irish Rugby Football Union didn’t machine-gun the people, and neither did the Football Association of Ireland. In recent times, there has been much talk of a gesture, to mark the occasion when Ireland and England line out against each other, and much speculation of the form this gesture will take. Some speak of laying wreaths. Others talk of an official apology.
I have a great idea.
Instead of wreaths and apologies, why not have a joint detachment of British and Irish soldiers drive onto the pitch in armoured cars, and machine-gun the staff , management and players of the FAI? It would be a great symbol of our new-found solidarity. It would rid us once and for all of the FAI gobshites, and we could move forward with the one international sport we’re any good at: rugby.
FÓGRA SPEISIALTA: Name the third official sport of the GAA.