Ireland is one of the few nations which have more seats in its stadiums than its population. The country is home to a population of sports enthusiasts who religiously gather to watch different teams play. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has many world class stadiums scattered around the country. The largest Gaelic stadiums in Ireland by capacity are:
Croke Park is situated on Jones Road in Dublin. It is recognized as both the headquarters and the main stadium of the GAA. The stadium has been in operation since 1884, and it has undergone multiple redevelopments and expansion ever since. A maximum of 82,300 people can sit in the stadium at any one given time making it Europe’s third largest stadium. The stadium is used by the GAA to organize Gaelic games such as the yearly All-Ireland finals in hurling and football. Many music concerts featuring global personalities have been held in Croke Park. The park also hosted the closing ceremony of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in 2012.
The site where Semple Stadium stands was initially known as Thurles Sportsfield. It was subsequently purchased by local townspeople until it was transfered to the Gaelic Athletic Association. The stadium was named in honor of Tom Semple in 1972, who was a renowned captain of the Thurles “Blues.” The stadium is found in Thurles, County Tipperary and it hosts Gaelic football and hurling for Tipperary GAA as well as for the province of Munster. A capacity of 53,000 makes Semple Stadium Ireland’s second largest stadium.
Gaelic Grounds is the main GAA stadium in Limerick City. The stadium is home to the city’s football and hurling teams. Development on the site began on October 9, 1926 when a farm of 4.9 hectares was purchased with the objective of developing a sporting ground. Gaelic Grounds has a current capacity of 49,866. It has hosted an International Rules Series game between Ireland and Australia. Gaelic Grounds made history in 2014 when a semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo was played in the stadium instead of in Croke Park.
Fitzgerald Stadium serves as the main GAA stadium in Killarney. It is named after Dick Fitzgerald, one of the first exemplary players of the GAA. At least 20,000 enthusiasts gathered to watch the stadium’s first match. A further 50,000 people congregated in the stadium in 1950 to watch the Munster hurling final between Tipperary and Cork. The number proved too much for the stadium as crowds encroached the pitch. Developments in the 1970s increased the stadium’s capacity to 39,120, and it has a current capacity of 43,180. Several global music personalities have held concerts in Fitzgerald Stadium such as Westlife on June 28, 2002, the Coors on June 26, 2004, and the Pussycat Dolls on July 18, 2009.
Significance of Gaelic Stadiums in Ireland
Gaelic sports occupy a special place in Ireland’s society and are a source of national pride. Gaelic stadiums host different Gaelic games with the most notable ones being Gaelic football and hurling. Multitudes of people gather in the stadiums to watch the Gaelic games which run yearly. Other than Gaelic Stadiums, other Irish stadiums are used for rugby union and association football.