Blatantly robbed from rival website:
BBC rugby presenter writing in the Telegraph the day after the Hurling Final.
Clash over cash looms at venue of ?Bloody Sunday?
By John Inverdale
A lot of you reading this may well be at Croke Park in Dublin in the spring to see Ireland play England in the Six Nations Championship. (The rebuilding of Lansdowne Road is, it?s safe to assume, in the very capable hands of the many thousands of Polish builders who are presently in the Irish capital.) The band will strike up God Save the Queen and most of you will bellow "send her victorious" with greater lung-power to mark a historic sporting occasion, unaware perhaps that of all the songs written, it?s the most unlikely to be performed at that particular arena.
Croke Park was the scene of Bloody Sunday in November 1920 when during a Dublin-Tipperary hurling match, British police auxiliaries entered the stadium, and in response to the deaths of several of their colleagues earlier, fired shots which led to at least a dozen people, among them Michael Hogan, the Tipperary captain, losing their lives. As if that was not enough, the ground?s famous terracing is called Hill 16 having been originally made from the rubble left after the Easter Rising in 1916.
So while a lot of sports stadiums may boast of having rich histories, Croke Park is different ? it?s not just been part of Irish history, it?s helped shape it.
Well, I went to Croke Park on Sunday for the All-Ireland hurling final, and rest assured that those of you who visit the ground for the first time next year are in for a real treat. With the possible exception of the Millennium Stadium, it will be the finest rugby arena I?ve been to.
And while Sunday was not about rugby, it evoked memories of another age when 83,000 packed a stadium to watch players run themselves into the ground, and receive precisely nothing in return.
Hurling is like no other sport, if for no other reason than it goes back as far as 400 AD. And after watching Sunday?s final between Cork and Kilkenny, it comes as no surprise to realise that it was banned during the 13th century for being too violent. You can be sure they didn?t have crash helmets in those days.
I couldn?t even begin to explain the rules. All I can tell you is that the fitness levels are extraordinary and the skill levels greater, and it provides as good a spectacle as you could hope. Which is why you suspect that problems lie ahead for the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Because 83,000 people paid probably not far short of ?5 million (?3.4
million) to be at Croke Park on Sunday, and the winning Kilkenny team went home as heroes to have a few beers, party the night away and then return to the day job on Monday as policeman, teacher, farmer, sales rep and self-employed JCB operator. Does this sound familiar?
The 83,000 who will watch Ireland play England will pay a lot more, but the profit and loss account will read rather differently. The O?Driscolls and Wilkinsons of an altogether different sporting world are millionaires in their own right, but their forefathers such as Jeremy Guscott and Ollie Campbell will know exactly how the men of Cork and Kilkenny will have felt at the weekend. That?s why rugby?s levee had to break in the end. The guys who provide all the entertainment ultimately want some of the return.
And with the GAA finally opening the doors of their home to professionalism, albeit by force of circumstance, you wonder if it?s only a matter of time before one of the last bastions of amateur sport finally gives in. The gaelic authorities are not paupers. They bought Croke Park for a pittance nearly a century ago and they?ve spent ?260 million making it the magnificent stadium it is now.
And by way of an example, take Kilkenny?s Henry Shefflin. I can?t tell you much about him except that he was beyond brilliant on Sunday. Think O?Driscoll at his mesmeric best. However, Shefflin is sitting at his desk today remembering the glory but concentrating on the world of credit finance because that?s the reality of life for the best that hurling has to offer.
But will the next generation be so accommodating?
If all the big matches in Irish sport, whether with round or oval ball, start heading for Croke Park, it can surely only be a matter of time before someone takes a hurly to the GAA and starts demanding a slice of the action