Rule 42 Crokes And Dies

Ireland’s largest sporting organisation has finally voted to allow “non-Irish” sport at Dublin’s Croke Park, ending a decades-old ban on games like soccer and rugby.

Gaelic Athletic Association’s historic and controversial decision (by 227 votes to 97) sees the end of its Rule 42, which originally prohibited British soldiers and Northern Irish police officers from membership as well as anyone who played or even attended rugby, soccer, hockey and cricket matches.

The GAA, which was founded in 1884, when Britain ruled the whole of Ireland, established the ban when it saw its traditional games of Gaelic football and hurling under threat from soccer, rugby union and cricket, which were all seen as sports of the occupying power.

“In the 1940s, if you were caught playing soccer at school, you’d get expelled,” explained Peter Aiken of the city’s Aiken Promotions.

The GAA has been a mainstay of Catholic and nationalist culture with its basic aim of the “strengthening of national identity” throughout Ireland’s 32 counties.

Reports have suggested the GAA has dumped Rule 42 in order to attract international competition while Lansdowne Road, the Republic’s national stadium, is closed for refurbishment (in 2008), but they may be premature.

The 80,000-capacity Croke Park is certainly big enough to take the crowds that would be attracted by international soccer and rugby matches, but it has no floodlights and the Gaelic football playing area is roughly four times the size of a soccer pitch. There’d also be availability problems as the Gaelic season lasts from March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day) until the third Sunday in September.

Apart from the Gaelic football, Croke Park has planning permission for three concerts a year. Next in the diary are MCD‘s U2 shows June 24-25.