Croke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkCroke ParkHowthHowthHowthHowthHowthHowthRiverdanceRiverdanceAfter a long and eventful Saturday in and around Dublin, all of the ILE’ers had the chance to lie in Sunday morning. With an optional breakfast, a few popped in for cereal, toast, and OJ, but most decided to sleep right up to the 11:30 AM bus departure. With tired eyes, we were off to Croke Park to get a behind the scenes view of how the historic stadium is operated.

We arrived at Croke Park and prepared for our tour at noon by taking some group pictures and poking around the café inside of the museum. As our tour started, we watched a wonderful movie about a typical game day in the stadium. We were then guided through the lower portion of the grounds. We first took a peak from field level-where again we took a few group photographs and learned a lot about the media presence. Here, the students were given another rundown of how each GAA (Hurling and Gaelic football) sport is played. We were able to see where the players go after games to enjoy a pint and talk about the game. It was an elegant room with a beautiful chandelier-32 Waterford Crystal Gaelic footballs and 70 sliotars. The 32 symbolize the counties in Ireland and the 70 symbolize the minutes in a hurling game. The team that wins the game will be dazzled when the chandelier changes to their county team’s colors. The room is here to thank the players-who remain unpaid with full time jobs for their hard work and passion for their county’s traditional sports. Afterwards, we were able to see the dressing and practice rooms. There were six dressing rooms and they were all exactly the same. Croke Park is a neutral stadium for all of the counties of Ireland and up to three games will be played on any given day. All county jerseys were on display in the dressing room we were in and the tour guide announced the recent All-Ireland Champions for 2013. Up the Dubs and the Banner! From there we ended up in the nosebleed section of the stadium to get the birds-eye view. Shockingly, another round of group pictures and selfies were taken, and it was here where the guide described the deep history running thick through Croker. Each set of stands is named after an important member of Croke Park’s history. Bloody Sunday was also a topic of discussion at this time as 14 people were killed where Hill 16 stands-100 years ago by the British. Sarah was impressed to learn all about Maurice Davin, especially since we sat in the Davin stand the week prior for the Leinster Hurling Final.

The final piece of the tour was everyone’s favorite-an interactive play zone where you could practice your GAA skills. These stations included passing a Gaelic football, speed test, high jump, and two stations for football and hurling practice. Grace broke the record for the high catch with the help of a few friends. (She was almost as good as her brother, Evan-ILE Alum ’13.) What many of us failed to realize was the cameras in the hurling station. This lead to a handful of hilarious pictures of the Yanks trying to learn a new sport. Just ask Keely about some of the gems she saw of herself;).

Next on our agenda was Howth. Howth is a suburb of Dublin where a beautiful ocean-side walk is located. The lighthouse and islands visible from the walk were the main targets for student photographs. Eme, Grace, and Rocky went off the beaten path and were able to find Bono’s house. Well…, at least that’s what Taryn made them believe;). The weather was perfect enough for everyone to hang out and take a few extra pictures without worrying about the wind and rain.

We then returned to King’s Hospital to prepare for Riverdance. After a few students showered and got ready-looking dapper-they headed into Dublin City Center to enjoy the show. Unfortunately, Ticketmaster told the ILE the show was at 7:30 PM and ruined the well-dressed group’s night by reporting that the show had been earlier. #RiverdanceFail! Many students were upset until they were able to get gelato and ice cream. Not to fear though-Angie and Taryn sorted it all out and the group found out they would be attending the performance on Tuesday. It’s always an adventure on the ILE.

The students made it an early night, as they prepared for the longest day of the trip northbound.