3,500 dancers, drummers and athletes marked the 1916 Centenary in phenomenal style at Croke Park
Last Sunday’s post match Laochra 1916 Centenary commemoration pageant certainly lived up to the hype after a disappointing Division 1 final was won by the holders Dublin for the fourth consecutive year.
Watch here as Amhrán na bhFiann is sung at Croke Park
Immediately after the final whistle 18 banners – 9 on each of the Cusack and Hogan stands depicting Cú Chulainn, Countess Markievicz and James Connolly were unfurled before flames and fireworks soared above the stadium making it a very special match day.
Attracting a bigger crowd than any other 1916 commemoration held yesterday, the GAA’s post-match spectacular Laochra enraptured fans of all counties and colours.
Spectacular Laochra, which means ‘heroes’, brought together the best of Irish music, dance and theatre and entertained the tens of thousands who gathered for the earlier National Football League finals.
The spectacular pageant creatively recalled heroes old and new, nodding to both the association’s roots in Celtic culture as well as its community clubs.
Beginning with the epic tales of Cú Chulainn and the Táin Bó Cúailnge, more than 3,500 dancers, drummers and athletes kept fans enthralled. The booming words of GAA founder Michael Cusack extolled the games that required “strength, skill and staying power”.
The quotes of patriots continued to echo all around, continuing with the words of the first Irish President, Douglas Hyde: “The Gaelic League was found not upon hate of England, but upon love of Ireland.”
In the crowd, all smiled but few stirred. It was rare to see fans in Croke Park so united in reverence, only breaking their silence to burst into cheers and thundering applause. Celtic and country singer Lisa Lambe then held those gathered captivated with a rendition of The Foggy Dew as did actor Patrick Bergin’s recitation.
Meticulously following their brief Tyrone Productions produced an eight part show that encompassed Irish life from the earliest time to the present day and not just legendary battles and nation-building rebellion.
Those who died in the Famine, those lost in fighting in World War I, and those who departed for new lives in America, Britain and Australia, were also deemed heroic.
However, it was the GAA’s contemporary community both in Ireland and abroad that took centre stage for the grand finale.
Flags of many colours flooded the stadium as clubs great and small joined in the fun, while children from every county read out a line of the Proclamation. The voices of those who couldn’t make it were also heard, with video clips from GAA clubs as far afield as Canada and Korea.
One GAA player from Buenos Aires even used his video message to say hello to his mum, who was in the stands for the occasion.
Meanwhile, Gaelic games icon Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh joined the heroes of 1916 when he gave his own rousing speech in the final minutes of the display.
“Across the four provinces of Ireland and around the world, people play our national sport that our ancestors created many, many years ago,” he bellowed.
“Full of pride and passion, fearless men and women have dedicated their lives to magnificent scopes, spilling tears and sweat on hallowed ground.
“We march behind the colours of club and county. The GAA belongs to us all.”
The thrills weren’t kept until after the football games. Tribal rhythms of bodhráns and stamping feet were already echoing through the stadium for the Allianz football finals.
Old rivalries were reignited for the Division 1 final when Dublin saw off Kerry in a tense but decisive victory, after Tyrone beat Cavan in the second tier decider.
But the pageant was not the only Croke Park entertainment last Sunday.
After their recent sensational performance on Britain’s Got Talent the 57-strong choir from the Presentation School in Kilkenny also left a lasting impression, especially with their rendition of U2s With or Without You.
It was indeed a memorable day in Croke Park especially for Dublin and Tyrone supporters and unlike the GAA125 launch it was all carried off very effectively in broad daylight.
Last Sunday’s Croke pageant would also have been equally as effective under the stadium’s floodlights which is why Croke Park should consider ending the 1916 Centenary commemoration year with an encore under lights along with the recent Centenary event held on Easter Sunday.