Páirc an Chrócaigh

Listen to the podcast here: Páirc an Chrócaigh

Working at the Dublin’s Temple Bar Hotel had its pros and cons. I left the cons behind me a long time ago and decided to concentrate on the pros only.

In this particular venue, reception work could be a nightmare. Obviously due to its location, name and the in house pub and night club.

As in any hotel you would meet people from all over the world but in this one, I got to come face to face with some famous ones too.

Barry McGuigan was one of them for example. This lovely gent usually appeared with some young guys that trained with him. On daily basis he can be seen in a wax form at the Dublin’s Wax Museum just around the corner. Whether Temple Bar hotel is still on his list of places to sleep in, I do not know.

One day, and it was a long time ago because in 2008, I heard my mother tongue spoken coming from behind my right shoulder. Nothing unsual but this time the voice seemed very familiar. I turned my head in the direction of the speaker and I saw four men getting out of the lift and heading out of the hotel.

The very man himself, Dariusz Szpakowski, a legendary figure in the Polish sports and TV,  accompanied by three guys from TVP turned around to say hello. I greeted them back in Polish, hearing which they happily turned around and we had our chit chat which led us to my final question – what are you up to here?

The answer was Poland vs Ireland friendly match in Croke Park.

Source: internet

From here to there, and after mentioning I already had the tickets, the guys jumped with joy! We will interview you tomorrow! And I was silly enough to say: Sure fine 🙂

The boys disappeared into the darkness of Fleet Street to enjoy their evening of freedom.

Next morning they caught me quite early, which surprised me ‘cos I sure would not be getting up early after a night out in Dublin. But I guess they take their work seriously.

The moment cameras went on, I went all red with embarassement and started blabbing something silly, which, a few days later was shared with me by a friend. I had no idea it was to be streamed in the main evening news 🙂 Ah! My old neighbors must have had a blast!

Of course I took a picture with Mr Szpakowski, but sadly it is still somewhere out there in my work colleague’s phone :/ Quit trying to retrieve it after 5 years or so. (Robert if you read it or listen to it, I would still like to have that photo! Thank you!)


Croke Park is a GAA stadium. Who knows nothing about Ireland should know that GAA – The Gaelic Athletic Association looks after Irish sports called Gaelic football, Gaelic handball, Rounders and Hurling.

Gaelic football – I have watched male and female playing this weird thing for many years, trying to understand what it is all about and I have to say that I am confused 16 years later still…. Sorry neighbors! And Ms Byrne, who teaches in a local school and along with her sister and their team raised County Meath to the status of Legends in 2021.

The game is a mix of rugby, soccer and God knows what else. Ball can be touched by both, hands and legs and the goals are also double, H-shaped. If you score the under bar goal, you get 3 points and if the over bar goal then 1 point.

Hurling – my favorite of them all. To watch. It is a super dangerously looking game. Apparently the fastest game in the world. Played with flat wooden hockey-like sticks, only not equally long and the end is rounded. These are called hurleys.  Every 10th Irish person’s last name is Hurley too. The players are called the hurlers. The ball is hard and resembles the cricket or baseball’s one, helmet is a must. A friend of mine who plays it his entire life says that there are very few hits that would give you the pain similar to the one you can score from a hurley.

Like everyone else in here, I have a set of hurleys at home. Hardly ever used. Locals use them regularly to throw balls for their dogs to chase on the beach 🙂

Gaelic handball and Rounders – nobody really talks about these two (hover over the names here to find out what they are about). Here it’s all about the football and hurling as well as rugby, but that’s another story altogether. Although this one is also played at the Croke Park Stadium.

Croke Park can squeeze 82,300 supporters or concert goers, depending on what’s on the menu. It’s construction started in 1880 and it opened 4 years later. Below you can watch the transformation of Croke Park over the years.

On the day of 21.11.1920, during the Irish War of Independence, The British Auxiliary Division along with the police, entered the stadium during the Gaelic football match between Dublin and Tipperary and started a 90 second long nonstop massacre which ended up with 13 civilians being shot as well as one of the Tipperary team players, Michael Hogan.

This was a revenge. That morning Michael Collins and his boys killed 15 British intelligence members sent to Ireland to spy on and assasinate the main IRA members. They were called Cairo Gang due to them being often seen sitting at the Grafton Street Cairo Cafe. This killing was planned as one of the first similar actions to be executed by the IRA. To the left is a plaque in memory of the  Bloody Sunday.

U2 played a few concerts in Croke Park. Their Song, Bloody Sunday is related to the Easter Rising of 1916 however. You will also hear about Bloody Sunday in relation to the shootings in Derry in 1972. This name was used for the Croke Park shooting ‘cos in the hearts of the people, it was comparable to the day from 1916. Bono talks here about his song:

Even longer time ago than my Temple Bar Hotel experience, I used to live just around a corner from Croke Park, on Withworth Road. The times were tough for tenants. Dublin had a very law number and quality of places for rent and the Celtic Tiger was still roaring.

Our house was divided into 4 micro apartments with kitchenlets the size of a one person standing, bathroom very similar in size. Bedroom could fit only one double bed and the only space that was, let’s say livable, was the mini living area with a small window. Double glazed. Only that in the outer glass panel there was a hole…. from the bullet. Nice ha?!

We did not live there too long as the lady we rented from did not give broken f*cks, took adventage of the situation on the market and knew that the next day she’d have 20 other people begging for this lovely space where, after living for a few months, our clothes got covered with mould and an occasional slug or snail slithered accross the bathroom wall 🙂

Underneath us, there was a Chinese couple that sported growing weed. I cannot imagine this being done on a big scale given the size of their place but there were days we were walking high as kites. Here I can understand how one US President was smoking but never inhaling 🙂 We were not smoking but inhaling 😀

These were times when we lived on love though mainly as it was our first time living together. It cost a fortune by the way. We must have been paying extra for the snails and living on the volcano vaporiser.

And accross from us, there was a French married couple. The guy was a complete slipper. She stomped her foot and he was jumping around. The fourth space was kept uninhabited. The place was in a need of a compete and serious renovation but I can bet it is unchanged till this day! I would never want to live there again but I have to say there was always something worth looking out the window for in there.

It is when living here, that I got to learn about the importance of Croke Park in Ireland and its significance to the Irish people.

I may be uninformed when it comes to the Gaelic games, but I sure am not an ignorant. I’d simply rather watch ski jumping instead if I had a choice. Most of all I truly admire the spirit with which the locals support their teams. These games rock the island. On the day of a match, there is not enough air in Dublin to breath because the Stadium is full and after the match the city seems to be swollowed by the crowds. Every pub, every restaurant, every take away is simply packed with people. Entire families; grannies, grandpas, kids, everyone follows, supports and celebrates.

At the same time in Kraków you risk an axe into your back when one or two hooligans hop onto the same bus after the match of two rivaling soccer teams.

The streets were as busy as on any other big event day when we walked over to the Stadium to queue for our stand. Masses of people flooded the area.

Polish and Irish somehow magically found an unwritten and unspoken type of affection for each other over the years and therefore mixed groups of supporters were all too excited to have a few moments of competition that would bring many more days or weeks of topics for conversations around the pint.

There was a very light and happy atmosphere there. Gadget sellers lined up along all surrounding streets, were shouting heeeeaaad cups and hats, flaaags, heeeeaaad cups and hats, flaaags!!!! And I have to say they were well stacked on the merchandisers.

I took this one on another occasion but here to illustrate what it looks like

Finally we got in. It was my first time inside the Croke Park and I found it impressive. Its dimentions differ from the regular soccer stadium hence for many years it caused a lot of hassle for the organisers of non GAA matches to fit it well for purpose. Now there’s the Aviva Stadium around a corner built for those.

Our sector was packed with Polish supporters all dressed in the national colors, white and red, as our flag. An occasional green Alien 🙂 appeared in between. A Braveheart!

We watched the players doing their warm-up chores for a while sipping on our first pints of beer and chatting with the crowds.

Finally, strangely looking, huge headed creatures pretending to be the footballers came out and walked around. After that a well known Irish singer, whose name I can’t remember, popped out to sing a bit.

And then the teams started to appear on the field followed by the orchestra. The party was getting started.

The teams looked as follows:

Polish Team, source: laczynaspilka
Irish Team, source: laczynaspilka

The shows of light and smoke followed by the confetti set everybody in the right mood and an enormous Polish flag started to wander around.

I have to say being under such a flag is some experience. Claustrophobic to certain extent – it’s neverending, so at some stage you feel like you’r trapped, especially when surronded so tightly by the crowd, but most of all somehow fascinating. You simply get carried away by the show. The party under the flag was even better at moments than out in the open 😀

So the guys were kicking. Running and kicking. It was loud and busy with occasional big ooooohs and aaaahs and so on. Poland ended up with 3, Ireland with 2 goals.

  • In the 3rd minute Mariusz Lewandowski 18 (not related to Robert Lewandowski 14) scores the first goal for PL
  • End of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd half
  • 46th minute first change PL: Błaszczykowski out, Guerreiro in and Brożek out, Robert Lewandowski in
  • 47th minute Guerreiro goal for PL
  • 59th minute 1st change IRL: McShane out, Bruce in
  • 60th minute 2nd change IRL: Keogh out, Stephen Hunt in and Doyle out, Noel Hunt in
  • 67th minute 3rd change IRL: Duff out, Long in
  • 70th minute 2d change PL: Boguski out, Peszko in
  • 72nd minute 4th change IRL: Gibson out, Andrews in
  • 81st minute 3rd change PL: Krzynówek out, Jodłowiec in
  • 88th minute Stephen Hunt goal for IRL
  • 89th minute Robert Lewandowski goal for PL
  • 90th minute Keith Andrews goal for IRL

During all the above, my boys from the hotel, dressed in pretty purple vests moved nicely around filming, as they would. Mr Szpakowski was at his spot above everyone commenting on the show. I am pretty sure we had a lovely zoomy moment there, never saw it streamed yet 🙂

After the match, the merry crowds spread like ants around the ant hill and into the night.

Our bus was living from Drumcondra Road so we took Clonliffe Road to get there and this way we were forced to pass by one more place we had once rented for a few weeks. A few weeks, yes! It was a shocker of a place and we vacated it with the speed of light.

Moved in there straight from the Withworth Road. I used to cycle to work in Clontarf back then and this area suited me perfectly. There was nothing for rent out there though hence we decided to move into whatever and take time to search for an alternative place and escape as soon as an opportunity arises.

This granny was well off. Owning a few of the old huge houses on both, Drumcondra Road and Clonliffe Road. She had them split into as many apartmets as possible. They were also as unkept as possible. All she cared about was walking around and collecting the rent from her tenants.

The place we got for our short adventure was on the top, 5th floor. The last one she had left. Not too expensive and no wonder. As much as the outside of the building would suggest a city mansion, the moment you walked in you stopped lying to yourself. Although the staircase could pass too, ‘cos it was nice and wide despite of being covered with a nasty carpet. The walls were already screaming for help though. At least 100 years old wall paper was coming off and scruffy walls were throwing sneaky peeks at the stair climbers.

Our living room/ kitchen was spacious but equipped with the oldest and most nasty looking furniture topped with a well walked carpet. Dark dingy hole. But spacious.

This was not everything. The living room/ kitchen area was accross the corridor from the bathroom and the bedroom, which were meant to be a part of our living space and sounds about right, right? Well… wrong! The mentioned corridor was used by the tenants from a neighbouring apartment. So to summerise, they had their full apartment behind one door which could be closed with one key. We had 3 doors to 3 separate spaces with a shared hall 🙂

The neighbors happened to be Czechs which made my other half happy because that’s what he is. I was not overly excited but sure, we had to live somewhere.

Thankfully there were new houses being built on the outskerts of the town and despite of them being totally overpriced and falling apart straight after having been built, we rushed out of that place like crazy chickens.

The granny had a good heart and believed in our very serious reasons for leaving. We could not have told her that the cat repellent she kept outside was swelling our eardrums to the point of explosion and that we have lost 10 kg each because we were unable to make food in this smelly den.

But I did see the granny roaming the streets of Drumcondra in search of her loot many o’times afterwars which would suggest she’s well in the business still.

Ah Dublin and its property market. A God forgotten zone back then. The changes are noticeable now but the isolation from the mainland still puts Ireland well behind in comparison to the quality and choices offered over there.

More about this some other time.

Have a nice day!



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