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GAA plans major 1916 Rising event for Croke Park

Michael Collins, Luke O Toole and Harry Boland in Croke Park in 1919

The GAA is set to host a major event in Croke Park next year to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The sporting body is planning a commemoration on Sunday April 24, the date the rebellion began, when the Division 1 and 2 league football finals are scheduled to take place.

Arts Council chairwoman Sheila Pratschke had hinted late last year that Croke Park would play a role in marking one of the most decisive periods in Ireland's history.

She said proposals for 2016 included a “massive culmination” in the Dublin stadium, which used rubble from O'Connell Street to construct 'Hill 16'.

The GAA reportedly wants to involve clubs across Ireland in the day's events, which will be aired live on TG4, with an artistic director expected to be appointed shortly to work with GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail and other senior officials to oversee the planning.

The association, which played a pivotal role in the rise of nationalist feeling that led to the Rising, has also commissioned a series of academic essays reflecting on its impact on Irish society between the pivotal period of 1913 and 1923.

A book containing the essays plus online GAA documents from the era will be available to the public by the end of the year.

The GAA did not have a direct role in the rebellion, but many of its players and administrators were involved as members of the Irish Volunteers.

Formed in 1884, the association provided young Irish men with a way to become physically fit and disciplined, as well as creating an awareness of national identity, through the promotion of Gaelic Games and pastimes. Members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were banned from its ranks.

After the 1912 Home Rule crisis, when Edward Carson formed the Ulster Volunteers, Kerry newspaper editor Maurice P Ryle gave a speech in Tralee saying that GAA players “whose prowess” had been proven on the pitch should learn how to use weapons.

When the Rising began in Dublin just over 300 Gaelic players fought among the rebels' ranks. A third of those executed in the aftermath had GAA links and many clubs would adopt their names.

Other GAA figures who played a key role fighting for Irish independence in the early years of the 20th century included Michael Collins, who was also heavily involved in the Gaelic League, as well as Thomas Ashe, who founded the Round Towers Lusk GAA Club in 1906, and Harry Boland, who played full-back for Faughs Club in Dublin when they won the 1914 and 1915 hurling championships.

Boland would later use a pair of convict's stockings he had been given while imprisoned in Dartmoor Prison after the Rising for playing hurling matches with his club.

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