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Ali’s Fight in Croke Park

A Community’s Fight against Croke Park

He floated like a butterfly, stung like a Bee

The world’s greatest boxer Muhammad Ali

With roots in County Clare he was a “fighting Irishman”

His punches and his blarney won over every fan



Michael “Butty” Sugrue from Killorglin County Kerry

Ran two pubs in London keeping many Irish merry

He buried Tipp’s Mike Meaney six feet underground

For a Guinness world record and here and there a pound


“The World’s Strongest Publican” was how he billed his name

 Then he next sought fame and fortune in the fighting game

Contacting Ali's promoter Conrad with exciting news

Butty made that man an offer no one could refuse


Sugrue offered Ali a major fight in Croker

And he took a risk financially much like playing poker

Al “Blue” Lewis was contender in this Dublin fight

Not as famous as “The Greatest” but still a man of might


Ali trained in the handball alley in our Centre near Croke Park

And local community members proudly watched him leave his mark

Though Yul Brynner’s son Rock was Ali’s bodyguard

It was our members Marren and Walsh kept him humming like a bard


Ali matched his wits with Devlin O’Carroll O’Shannon and O’Hehir

Civil rights and good humour were always in the air

Then Ali knocked out Lewis after 11 rounds in time

For satellite broadcasting to make another dime


The Louisville Lip regained his world heavyweight title

And for street kids lives in Detroit Blues work was really vital

Both Ali and Lewis were great community men

Even though each was sentenced to 5 and 30 years in the pen                                         




Black Ali refused to fight the yellow Viet Cong

As the Vietnam War was raging he believed it very wrong

Lewis saved a life in prison came out a much reformed man

And gave as much to community as anyone ever can


Our Centre stands today having hosted the “King of the Ring”

As Croke Park GAA sues our members does Ali’s mark not mean a thing?

Has wealth and power and arrogance greed and pride

Now sent Croke Park GAA on a dangerous ride?


They slapped our Centre’s members with a notice to get out

So they can tear our building down to let lorries turn about

The Centre serves our people - we aren’t going away

Funds from community helped to build it so we are here to stay


If community hadn’t funded our Centre for over forty years

Croke Park would just have let it rot and not shed any tears

Suing the Centre’s members is about as low as you can get

And doing so at Christmas time is Croke Park’s sickest act as yet


Service to others is the rent we pay for our earthly room

But Croke Park do just serve themselves while bringing others gloom

So after watching Ali in the Alley and fighting Lewis in Croke Park

Please click on the link to our petition and like Ali leave your mark


Say NO to suing our community and NO to Croke Park’s greed too

Say YES to saving our Centre that helps young and old like you

We may not float like butterflies or even sting like bees

But we will fight like Ali fought to hold on to our keys


                                                                                                                               © Maria Toal O’Brien 2013




We can ‘lock you down’ at anytime so don’t get in our hair

It doesn’t matter what you want for we don’t really care

As long as we make money you can take a running jump

For we don’t care if you’re upset or if you take the hump


We can stop you doing anything if that is what we choose

But don’t you try to take us on for you will surely lose

We’re greedy and we’re selfish, but we’re not going to change

You’ll do what we ask, and when we ask it, whatever we arrange


You didn’t get your licence or get your lottery money

We objected to them both, which is really rather funny

For we have been successful in our liquor application

We’re putting in eleven bars to add to your frustration


Don’t you dare object to us seeing our plans through

You have no say in what we get or what we try to do

Be grateful for the crumbs you get from off our sumptuous table

It doesn’t matter if our ‘heart’ is only just a fable


We’ve fooled the politicians, been fooling them for years

To change the Liquor Act we said we had allayed your fears

You’ve fully backed us thus far in all the plans we’ve made

Well that’s what we told the government to help in our charade


Though nearly seven hundred of you in only just one day

Objected to our actions you still won’t have a say

When will you lot ever learn that we don’t give a toss?

We’re the ones who will decide and that will be your loss


We’ve heard you’re going to demonstrate your anger and distress

You mustn’t spoil our cosy plans of holding our congress

We need to showcase Croke Park for the media, don’t you know

We don’t need the likes of you to come and make a ‘holy show’


An important issue is being debated about whether to permit

‘Foreign’ games be played in ‘Croker’ and you have no say in it

Even though allowing a rule change in 42 

Means more ‘lock downs’ and more upheaval for every one of you



Stop kicking up a stink and fuss and accept what you are told

It doesn’t matter if your club was used by young and old

You’ve had an upper hand for years, which our egos can’t allow

So we’ve pulled some strings to tie you up for you must scrape and bow


We said that you must scrape and bow just like others do

For if you don’t obey us we’ll make life difficult for you

We are the mighty GAA and so we must be revered

Get on your knees and pay us homage for we know that we are feared


We said get on your knees right now and tremble in our wake

What do you mean you’re not afraid? There must be some mistake!

You say you will stand up and fight till justice it is served

Oh no, this can’t be happening,

(A poem written to reflect how many see the attitude of the Croke Park GAA towards our community and our rights particularly when Croke Park’s needs, such as trying to take our Community & Handball Centre to make more room for turning lorries), clash with the local community’s needs)

We are the mighty GAA and are revered by all

In our presence you must surely on your knees each fall

You owe us a debt of gratitude for allowing you to stay

For we have it in our powers to make you go away

                               …………………………………….   IT’S US THAT ARE UNNERVED!  


                                                                                                                © Maria Toal - 2005





(A message from the local community that you have bullied for far too long)

You have no scruples, you have no shame

You walk over residents to achieve your aim

Empty promises and hollow words

Redevelopment plans that are so absurd


Enough is enough for we’re here to stay

The bullying stops, we’re not running away

It’s our centre too so we’re not getting out

It’s high time you learned what we’re all about


We’re standing together shoulder to shoulder

Our streets now united much braver and bolder

We’ve had floodlights, concerts, curfews and noise

We’ve bent over backwards to not be killjoys


We’ve put up with enough of your banging & digging

And it’s hard to forget all the U2 stage rigging

We’ve put up with mayhem, the litter, the crowd

We’ve been so inconvenienced now we shout aloud


Take your hands off our centre and our social life

It’s the least that you owe us for strife after strife

Generations of families have walked through this door

Some to play handball and others for more

Here our kids learn to dance and do martial arts

Other members form teams to shoot pool & play darts

Older folk have been coming for nigh 40 years

They feel safe and secure; free from all fears


Here community spirit is alive and well

And you want to kill that and say ‘go to hell’

End all the veiled threats, end the oppression

Don’t squander 9 million in times of recession

Is there no end in sight to the depths of your greed?

Not a thing you won’t stoop to so you can succeed?

Do real people not matter in your Ivory Tower?

Where you hide from the truth &where you all cower


Come out and stand tall and admit it’s not right

To treat us so badly, to continue to slight

We’ve put up with much more than you ever would

We’ve put up with much more than anyone should


Our homes will be here long after you’ve gone

Makes more sense to befriend us and try to get on

So stop planning changes without our consent

You’re supposed to discuss any turn of event


We are easy to talk to and willing to hear

Just so long as you listen, hear us loud and clear

It is simple to make this centre world class

Without tearing it down, like some stupid dumb ass


This building is strong and its structure is sound

It’s pure madness to want it knocked to the ground

Support all the people who have kept this place going

And grant them the funds to help keep it glowing


You can best use this moment to wipe the slate clean

You can start to be friendly, stop being so mean

We could all work together and learn to have trust

But first ‘hands off our centre’ - this is a must




© Maria T O’Brien on behalf of:

Croke Park Street Committees Association.



The following poem was composed in 2006 for the re-opening of our Croke Park Community & Handball Centre Social Club performed by the Taoiseach at the time .... it had been closed for a while due to Croke Park GAA action to prevent our Centre getting its social club license, which action was condemned by most of the local community including politicians.    It was noted that not one single member of the Croke Park GAA staff attended the re-opening.  Now in 2013 the Croke Park GAA in its corporate form Pairc An Chrocaigh Teo is attacking 400 families by suing them through the Community & Handball Centre's Management Committee.  This law case has been going on in the courts for over 18 months now.


Justice needs to win here  ....... because if it does not, the next thing we will be hearing is that the Corporate GAA has attacked another community somewhere else and will be seeking to trample all over their rights too, especially now as the Corporate GAA in the guise of Pairc An Chrocaigh Teo has recently stated that it is NOT a unit of the GAA and is NOT bound by its Rules.  


By the way there is no guarantee that justice will win !!  Ask yourself how much of what is written on this site, have you read in the media?  Do you see a similarity between how our issue is being covered/ignored by the media and how other very serious issues were covered/ignored?


When RTE Prime Time revealed that the Croke Park GAA / PACT was suing its neighbours NOT ONE SINGLE BROADSHEET OR TABLOID covered the story the day after ...... what does that tell you?  Surely as a public interest story it deserved a few lines!!

Justice for the Croke Park Community and Handball Centre in Dublin Ireland.
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