Navan's Lily joins Richie Hogan on hallowed Croker turf
This weekend, Croke Park will be celebrating the best of hurling with the eagerly-awaited All-Ireland Hurling semi-final clashes. As Kilkenny taken on Limerick in both the Minor and Senior semi-finals on Saturday 27 July, Croke Park will be inviting supporters to join in another celebration, as the stadium hosts its annual Sustainability Day.
The Liam McCarthy won’t be the only cup on people’s minds this weekend: this Saturday Croke Park is running its first-ever trial of reusable cups. As part of the stadium’s focus on reducing single-use plastic, the bars in the Lower Hogan Stand will host a pilot deposit-return scheme to cut down on the amount of plastic waste produced on match-day. Pint drinkers will pay a refundable €1 deposit with the purchase of their first drink from the participating bars and this deposit can be reclaimed at any of the many return points throughout the stand.
Helping launch this year’s Sustainability Day was Kilkenny Hurling Star Richie Hogan, who is based in the stadium in his role as the Commercial & Business Development Manager for the Gaelic Players Association. Since joining the team, Richie has seen first-hand Croke Park’s commitment to sustainability through the stadium’s ‘Changing the Game’ Sustainability programme and is quickly becoming a ‘game changer’ off as well as on the pitch by getting involved in the staff sustainability projects.
Richie Hogan was joined by young GAA supporters, two-year-old Lily Kelly from Navan, Meath and four-year-old Zach Fox from Clontarf, Dublin to help launch Croke Park’s Sustainability Day, which will also be a celebration of a very special aspect of the stadium’s biodiversity programme. Earlier this year, Croke Park installed a number of beehives under the stewardship of local beekeepers Colm Fogarty and Neil Hanlon on its turf farm in north county Dublin. Colm and Neil recently harvested the first-ever batch of Croke Park honey and there will be honey-themed dishes and tastings on offer throughout the stadium on Saturday.
Croke Park’s Hidden Habitats
Saturday’s sustainable activities are just a taste of Croke Park’s sustainability programme. The stadium is home to not only the GAA but also to a wonderland of hidden habitats
The Bug Bee & Bee – installed in the Outer Cusack carpark in 2015 to create a habitat for insects such as pollinators, who can often find it difficult to find places to nest and hibernate in overly-managed urban gardens – is surrounded every summer by a wall of wildflowers. Nearby bird boxes installed as part of our nest box monitoring scheme, are home to the stadium blue tits, which in 2019 have once nested in the boxes. The blue tit times the hatching of her eggs to coincide with the buds arriving on the trees, as this results in an explosion of caterpillar prey on which to feed newly-hatched chicks. In the evening, the action is elsewhere in the stadium as the resident family of bats – another species that is both essential to and an indicator of a healthy biosystem – whirls around the steelwork of the stadium’s upper levels. Recently-installed swift boxes at the Hill16 end of the stadium and in the nearby newly-built GAA Handball are designed to provide a much-needed home for the local population swifts. The swift is an amber-listed migratory bird that is under threat from a sharp decline in suitable habitat. As swifts are extremely loyal to their nesting places it is hoped that the stadium and handball alley will be hosting succeeding generations of swifts for many years to come.
Greener On & Off the Pitch
Saturday’s reusable cup scheme complements Croke Park’s fully compostable coffee and tea cup, which were introduced in 2018, alongside compostable cutlery as the stadium continues to step up to the challenge of reducing single-use plastic items. Match-day teas and coffees are sipped from cups which are made from vegetable-based plastics only, which allows them to be disposed of in the stadium’s organic waste stream; thereby entering a cycle in which 20 tonnes of compost produced from the stadium’s organic