One of the most shameful and shocking episodes in Britain’s blood-stained history took place in Dublin a century ago this week.
At 2.45pm on 21 November 1920 the much-publicised GAA match between Dublin, the Leinster champions, and Tipperary began when referee Mick Sammon threw in the ball. The match was being held to raise funds for the dependants of dead or imprisoned IRA Volunteers.
Jack Sholdice of Dublin Brigade discussed cancelling the match with senior GAA officials, including Alderman Nowlan, Luke O’Toole, Andy Harty and Dan McCarthy, but it was decided that because in the past sporting events had not been targeted by the British, there was nothing to fear.
With the teams and the crowd enthusiastically involved in the match little notice was taken of a red signal flare fired from a circling plane. That signal saw the Auxiliaries scale Croke Park’s walls and make their way onto the pitch. With that an Auxiliary officer opened fire on the teams, followed by the other soldiers turning machine gun and rifle fire on the spectators.
When the gunfire and the ensuing stampede subsided 14 people lay dead and another 62 were injured. The refusal of the crown forces to allow medical attention to the injured until all the spectators had been searched exacerbated the injuries of those wounded and may have led to the death of some who were not initially mortally wounded.
One of the dead was a Tipperary player Mick Hogan (the Hogan Stand is named after him). As he lay on the ground dying, a Wexfordman, Thomas Ryan, saying an act of contrition beside him, was shot dead.
Three children were among the dead: ten-year-old Jerry O’Leary, who died in his mother’s arms after being shot in the chest, and Willie Robinson (11) crushed to death during the stampede. Fourteen-year-old J. Scott was so badly shot that it was first suspected that he had been bayoneted to death. A young bride-to-be, Jenny Boyle, who had attended the match with her fiance, was crushed to death during the stampede.
The Auxiliaries, the brave elite which Britain’s Chief Secretary for Ireland Sir Hammer Greenwood, stated would fix the IRA once and for all, made its mark in Ireland by slaughtering innocent civilians.