1987 Minute Books

The GAA Museum’s library and archive has released the 1987 Central Council minute books for public viewing. Among the other episodes recorded within these books is the controversy that surrounded the U2 concerts that took place in Croke Park in June 1987.  

Following the release of The Joshua Tree album in March 1987, U2 embarked on a world tour from April to December 1987. Two concerts took place in Croke Park, on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th of June. These concerts ultimately led to the postponement of the Leinster senior and minor hurling finals, both between Kilkenny and Offaly, and seriously threatened the future of concerts in Croke Park. 

Over the course of the two nights, 90,000 fans witnessed U2’s much anticipated home-coming, with the band by then firmly established as one of the biggest acts in the world.  

In an effort to protect the Croke Park pitch the GAA placed corrugated aluminium sheets on the ground in the immediate vicinity of the stage. In addition, approximately half of the pitch was covered with a series of ‘tarpaulin and P.V.C. plastic sheets.’ An unexpected downpour of rain on Saturday resulted in the sheets being placed on wet grass (just before the gates opened). A further heavy downpour during the early stage of the Sunday concert created a series of puddles on the plastic sheets, with many spectators folding the plastic sheets back to drain the puddles and also to create a higher vantage point from which they could view the concert. 

Immediately after the concerts, Liam Mulvihill, Director-General of the GAA, inspected the pitch. When he saw that some damage had occurred he sought the professional advice of An Forus Taluntais (The Agricultural Institute) who devised a schedule to repair the pitch in time for the 19th of July Leinster hurling finals. Despite this, however, on Tuesday the 14th of July the Irish Press ran a story, with photographs, casting doubt on the state of the pitch for that Sunday’s games. Representatives of Kilkenny, Offaly and the Leinster council were invited to Croke Park to inspect the pitch, with the decision taken to postpone the finals for two weeks until Sunday the 2nd of August. When the game was played Kilkenny beat Offaly on the score of 2-14 to 0-17 to claim the Leinster senior championship title.    

In the aftermath of the decision to postpone the game there was quite a lot of anger from within the competing counties of Kilkenny and Offaly, with some Kilkenny board delegates calling for resignations within Croke Park and for compensation to be paid for the ‘additional training needed because of the postponement.’ Kilkenny chairman, Tommy Murphy, used the 1987 Kilkenny annual to lament that the disruption caused was never fully appreciated: Murphy claimed that the postponement caused the Kilkenny club games to be ‘rushed’, which in turn affected the county team’s selection pool in the national hurling league where Kilkenny lost their opening three games to Waterford, Galway and Wexford in October/November 1987. 

At the August 1987 Coiste Bainstí meeting the postponement of the Leinster final was high on the agenda, with a report submitted to the meeting giving the background to the situation. When discussing the report the Coiste Bainistí agreed to recommend to An Ard Chomhairle that it be reaffirmed that the GAA does not, in principle, object to the staging of concerts on GAA property. The Ard Chomahire, at their October meeting, subsequently voted 17 to 9 in favour of allowing concerts to take place on GAA property with Liam Mulvihill telling the meeting ‘that it should not be taken for granted that further concerts would be held [in Croke Park]. He said that he and the Uachtarán had taken a lot of abuse and criticism as a result of [the U2 concerts] and they would not take a decision lightly to have a further concert unless they were assured that there would not be any difficulties.’

The Central Council Minute Books (1899 – 1987) are available for researchers to view by appointment in the GAA Museum’s Reading Room. People can apply for permission to view these books, and other archive collections, via the GAA Museum’s website below.