Croke Park. Sunday 21 November 1920

Michael Foley
The Bloodied Field

Bloody Sunday. A gaelic football match in Dublin's Croke Park became the scene of a massacre of 14 people by the Royal Irish Constabulary, following the IRA assassination of British military agents. Updated edition of this exceptional and prizewinning book.


Best GAA Publication - 2015


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352 pages
196x130 mm

Also available as an Electronic Book (ePub)

Category History, Sport

On the morning of 21 November 1920, Jane Boyle walked to Sunday Mass in the church where she would be married five days later. That afternoon she went with her fiancé to watch Tipperary and Dublin play a Gaelic football match at Croke Park. Across the city fourteen men lay dead in their beds after a synchronised IRA attack designed to cripple British intelligence services in Ireland. Trucks of police and military rumbled through the city streets as hundreds of people clamoured at the metal gates of Dublin Castle seeking refuge. Some of them were headed for Croke Park.

Award-winning journalist and author Michael Foley recounts the extraordinary story of Bloody Sunday in Croke Park and the 90 seconds of shooting that changed Ireland forever. In a deeply intimate portrait he tells for the first time the stories of those killed, the police and military personnel who were in Croke Park that day, and the families left shattered in its aftermath, all against the backdrop of a fierce conflict that stretched from the streets of Dublin and the hedgerows of Tipperary to the halls of Westminster.

Updated with new information and photographs.


Names and Acronyms 13

Cast of Principal Characters 15

Prologue 21

The Invisible War 34


1 The Boy with the Penny Package 45

2 The Outlaws 56

3 The Reluctant General 78

4 The Heritage of Hate 97


5 A New Force 119

6 Faith Restored 140

7 The Brainy Bunch 156

8 The Challenge 170


9 Morning – 7am to Midday 187

10 Afternoon – 11am to 3.25pm 199

11 The Bloodied Field – 3.25pm to 5.30pm 214

12 The Aftermath 231


13 The Violence of Truth 247

14 The Funerals 265

15 The Inquiries 280

16 War Stories 299

17 The Dead 319

Postscript 323

Selected Bibliography 327

Index 337

Originally from Killavullen, Co Cork, Michael Foley has written Kings of September, winner of the 2007 BoyleSports Irish Sportsbook of the year. He also ghostwrote Harte: Presence Is the Only Thing, the autobiography of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte, shortlisted for the 2009 William Hill Irish Sportsbook of the Year.

Winner of the GAA’s McNamee Award in 2008 and shortlisted for Sports Journalist of the Year in 2003, he is acting sports editor and GAA correspondent for the Irish edition of the Sunday Times. This is his third book. He currently resides in Macroom, Co Cork.

these victims have been rescued from obscurity in this fine book, which deserves its place in any collection on our founding struggle

The Tuam Herald

Michael Foley’s acclaimed book about Bloody Sunday


Foley’s award winning book from six years ago has become the foundation text of the commemoration ... definitive account of Bloody Sunday

Irish Times


Irish Roots Magazine

these victims have been rescued from obscurity in this fine book, which deserves its place in any collection on our founding struggle

Tuam Herald

a must-read for anyone interested in how the past can inform the present … a book that transcends sport to open a window into the forces that shaped the birth of an Irish nation … a vivid portrayal … The Bloodied Field is a mainstream Irish sports book that deserves to be on the school curriculum

Irish Daily Mail

accomplished and haunting

Irish Times

the critically acclaimed The Bloodied Field … A familiar story told as never before.

Irish Independent

well-researched and enormously readable book

History Ireland

reads like a thriller

Wexford People

Cork-born author Michael Foley appears to have mastered a particular genre of GAA book writing which requires considerable ability and attention to detail in order to be a success … [he] has set a high standard that anyone else who dares to venture down this tricky path will find difficult to emulate

Enniscorthy Guardian, New Ross Standard


Sunday Independent Sport

a must read for both GAA and Irish history buffs … Foley’s book is one that will be read for years to come, by both sports fans and history scholars'

Mayo Advertiser

already now an Irish classic

Irish Examiner

one of the best Irish sports books of the year

Gorey Guardian

for those of you who might think this is a history book, think again … a very interesting read

Dungarvan Leader

Irish sport book of the year in my mind

RTE Sport’s Damien O’Meara

reading it at the moment … and I think it's a fantastic piece of work

Sunday Independent

a must read for all history and sporting folk

Clare County Express


the book of the year in terms of sports books …. so well-written … he takes you there … I can’t imagine too many better non-fiction books have been released this year in any genre

TV3's Ireland AM

thanks to … The Bloodied Field … we now have a much more vivid and greater understanding of the frightening events that happened

Irish Examiner


Second Captains

truly brilliant

the definitive history of the event

Irish Times

Michael Foley’s extraordinary book … highly recommended

Tipperary Star

one of the stand-out books last year

Newstalk's Off The Ball

far and away, my book of the year …. this is one of those books that transcends sports … brilliant … the book of the year

RTE Sport
Damien O’Meara

A stunning read. Builds the suspense superbly during the day with personal accounts of all the main protagonists involved on Bloody Sunday and its aftermath. Michael Foley has done not just the GAA, but the country, a service in putting this book together. It is a film waiting to happen. Historical research of this nature could have been heavy and lost the interest of the reader quickly, but he takes his painstaking research and turns it into a gripping thriller. Just brilliant.

the definitive account of Bloody Sunday 1920 ... amazing ... phenomenally well put together ... one of the best books that I’ve read in a long time

The Last Word with Matt Cooper

I couldn’t put it down … a fabulous piece of work … read like a thriller … he builds the suspense superbly … a testament to the brilliance of Michael Foley, one of our best sportswriters … you can tell from the opening page he has absolutely nailed this book

RTE1's Sean O'Rourke Show

the best … a sports book, a history book, a thriller … the writing is a treat … Foley weaves every strand together with an expert hand for a book that makes everything else look unambitious

Irish Times

rarely has a sports book told you more about and Ireland at one moment in time … probably the most exhaustively and best researched mainstream Irish sports book ever, yet reads like the best of historical novels

Irish Examiner

Among the sports writing fraternity of the GAA, a healthy competition began rousing itself around 15 years ago, leading to over a decade of left-field 'concept' books and superb documenting of Gaelic Games. The trickle-down effect has emboldened many writers willing to experiment on their work. Each Christmas, Gaelic Games has a glut of sports books produced. For an indigenous sport and an amateur one at that, it is possibly even over-subscribed with capable authors. The high-water mark this Christmas, and for a few more, might just be reached by the release of Michael Foley's 'The Bloodied Field'… This is a rich book. It has soul and a beating heart and it stands alone as an astonishing, affecting piece of work. If you are in the habit of visiting Croke Park, you will never look at it again with the same eyes. Only greatness can achieve that effect. And this book is great

Belfast Telegraph
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