The inaugural “Croke Park Classic” will see the University of Central Florida (UCF) face Penn State in Croke Park, Dublin on the 30th August 2014.
The first in what is expected to be a three game series, this event will see the University of Central Florida (UCF) host Penn State University in their 2014 season opener. Big names in American college football, both teams are guaranteed to bring huge fanfare and significant travelling support. So, what brings these teams to Ireland?
American football is the most popular sport in the United States and efforts are being made to boost its popularity around the world.
The 2014 Croke Park Classic brings together Veteran Florida Knights Coach George O’Leary and Penn State Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien. O’Leary mentored O’Brien at Georgia Tech from 1995 – 2001 and the two coaches, both of Irish heritage, have shared a friendship since that time.
The Croke Park Classic will be the first time that UCF and Penn State have played outside the United States, however the last American Football game hosted in Croke Park was in 1996 when Notre Dame defeated Navy. Both colleges were back in Dublin in 2012 when they attracted a capacity attendance of almost 50,000 to their fixture. Organisers of last year’s Notre Dame/Navy game in Dublin estimated that the game added €100m to the Irish economy and contributed to the nearly 15% year on year growth in American visitors in the period August-October 2012.
On 30th August 2014 UCF and Penn State will be playing for the Dan Rooney Trophy, named after the former US ambassador to Ireland and Chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers. A key player in the GAA’s redevelopment plans for Croke Park in the early nineties, Dan Rooney has been both a passionate fan of Gaelic Games and big supporter of the Association during his many visits and residence in Ireland over the last fifty years.
Ireland of course has its own vibrant American Football scene. The IAFL, under the remit of the Irish American Football Association (IAFA) plays adult, full contact American football using NCAA rules – those used in major college football in the USA. Nine teams are playing in the Shamrock Bow Conference, which is Ireland’s top competitive league. The GAA (The Gaelic Athletic Association - Ireland's largest sporting organisation) and Croke Park welcome the support of the IAFA. Wednesday 18 December, 2013 marks 100 years since the signing of the deeds to Croke Park by the GAA.
Tickets for the Croke Park Classic are on sale and details can be found at www.crokeparkclassic.ie. Follow the event @crokepkclassic or on facebook.com/CrokeParkClassic.