The success of the 2012 College american football game at the Aviva Stadium will be replicated next year with the revival of the “Croke Park Classic” which will see the University of Central Florida (UCF) face Penn State in their 2014 Season opener in GAA HQ on the 30th August 2014.
The official launch of the event took place at Croke Park yesterday, having been rumoured in the US during the week and allowed the first promotional push to fans of Dublin and Meath at half time in the Leinster Football Final.
The last American Football game hosted in Croke Park was in 1996 when Notre Dame defeated Navy. Neither Penn State nor UCF have ever played outside the United States but hope to bring significant numbers of travelling fans with them.
“This is a hugely significant event for Croke Park and Ireland. We in the GAA are looking forward to hosting a competitive sporting occasion,” said Páraic Duffy GAA Director General.
“Irish people are renowned for their love of sport as evidenced by the thousands who attend our games throughout the year. I have no doubt that this game will be every bit as attractive.”
The match will take place 24 hours before the first All Ireland Football Championship semi final which will present a major challenge to ground staff unless that game is being considered for a move away from headquarters.
Organisers of last year’s game in Dublin estimated that the game added €100m to the Irish economy as well as contributing to the nearly 15% growth in American visitors in the period August-October 2012 compared to the same three months in 2011.
“This will be a fantastic event for Croke Park and for Ireland,” added Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar. “The Navy vs Notre Dame game in 2012 welcomed 35,000 US visitors to Dublin. The “Croke Park Classic” will be every bit as important, and just as exciting, and both teams are guaranteed a warm welcome. It’s great news for sports fans, for the GAA and the wider economy. I congratulate everyone involved on making this possible.”
It is thought that both teams will use the sporting facilities at UCD to prepare for the game and will arrive in Dublin one week before the match.
Penn State is one of the most successful College Teams in history and will be the first ‘Big 10’ team to play outside the US since 1993. The College in recent years has suffered reputational damage through an abuse scandal that led to the firing of many of those most closely associated with its success.
American Football is enjoying renewed popularity on this side of the Atlantic and many Irish fans will travel this autumn to the two regular season NFL games taking place at Wembley Stadium.
The Shamrock Bowl, the high point of the Irish American Football season takes place at Tallaght Stadium next weekend between the Dublin Rebels and the Belfast Trojans.