Last night the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted their first ever Irish Watch Party in Dublin’s Croke Park. This is the first watch party ever organised by an NFL franchise in Ireland and proved a hit with Irish fans, with tickets selling out in a matter of hours.

This was the latest activation following the announcement earlier this year that the Steelers had been awarded rights to expand their brand and activities for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the NFL’s ‘Global Markets Program.

The programme grants NFL clubs access to international markets to expand and grow the game through activities such as fan and youth events, along with corporate sponsorship and merchandise sales.

500 Irish Pittsburgh Steelers fans were in attendance last night in Croke Park, to watch the key divisional battle between longtime local rivals the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with special guest appearances from Steelers legends Santonio Holmes and Alan Faneca, and the Pittsburgh Steelers Director of Business Development and Strategy Daniel Rooney.

The atmosphere was great if not the result but the Steelers also got to take in some of Dublins famous sights and experiences.

The GAA Museum at Croke Park, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum and the Guinness Storehouse were all on the agenda.

Faneca, Holmes and Rooney, son of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, visited the Rooney’s ancestral home of Co Down and enjoyed a round of golf at Royal County Down. The team also hosted an American youth football clinic at the Sport Ireland Campus, where young players in attendance participated in American Football skill sessions hosted by Holmes, Faneca, Tadhg Leader and American Football Ireland.

“We’ve had a fantastic week on the island of Ireland,” said Rooney. “The events we held allowed us to spend time with Steelers Nation and NFL fans alike, as well as teach the game of American football to young Irish athletes. We look forward to future trips where we can engage with fans and further educate people of all ages about the game we love.”

Dublin’s Croke Park played host to the Steelers and Chicago Bears preseason game in 1997, still the only NFL game to ever be played in Ireland. The game was made possible in large part to the Steelers late Chairman, Dan Rooney. Rooney’s ties with Ireland were notable, as he served as the United States Ambassador to Ireland from 2009-2012. He also helped establish the Ireland Funds, a program founded to promote and support peace, culture, education, and community development across Ireland and among Irish communities around the world.

“We are thrilled to see such a strong turnout for the Pittsburgh Steelers first ever NFL Irish Watch Party,” said Henry Hodgson, General Manager of NFL UK & Ireland.

“Growing the game globally is a major strategic priority for the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are a fantastic partner to accelerate the interest in our sport on the island of Ireland and we look forward to supporting them in future events.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers have launched dedicated Irish social media accounts, where content from last weekend’s events and activities will be published for Irish fans to enjoy.

Their recent four-day trip was the commencement of their marketing activities in Ireland and Northern Ireland and the Steelers are planning for further upcoming activities, with the team aspiring to host an NFL game on the island in the coming years.