Croke Park to host College Football in 2014

IAFL players help out with media photos at Croke Park today.

At noon today, it was officially announced that University of Central Florida will play Penn State University on Saturday 30th August 2014 at Croke Park in Dublin. The game is being hosted by the GAA.

The Irish American Football Association (IAFA) is very pleased that the University of Central Florida and Penn State have decided to open their 2014 college football seasons in Ireland. The staging of major American football games in Dublin can only serve to help generate more interest in the sport locally.

Commenting on the game, IAFA President Michael Smith said “IAFA is delighted to see top level American football return to Croke Park. We look forward to working with the GAA and Croke Park to make this an ongoing success.”

A small number of mainly endzone tickets went on sale yesterday as a taster for the event. IAFA members should get a chance to buy tickets later this year.

Representatives of GAA, UCF and Penn State at Croke Park

Coach George O’Leary with IAFA Commissioner Cillian Smith

Official GAA Press Release:

Croke Park, 14th July: Croke Park and the GAA today announced details of the 2014 “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 GAA welcomed UCF coach George O’Leary and Penn State Director of Athletics Dave Joyner onto the pitch during half time in the Leinster Senior Football Championship Final between Dublin and Meath to officially launch the event.

The Croke Park Classic will be the first time that UCF and Penn State have played outside the United States.  The last American Football game hosted in Croke Park was in 1996 when Notre Dame defeated Navy.  Both of these colleges were back in Dublin last year when they attracted a capacity attendance of almost 50,000 to their fixture.

“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.”

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.

Speaking at today’s announcement, Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said: “This will be a fantastic event for Croke Park and for Ireland. 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.”

Veteran UCF Knights Coach George O’Leary was a mentor of Penn State Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien at Georgia Tech (1995-2001). “We are very excited about the prospect of playing our 2014 season opener in Dublin,” said Knights Coach O’Leary, in Croke Park for today’s announcement. “It’s a great opportunity for UCF, and a chance for us to grow the exposure of our football programme.”

“On a personal level, Coach O’Brien (Penn State) and myself are both of Irish heritage, so obviously it means a great deal to both of us to be in a position to bring our teams here. We are confident that Croke Park will be an excellent venue for us to play in, we have been hugely impressed to date with the facilities and we are looking forward to a huge crowd to get our 2014 season off to a flying start.”

Delegations from UCF and Penn State travelled over for today’s announcement, and both parties were hugely impressed not just with Croke Park stadium and its facilities, but also with their first experience of Gaelic Football.

“Our visit this weekend has only reinforced our reasons for wanting to come and play in Dublin,” said Dave Joyner, Penn State Director of Athletics. “We’ve not only grown our appreciation for the games so entrenched in the history and traditions here in Ireland, but have also confirmed that, because of the Irish people and their hospitality, Penn State fans are going to love their time here in late summer of 2014.”

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 and Croke Park welcome the support of the IAFA.

The Croke Park Classic will take place on Saturday 30th August 2014 and a limited number of end zone tickets were released for sale today from and in advance of a general ticket sale (for a capacity of 69,000) across all GAA outlets, scheduled for mid-autumn.

Players with IAFA President Michael Smith, the Dublin Rose and Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn