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In a few days time, 12 American football high school and college teams will depart the United States and Canada, bound for Ireland where they will play a competitive regular season game as part of the biggest overseas event of its kind in the sport’s history.
The Global Ireland Football Tournament – GIFT 2012 – has been two years in the making and on the eve of the Emerald Isle Classic, sports fans in Dublin and Navan will be treated to a showcase of 12 teams playing six games at three venues in and around the Irish capital on Friday, August 31.
The games, organized by Texas-based Global Football, will kick off at 4pm and 7.30pm local time at three venues usually reserved for Gaelic football, hurling and rugby. But for this Dublin Friday Night Lights spectacular, Donnybrook Stadium and Parnell Park in Dublin and Páirc Tailteann in Navan, County Meath will all be painted with the gridiron and will welcome touchdowns, tackles, helmets and shoulder pads.
“There will be some intense and exciting games played on Irish soil on August 31,” said Patrick Steenberge, President of Global Football. “These are real, competitive, regular season games, not exhibitions. For most teams this will be their big season-opening game and for some their second of the new campaign and while they are excited to be visiting Ireland, make no mistake – they are here to win.
“So many people at the core of several sports in Ireland have welcomed this event with open arms. We have been overwhelmed by their passion for our game and their willingness to embrace this venture and to ensure the players, coaches, staff, families, friends, fans, cheerleaders and marching band members visiting Ireland enjoy the trip of a lifetime.”
Global Ireland Football Tournament Games Schedule
Friday, August 31
Donnybrook Stadium: Main Street, Donnybrook, Dublin
4pm Loyola Academy (Wilmette, IL) vs. Jesuit Prep Dallas (Dallas, TX)
7.30pm St Norbert College (De Pere, WI) vs. John Carroll University (University Heights, OH)
Parnell Park: Clancarthy Road, Donnycarney, Dublin
4pm Kent School (Kent, CT) vs. National School of American Football (UK)
7.30pm Notre Dame HS (Sherman Oak, CA) vs. Hamilton HS (Chandler, AZ)
Páirc Tailteann: Brews Hill, Navan, Co. Meath
4pm Villanova College (King City, ON) vs. Oak Park High School (Winnipeg, MB)
7.30pm Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale, AZ) vs. Father Judge (Philadelphia, PA)
Tickets are available priced €15 at www.Tickets.ie/GIFT2012.
Many of the 7 U.S. high school teams, 2 NCAA D-III college teams, 2 Canadian high school teams and a UK all-star team will be accompanied by marching bands and cheerleaders as Dublin and Navan embrace a long weekend full of all the flavors of American football.
The festivities begin at 5.30pm on Thursday, August 30, at St Stephen’s Green in Dublin City Centre when all participants march along a parade route to Trinity College for a Pep Rally at 6.30pm. With more than 30,000 gridiron fans expected to travel to Ireland in the last week of August, the town of Trim will add to the celebrations by holding the ‘Feile Americana’. The 5-day festival will showcase the very best of music, arts and cuisine from both sides of the Atlantic from August 29 to September 2.
Global Ireland Football Tournament Schedule At A Glance
Thursday, August 30
9am-11am Teams practice at University College Dublin from (open to media only)
2pm-4pm Teams practice at University College Dublin from (open to media only)
5.30pm GIFT parade from St Stephen’s Green to Trinity College
6.30pm Pep Rally at Trinity College
Friday, August 31
4pm Games at Donnybrook Stadium, Parnell Park and Páirc Tailteann
7.30pm Games at Donnybrook Stadium, Parnell Park and Páirc Tailteann
How the teams match up…
Donnybrook Stadium 4pm Loyola Academy (Illinois) vs. Jesuit Prep Dallas (Texas)
Loyola Academy won the 2010 Chicago Catholic League Championship and the Prep Bowl Championship in 2008 and last season posted 13 wins before losing in the 8A Illinois State finals. During six years in charge, head coach and former NFL player John Holecek has led Loyola to the IHSA largest school division state playoffs each year. Opponent Jesuit Prep, Dallas is one of two private schools that is a member of the University Interscholastic League and competes in District 9 of Class 5A, the state’s largest classification. The Rangers went 8-2 under head coach Brandon Hickman in 2011 and reached first round of the state playoffs.
Donnybrook Stadium 7.30pm St Norbert College (Wisconsin) vs. John Carroll University (Ohio)
St. Norbert College has won nine Midwest Conference championships, appearing in eight NCAA Division III playoffs under head coach Jim Purtill. The Green Knights finished the 2011 season with a 7-3 record, ensuring St Norbert has recorded at least seven wins in each of the past 13 seasons. Opponent John Carroll University finished 5-5 in 2011 under Regis Scafe, who is the longest-serving head coach in Blue Streaks football history. This will be the sixth time that John Carroll has been to Europe since 1994. Appointed in December of 1998, Coach Scafe has posted a record of 77-47 as John Carroll’s football director.
This will be the first regular season NCAA Division III college football game to be played in Europe since Bowdoin defeated Tufts, 7-6, on November 29, 1992, in Galway, Ireland.
Páirc Tailteann: 4pm Villanova College (Ontario) vs. Oak Park High School (Manitoba)
Two Canadian high school teams meet at Páirc Tailteann and will play by Canadian rules, adding a unique flavor to the GIFT event. Villanova College was established in 1999 and the football program was started in 2002 under head coach Marcello Lio, who played American football with Bergamo and Nuremburg in Italy and Germany. Last season the Knights posted a 2-4 record. Opponent Oak Park High School suffered only one defeat in 2011 and reached the final of the Winnipeg High School Football League ANAVETS Bowl for the third year in a row as defending champions under head Coach Stuart Nixon, who has led the Raiders fortunes since 2003.
Some rule differences between Canadian and American Football: 12 players on the field (11 in USA), only 3 downs to move the ball 10 yards (4 downs in USA), players other than the quarterback can be in forward motion prior to the ball being snapped (no motion in USA), only 20 seconds on the play clock (40 seconds in USA). Teams can score a ‘Rouge’ – Any kicked ball that lands in the end zone and is not a successful field goal or extra point, is considered live and if a player from the defending team then fails to return the ball out of the end zone, the kicking team scores one point. (No such rule in USA)
Páirc Tailteann: 7.30pm Notre Dame Prep (Arizona) vs. Father Judge (Pennsylvania)
Notre Dame Prep won back-to-back Arizona Class 4A Division II championships in 2007 and 2008 and just missed out on the championship in 2010, losing a heartbreaking 49-48 game to Williams Field, then made the first round of the playoffs in 2011. Opponent from Philadelphia, Father Judge High School finished with a won 7, lost 4, record in 2011. The football program, which competes in the Philadelphia Catholic 4-A league, has won five championships (1964, 1975, 1981, 1983, 1984) and most recently reached the championship game in 2008.
Parnell Park: 7.30pm Notre Dame HS (California) vs. Hamilton HS (Arizona)
Notre Dame High School football has been one of the most consistently successful programs in the state of California since 1993, and during that time has won 14 League Championships, four CIF Championships and has been CIF runner-up three times. Opponent Hamilton High School is one of the top football programs in Arizona and won three consecutive state titles from 2008 to 2010, achieved USA Today Top 10 national rankings, and also reached the state championship game in 2011. The Huskies also won in 2006 and claimed the Fiesta Region Championship in 11 of the past 12 years and 10 straight since 2002.
Parnell Park: 4pm Kent School (Connecticut) vs. National School of American Football (UK)
Kent School completed an undefeated regular season in 2011, earning its fifth trip to a New England Bowl game in the past 11 years. The team has also played in back-to-back New England Bowl games and has won 15 of its last 17 games. During a 20-year tenure, coach Todd Marble has been recognized as Coach of the Year three times by the Northern Connecticut Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. In opposition, the team representing the National School of American Football (NASF) has formed especially for the opportunity to compete against top-class opposition at GIFT 2012. Players have been selected from the UK under-19 ranks and are led by NSAF coach Tony Allen, a former Director of Football Development for NFL Europe.
GAA Legend and Former Notre Dame and NFL Standout Serve As Honorary Chairmen
Brian Mullins, the noted Gaelic Footballer who played with St Vincent’s and the Dublin Senior Team for 11 years and is now the Director of Sport at University College Dublin, will serve as Honorary Chairman for the games at Parnell Park.
“Through my role at UCD and having played football and hurling at Parnell Park over the years, I am really excited and enthusiastic about this event,” said Mullins, who holds four All-Ireland medals. “I want to congratulate everyone associated with these games for their hard work in making this happen.”
Appointed as Director of Sport at UCD in April 2000, Brian is responsible for the overall development and resources of UCD sport. He holds a BA degree in Physical Education and Irish from Thomond College and a MA degree in Administration from New York University.
Mike McCoy is a native of Erie, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Cathedral Prep High School. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Economics where he played football and was a Consensus All-American. He was the UPI Lineman of the year and was sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting his senior year. He was the number one draft choice of the Green Bay Packers where he played defensive tackle during an 11-year NFL career, spending seven with Green Bay, two with the Oakland Raiders and two with the New York Giants. Mike is now President of Mike McCoy Ministries.
“I am honored to have been asked to undertake this role and look forward to sharing this once in a lifetime opportunity with the athletes and their families who are traveling overseas and with the sports fans in Ireland,” said McCoy. “American football provides a positive influence in many young people’s lives and I look forward to sharing my experiences with everyone I meet during this event. I am also delighted to be going back to my roots to a country where I have many relatives.”
Fans who cannot be there in person to witness the Dublin Friday Night Lights spectacular can watch the games via a webcast and can order the live stream advance at http://www.gift2012.com/watch-live. All games will air live except the Loyola Academy-Jesuit Prep Dallas game, which will be shown at 3pm US EST.
About Global Football: Under the guidance of President Patrick Steenberge, a former Notre Dame quarterback and high school All-American at Erie Cathedral Prep, Global Football has produced football games in 19 nations during the past 16 years. Working partners include USA Football, NFL, Super Bowl Host Committees, American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Notre Dame, Penn State, Pop Warner, Tanzania Sports Council and dozens of NCAA Division III colleges as well as National Football Federations worldwide. www.globalfootball.com.
GIFT Partners / Supporters: University College Dublin, Trinity College, Education in Ireland, Failte Ireland, IAFA, Play Like a Champion Today, Abbey Tours, Anthony Travel, Rogers Athletic, Tourism Ireland.
Media should apply by email to Michael Preston at MP@MPrestonSports.com or by calling (001) 781-363-0305, stating the following information: Name of credential applicant, Name of media outlet, Email and phone contact information, Sideline photo or press box credential required.