An Irish ritual born on the Fourth of July
IF YOU were looking for a taste of America in Ireland yesterday to mark the Fourth of July then Deerfield, the US ambassador’s residence in the Phoenix Park, was the place to be.
There, in the bleachers overlooking the ambassador’s American Football pitch, 3,000 visitors ate burgers and hot dogs washed down with Budweiser and Pepsi and followed by cupcakes iced in red, white and blue.
The same colours (or colors, depending on what side of the pond you’re from) were replicated in the bunting decorating the ambassador’s house, in the balloons bobbing in the breeze and of course in the miniature US flags dotting the grounds.
On the pitch the third annual Irish American Flag Football classic kicked off after the ball was parachuted in by Caroline Cassidy, a member of the Irish Parachute Club, shortly after midday.
In a baseball cap and sneakers the US ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, surveyed the scene with satisfaction as overhead an aircraft towed a US flag across a cloudy but dry Dublin sky.
“It’s a great day, everyone’s having a good time, the weather’s good,” the ambassador and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers American football team said.
The Dublin 8s, a team coached by the ambassador’s son, also named Dan, went on to claim victory over the Phoenix Park Pirates, winning 44 points to 37, meaning they have taken victory twice in the three years the event has taken place.
Mr Rooney took the opportunity to reflect on the relationship between Ireland and the US, which he said was “stronger than ever”. He quoted US president Barack Obama who, during his visit to Ireland last year, spoke of two nations who “never stopped imagining a brighter future”.
Among those in attendance was Bob McAllistair, a US-born but Belfast-raised World War II veteran who was conscripted at the age of 18, having moved back to Ireland at the age of four.
“I was in Ireland until Uncle Sam caught up with me,” he said, sporting four medals on his breast and on his lapel a heart containing both the Irish and American flags.
Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of the Obama family, nine-year-old Julia Quinn celebrated the day with her family, parents Andrew and Sarah and brother Charlie, who picnicked as they watched the match.
“I like America, she said enthusiastically. Asked why, her answer was simple: “Because their TV’s really good.”
Asked how the event compared with Fourth of July celebrations in the US, Daniel Tabb, originally from Springfield, Massachusetts but now working with children in Ballymun with Sports Across Ireland, conceded the event was “over the top”.
However, judging by the broad smile on his face, you got the distinct impression this was exactly how the Fourth of July was supposed to be celebrated.