A whole new ball game: Croke Park awaits
The Dan Rooney classic will be at stake in next year’s Croke Park Classic between Penn State and Central Florida universities
Former US Ambassador to Ireland and Chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers Dan Rooney, second from left, joined GAA director general Páraic Duffy, Dave Joyner, right, director of athletics, Penn State University, and Tod Stansbury, left, director of athletics, UCF, in Beaver Stadium, Pennsylvania, to officially launch the Croke Park Classic in the US.
Tickets need to be flogged for the Croke Park Classic between Penn State and Central Florida universities on August 30th, 2014. Step forward GAA director General Páraic Duffy and stadium chief Peter McKenna, who both adopted full-on networking mode these past few days in Pennsylvania.
Duffy impressed the local Fourth Estate during Saturday’s pre-game press conference at Beaver stadium.
Director Duffy, explain to Americans what hurling is?
Easy. Best field sport ever.
“Go to YouTube.”
Are the GAA’s amateur values comparable to college football?
“Our players go to work Monday morning.”
Next he performed the coin toss along with Dan Rooney, the former ambassador to Ireland, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and an 81-year-old who flew his own plane home Saturday night.
“Director Duffy” even found time to talk live from the ESPN commentary box just before half-time.
The Penn State Nittany Lions and UCF Knightswill tussle for the Rooney trophy next autumn in Dublin.
It was McKenna who convinced Rooney to have his name attached to the trophy. GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell also lent a subtle hand.
The initial goal was to bring a Steelers game to Croke Park but, Duffy revealed, the NFL were captivated by Wembley and the possibility of a London franchise.
So the GAA turned to former Notre Dame quarterback Patrick Steenberge’s Global Football company to middle man this project.
“The first thing, to be honest, is financial,” said Duffy. “One of the reasons for the development of Croke Park has been to generate funds for the association so clearly we want to make a financial profit from it to put back into the GAA in other ways. Penn State we felt was a good bet because of the huge support base.”
Florida attracts about 40,000 for games so they will receive a flat fee to travel as the home team. Penn State, on a quiet night like Saturday, can draw a raucous 95,000 following, which blitz’s even the Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aries for atmosphere.
“We’ve more or less set ourselves the aim of doing this in 2014, 2016 and 2018,” Duffy explained.
“There have been a lot of difficulties but we feel if we can master it the first time around it will become easier the second and third time.
“There should be 15,000 to 20,000 coming from Penn State, Florida somewhat smaller but I think we’ll sell a lot of tickets at home. There is a much greater interest in American football than was there five, 10 years ago. I think there is a big Irish audience so we’re very confident, our aim is to fill Croke Park in terms of 68,000 seats.”
A trial run to flip the stadium before the All-Ireland football semi-final, with 26 hours between both kick-offs, already happened in 2009 between Ireland’s World Cup play-off first leg against France and a rugby Test match against Australia.
Like every Penn State game, it will be shown live on ESPN.