Ireland hosted two huge football games Saturday [30 August]; a GAA semifinal match in Limerick between Kerry and Mayo, and an NCAA season opener in Dublin between Penn State University and University of Central Florida.
Kerry and Penn State walked off as winners in thrilling games that each came down to the final minute (and overtime for Kerry-Mayo).
This was the fifth time U.S. college teams have played the American version of football in Ireland, a game that has been called the Emerald Isle Classic, the Shamrock Classic and, this year, the Croake Park Classic. The event is aimed at attracting Irish-American visitors to Ireland.
ESPN reported, “Penn State players received the Dan Rooney Trophy, a football made of ancient Irish bog wood that was specially commissioned for the game.” Rooney is owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.
The Kerry-Mayo contest was the rematch from an earlier game that ended in a tie. The GAA relocated west to Limerick because of the NCAA game, a decision that generated its share of grumbling. From the Irish Independent:
When players imagine and talk about playing on the big stage, that’s Croke Park they’re imagining and talking about. When you and I think of All-Ireland games, we think of walking up to Croke Park. And the spike in your stomach when you catch the first glimpse of the stadium and everything it houses for you, your family and your team. Memories, maybe medals and most definitely magic.
My wife and I watched the GAA contest at Fadó Irish Pub in Washington, where fans of the Kingdom heavily outnumbered Mayo supporters. Here’s the game report. We look forward to watching the final contest 21 September against the winner of the Dublin – Donegal match.