The GAA’s new love affair with American Football is set to continue with the announcement today of a ”Global Ireland Football Tournament” that will see gridiron games taking place at three high-profile Gaelic Games grounds this August.
Croke Park chiefs have already shown their eagerness to bring the NFL to Jones’ Road as soon as next year, and ’GIFT 2012′ appears to be another step towards achieving that goal.
The tournament will feature 12 high-school and college teams playing at Meath’s county ground – Páirc Tailteann in Navan – as well as two Dublin venues. The festival will frame the visit of top college teams; Navy and Notre Dame to AVIVA Stadium on the first weekend of September and will include a double-header at Páirc Tailteann.
The idea was hatched by Global Football president Patrick Steenberge, who, along with the Irish Federation of American Football wants to take advantage of the fact that there will be as many as 40,000 gridiron fans in Ireland that weekend. The GAA are understood to have an open door policy when it comes to gridiron, having lost the income from soccer and rugby they had from hosting international matches between 2007 and 2010 before the renovation of Lansdowne Road was completed.
Along with the annual NFL game which has taken place in London since 2002; the NFL will stage a second annual offshore game in 2013; with Dublin (AVIVA Stadium) challenging Glasgow, Edinburgh, Berlin and Frankfurt for the honour. The last time a top level American Football game took place here was the final running in Europe of the American Bowl; when the Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Chicago Bears in 1997.