Croke Park and the GAA today officially announced details of the 2014 “Croke Park Classic” which will see the University of Central Florida (UCF) face Penn State University in their 2014 Season opener in GAA HQ on the 30th August 2014.
Details of the “Croke Park Classic” were revealed on the pitch during half time in the Leinster Senior Football Championship Final between Dublin and Meath by UCF coach George O’Leary and Penn State Director of Athletics Dave Joyner.
The last American Football game hosted in Croke Park was in 1996 when Notre Dame defeated Navy.  Both of these colleges were of course back in Dublin last year when they attracted a capacity attendance of almost 50,000 for the fixture.
“This is a hugely significant event for Croke Park and Ireland. We in the GAA are looking forward to hosting a competitive sporting occasion.”  Said Páraic Duffy GAA Director General.
“Irish people are renowned for their love of sport as evidenced by the thousands who attend our games throughout the year.  I have no doubt that this game will be every bit as attractive. “
Last year’s game in Dublin is believed by the organisers to have added €100m to the Irish economy and contributed to the 1.6% rise in Tourism Ireland’s figures for August – October 2012 (CSO)
Speaking at today’s announcement, Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said: “This will be a fantastic event for Croke Park and for Ireland. The Navy vs Notre Dame in 2012 welcomed 35,000 US visitors to Dublin. The “Croke Park Classic” will be every bit as important, and just as exciting, and both teams are guaranteed a warm welcome. It’s great news for sports fans, for the GAA and the wider economy. I congratulate everyone involved on making this possible.”
Veteran UCF Knights Coach George O’Leary was a mentor of Penn State Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien at Georgia Tech.
“We are very excited about the prospect of playing our 2014 season opener in Dublin,” said O’Leary, in Croke Park for today’s announcement. “It’s a great opportunity for UCF, and a chance for us to grow the exposure of our football programme.”
“On a personal level, obviously Coach O’Brien (Penn State) and myself are both of Irish heritage, so obviously it means a great deal to both of us to be in a position to bring our teams here. We are confident that Croke Park will be an excellent venue for us to play in, we have been hugely impressed to date with the facilities and we are looking forward to a huge crowd to get our 2014 season off to a flying start. We are confident that Croke Park will generate an unforgettable atmosphere for this game”.
A five man strong delegation from UCF travelled over for today’s announcement, along with four representatives from Penn State, and both parties were hugely impressed not just with Croke Park stadium and its facilities, but also with their first experience of Gaelic Football.
“It was fantastic opportunity for myself, and indeed the rest of the delegation both from Penn State and also UCF to get to witness some Gaelic Football here today.” said Dave Joyner, Director of Athletics Penn State. “ We also got to enjoy some of the hurling last night on television, so we have had a chance to get a real sense of the games that Croke Park would normally host and it’s been a real pleasure.”
The Croke Park Classic will take place on Saturday 30th August 2014.