Former US Ambassador to Ireland and Chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dan Rooney, joined GAA Director General Páraic Duffy on the pitch in Beaver Stadium, Pennsylvania, to officially launch the Croke Park Classic in the US.

The launch took place ahead of the 3rd game of the Big Ten Conference season between Penn State University and the University of Central Florida (UCF).  This is the last time the two teams will play each other before they meet in their 2014 Season opener in Croke Park on the 30th August next year.

Duffy announced to the almost 100,000 strong audience of Penn State and UCF fans, that the winner of the Croke Park Classic would be presented with the Dan Rooney Trophy, named in honour of Rooney.  A key player in the GAA’s redevelopment plans for Croke Park in the early nineties, Dan Rooney has been both a passionate fan of Gaelic Games and big supporter of the Association during his many visits and residence in Ireland over the last fifty years.

“Dan Rooney has been a great friend, not only of the GAA, but of Ireland.” said Duffy. “We are delighted to be in a position to honour both his contribution to, and support of, our games, but also the game of American Football. I am sure the teams will relish playing for the Dan Rooney Trophy next August.”

The Dan Rooney Trophy is a replica American Football made of bog yew and Pittsburgh steel.  The yew comes from what remains of forests which grew 4,200 years ago in the Irish midlands. The steel is from Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Croke Park Classic brings together Veteran Florida Knights Coach George O’Leary and Penn State Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien. O’Leary mentored O’Brien at Georgia Tech from 1995 – 2001 and the two coaches, both of Irish heritage, have shared a friendship since that time.

Dan Rooney said, “I am delighted and honoured that the teams will be playing for the Dan Rooney Trophy in the Croke Park Classic next August. The GAA holds a special place in my heart, as of course does American Football, so to bring these two together, and to bring College football to the home of the GAA in the Croke Park Classic, is very special. I have no doubt that the Croke Park Classic between UCF and Penn State will make for a fantastic sporting occasion.”

Dan Rooney was joined in the Beaver Stadium by his son Art, President of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Penn State’s home ground, Beaver Stadium is the 2nd largest stadium in the US and the 4th largest in the world with a capacity of 106,572.

The result of last night’s game saw UCF defeat Penn State 34-31.  When Penn State and UCF meet again in Croke Park next August, they will be playing a game outside of the United States for the first time in their history.

The 2014 Croke Park Classic will take place on Saturday 30th August.