Gaelic football is played all over Ireland at every level. Finding a match on a weekend during the season is easy. But American football? Not so much. So when a real American football game happens in Ireland, it’s a pretty big deal.
The Boston College Eagles will play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on September 3rd. It’s the highlight of a week of cultural events including high school football matches, pep rallies and tailgating parties. Visiting Americans will be treated to Irish hospitality with food, drink, music and more at the Welcome Village at Trinity College. They’ll also enjoy a night at the Guinness Storehouse. Why? It’s the Aer Lingus College Football Classic.
How big a deal is this? Well, Aer Lingus has added 1,000 extra seats on the Boston-Dublin route for the occasion, and two additional chartered jets will bring the players and their entourages. Organizers expect about two million viewers in the USA to tune into the live broadcast of the big game on ESPN. Senator George Mitchell is a keynote speaker. This is only the sixth College Football Classic in Ireland since they began in 1988. The last one was in 2014. It’s really a pretty big deal.
The Goal of the Gridiron Goals
This massive festival of American football is about a lot more than touchdowns. On both sides of the Atlantic, we tend to think of Irish culture in the USA, but the reality is that culture flows both ways. While the College Football Classic doesn’t happen very often, it is one of the few events where we acknowledge American culture in Ireland. American marching bands arrive every St. Patrick’s Day and are now part of the Dublin parade’s magic, but cheerleading squads and tailgating parties are rare on this island. College and high school football are enormously popular across the USA. The game inspires the same sort of team loyalty and enthusiasm that the GAA does here. This is a chance for the Irish to indulge in some down-home, genuine American culture.
Cultural exchange is only one of the goals of this extravaganza. Sen. Mitchell’s speech is not expected to focus on football tips. This is also a trade mission, albeit a very fun one. Organizers have planned at least 20 networking events. The prestigious Boston College CEO Club will meet outside of the USA for the first time. Muhtar Kent, chief executive officer of Coca-Cola, will also be speaking, and organizers have worked to lure American university presidents to the event.
Fittingly enough in this Olympic year, this College Football Classic will also serve as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. While we’re watching to see who will bring home the gold in Brazil, the American athletes playing here will be helping to raise money to support Special Olympics Ireland.
Cultural exchange, sportsmanship, trade relations and supporting an organization that celebrates achievement while shattering stereotypes is a pretty big agenda, but that’s what the Aer Lingus College Football Classic aims to do.