GAA close in on gridiron match as NFL officials visit Croke Park
AMERICAN football officials visited Croke Park yesterday as part of the GAA's bid to host an NFL game within the next two years.
Like London, Edinburgh, Munich and Frankfurt, the GAA has thrown its hat into the ring to host a big gridiron game in Europe annually as part of the NFL's plans for European expansion.
The fact that Dan Rooney, chairman emeritus of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is currently America's US ambassador in Ireland, makes him a very valuable ally.
Croke Park officials wined and dined NFL chiefs in Dublin last night in the final step towards completing their bid to host an official league game, which must be formally submitted by the end of this month.
Their plans hardened up once NFL owners voted last month to add a second foreign game to the league's season. The US league already has an annual fixture in London, which has taken place since 2007.
Croke Park hosted an NFL game in 1997, but that was a pre-season friendly between the Steelers and the Chicago Bears and took place before the GAA's stadium was redeveloped to its current standards.
The annual American football game between the US Navy and Notre Dame is already scheduled to come to Ireland next September but that is being played at the Aviva Stadium.
The GAA has already denied that the later scheduling of next year's All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals, on September 9 (hurling) and 23 (football), has anything to do with the possibility of hosting an NFL game.
Croke Park Stadium Director Peter McKenna said that yesterday's visit included a review of hotel accommodation and transport links within the city. "We are at a very advanced stage in our bid document," he said.