Thursday 29 September 2016

New trophy shows College Classic is serious business Stateside

Published 20/09/2015 | 02:30

At Boston College’s Alumni Stadium for the unveiling of the Keough-Naughton American Football Trophy were (l to r) Stephen Kavanagh, CEO Aer Lingus, Brad Bates, Boston College Director of Athletics and Neil Naughton, chairman of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic steering committee
At Boston College’s Alumni Stadium for the unveiling of the Keough-Naughton American Football Trophy were (l to r) Stephen Kavanagh, CEO Aer Lingus, Brad Bates, Boston College Director of Athletics and Neil Naughton, chairman of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic steering committee

Boston College and Georgia Tech will play for a stunning new trophy when they meet next September in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic at the Aviva Stadium.

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The trophy was unveiled amid some pomp and ceremony in the bowels of Boston College’s Alumni Stadium by Neil Naughton, deputy chairman of the Glen Dimplex Group, on Thursday last. It will be known as the Keough-Naughton American Football Trophy, after Naughton’s father, Martin, the founder of the Glen Dimplex Group, and Don Keough, the former CEO of Coca-Cola, who died earlier this year.

“Don Keough was a charismatic leader, often described as the best president America never had,” said Neil Naughton. “As leader of Coca-Cola, an iconic global brand, Don was a vigorous and visionary presence in American business for over half a century. He was also a dynamic presence in Irish-America, where he supported Irish business, education and culture in multiple ways. Don brought wise counsel, good humour and vigour to strengthening the relationship between Ireland and America.”

Naughton added: “One of the legacies that Don was most proud of was the Irish Studies programme that he founded in Dublin, which has brought thousands of young Americans to Ireland. Because he believed strongly that the Irish-American partnership only worked well if it was equally supported on both sides of the Atlantic, he invited my father to co-chair this Irish Studies initiative. The Keough and the Naughton families have worked closely together in the last two decades to foster a strong link between Ireland and America.

“One ambition that the families share is to bring major American College football games to Dublin every two years, where elite universities will bring the spectacle and the drama of their sport to Irish turf. These games offer huge publicity potential, practical economic benefits and a genuine expression of the close ties between our two countries. We hope to add an exciting international chapter to the rich narrative of American College football, which brings famous franchises like Boston College, Georgia Tech, Penn State, Notre Dame and Navy to Dublin.”

The new trophy, which was designed by Matt Kehoe, head of design at Waterford Crystal, and handcrafted at the Waterford workshop in Ireland, is an American football mounted on three individual sculpted pillars of crystal, resting on a beautiful base and plinth. Kehoe’s concept for the trophy was a ball in flight and the pillars represent the players’ arms catching the ball. The trophy is a fantastic addition to Waterford Crystal’s collection of world-famous sports trophies.

The game, which will be played on September 3 next year, is expected to attract more than 25,000 visitors to Dublin, with both colleges already vying to have the most fans in the stadium. It is expected this latest college football spectacle — the seventh — will be a sell-out at the Aviva. It is Boston College’s first time in Dublin since the inaugural game in 1988, when they played the US Army team.

With less than a year to go to the match, there is already significant media interest in Boston in the adventure in Dublin. Thursday’s event was covered by local tv and newspaper interests. The game in Dublin will be broadcast live coast to coast in the US and to over 100 countries, very much putting Ireland in the international sporting spotlight that weekend, particularly as the All-Ireland hurling final is the following afternoon.

By commissioning and naming a new trophy, organisers say this is showing a commitment to the concept of having further games in Dublin, and the plan is that a college game from the opening weekend of the season will be played every two years in the city, with this trophy up for grabs each time.

College football in the US is massive business, with a huge television audience, and as with previous encounters in Dublin, the exposure for Ireland is worth millions of euro.

These games also have a business aspect as a series of events are developed around them which are specifically designed to enhance relationships between businesses in Ireland and North America. Conservative estimates around the 2012 match-up between Notre Dame and Navy are that it generated €300m in potential business deals.

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