American football to take over Dublin as College Football Classic weekend kicks off
Dublin’s city centre came to a rapturous standstill as around 800 American football players, cheerleaders and supporters paraded down O’Connell Street in the rain to kick off this weekend’s celebration of American football.
Leading this evening’s parade was a contingent of cheerleaders from Georgia Tech.
Dressed in white and gold lamé mini-dresses, they twirled batons and fluttered pompoms to the delight of bemused but smiling onlookers who captured their boisterous romp through the capital on mobile phone cameras.
Hot on their heels was their college’s marching band, who, dressed like toy soldiers, gleefully drowned out the noise of the JCBs digging up O’Connell Street with their silver trumpets and tubas as their counterparts from rivals Boston College and six American high schools marched in sync behind them.
Watching the action from the side lines before the smiling but rain-soaked ensemble wound its way to the quadrangle at Trinity College for a pep rally, was proud American Dad Mike Parker from Woodstock, Georgia.
His 17-year-old son Alex is a line backer for Blessed Trinity High School in Atlanta. The school is one of six American secondary schools who will do battle on the pitch tomorrow at Donnybrook Stadium for a triple-header of American football games ahead of Saturday’s College Football Classic between Georgia Tech and Boston College at the Aviva Stadium.
And Mr Parker couldn’t be more proud.
“We’ve been planning this all year,” he said in a distinctive southern drawl as he snapped the action on his phone.
“We came here early and we’re going to stay late,” he said with a hearty grin.
Over at Trinity’s Parliament Square, former University of Notre Dame quarterback and founder of Global Football Pat Steenberge welcomed the throng on stage and applauded their “vision and commitment” to making this weekend a reality.
But it was Special Olympics gold medallist runner Loretta Clairborne who really got the crowd pumped.
“Do you realise the game you’re playing tomorrow will benefit Special Olympics Ireland?” she asked to thunderous applause.
“It’s more than just a game. When I ran my 3000th race I had no one to support me. But when I ran that race, the whole of Ireland was watching me and I hope you play your best and will be your best,” she told the cheering crowd.
Meanwhile, members of the Westminster High School football team from Atlanta, Georgia said they are ready to take on the Naples Community School from Naples, Florida in tomorrow’s 11am clash at Donnybrook Stadium after taking in a few sights around Dublin.
“Ireland’s a beautiful country, I’m loving it so far and am happy to be here,” said 16-year-old line backer Miles Davis.
Corner back Malcolm Stickland (16), said he is delighted at the reception they have been receiving so far.
“There is a pretty good fan base here and it’s growing,” he said.
While centre nose guard Halim Labi, (15), said he thinks he might be able to sway Ireland’s rugby players into playing American football.
“I’m really excited to bring American football over here. Everyone’s been telling me what a great game rugby is and I’m happy to be able to correct them in their ways and show them what the better option is, even though I highly respect rugby, but I truly believe from the bottom of my being that football is a better game,” he said.
Failte Ireland, meanwhile, estimates the economic spin-off for Dublin alone will be around €19m as around 25,000 international visitors take in the events over the next few days.