DUBLIN — The arrival of UCF to play in Saturday’s Croke Park Classic has been met with much fanfare here in Dublin – even the airport was decked out in black and gold – though it hasn’t been without its complications.
The upcoming American Football spectacle will be held at Croke Park, traditionally reserved for Ireland’s most glamorous sporting events; such as last weekend’s All Ireland Semi-Finals, which ended unexpectedly in a draw after a shocking finish.
To resolve this tie, the two Gaelic Football teams will replay the match this upcoming weekend and would have played it at Croke Park if they had their way. The Knights’ presence is the only thing stopping them from doing so.
The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association, who govern Ireland’s sports) has stuck to their guns, never once wavering from their decision to bring American Football to Dublin in the heat of playoff season. The ruling organization has moved the rematch to Limerick, what locals called a less glamorous stadium two hours away on the opposite coast.
It will be the first All-Ireland Finals match held outside of Croke Park in over thirty years.
However, it has been a common topic of discussion from the locals, who hold Irish football near and dear to their hearts – more so than a game featuring two foreign schools playing a foreign game with foreign rules.
According to the Irish Examiner, sports pundit and former all-star Dermot Earley said that “No player dreams of playing an All-Ireland Final in Limerick.”
“This is the busy time, this is our stadium, this is a GAA stadium, this is a busy time for us. The ground is empty for six months of the year, have them at a different time of the year.”
UCF has not been in contact with the GAA about the minor hiccup in planning, according to UCF athletics.
Both Coach George O’Leary and Cork native Sean Galvin did, however, compare playing at Croke Park in Ireland to playing at Yankee Stadium in the states.
The massive disappointment from both the Gaelic players and fans has been apparent all over the city, though the locals do understand that this game was planned out far in advance, and that a draw was highly unexpected.
In light of such understanding, they have been nothing but hospitable to those traveling in for the game through it all, gearing up for what should be an intense environment at the massive Croke Park, which holds up to 80,000 people.
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