Official says Penn State was first choice for 2014 Ireland game

Penn State football head coach Bill O'Brien. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark)

Officials of Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association, accompanied by Pittsburgh Steelers team chairman Dan Rooney, a former ambassador to Ireland, held a press conference Saturday at Beaver Stadium to discuss plans for next year’s Croke Park Classic matching Penn State and Central Florida.

Paraic Duffy, GAA director general, said that Penn State was the first choice for the game, which will take place on Aug. 30 at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

“Notre Dame and Penn State are the first two names that (Irish fans) know, and that’s why Penn State was a very easy choice for us,” Duffy said.

Duffy said he was confident that the atmosphere in Ireland for the game will be similar to what it is in the United States, even if tailgating might be limited because of the proximity of the stadium to the center of the city. The stadium holds 82,000, with 68,000 permanent seats.

“We’re enthusiastic and excited about the challenge facing us,” he said. “We feel we can do it just as well.”

The trophy awarded to the winner of the Croke Park Classic consists of wood that is 4,200 years old, Duffy said, as well as steel taken from what was Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

The trophy is named for Rooney, the 81-year-old long-time Steelers official.

“I really didn’t understand why they wanted to name the trophy after me,” Rooney said. “I told them I didn’t deserve to have the trophy named after me and that they should get someone who was Irish. But they told me they definitely wanted me because they were playing American football. It means an awful lot to me.”

Rooney also said that he felt the Irish people would be very accepting of two American colleges playing in Dublin.

--Joe Juliano