What? High school football showcase featuring 4 top school teams from America, an Irish select squad and the NFL Academy UK team. These are early-season non-conference, but real games for the US teams.
When? Tripleheader of games Friday, August 25, 2023, 12 noon- 9:30 pm. US teams arrive Tuesday/Wednesday to prepare themselves to play, as well as taking in Ireland culture and history through educational experiences. Teams then attend the Notre Dame vs Navy contest the following day.
Where? Energia Park, formerly Donnybrook Stadium, Dublin 4 Ireland, which has hosted 3 GIFT events. Traditionally a Leinster Rugby venue, the turf surface, adjacent warmup field and temporary goal posts that will be specially constructed to high school dimensions and installed makes it an ideal venue for players. For spectators there are 2200 flip-down seats under roof, another 7,000 bleacher seats/benches, along with Bective and Old Wesley rugby clubhouses, food and beverage sites in either end zone.
Why? An integral part of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, this is the 4th GIFT event since 2012, the last time Notre Dame-Navy played in Ireland. Four defensive starters on Notre Dame’s defense in 2021 played in GIFT 2016 on three of the six participating teams. As American football continues to expand rapidly among Irish athletes, coaches and spectators, this event features rising college and future NFL stars. Having the Irish Jr Wolfhounds competing this year brings another dimension to the action and interest among locals.
Who? Produced by Global Football, whose founder and president Patrick Steenberge studied at and played for Notre Dame in the early 1970’s. GIFT is brought to Ireland in partnership with IAEL, Ltd. Team Global staff working the 6-day educational football tour will include 12 men and women who all have a personal history in football, academics and Notre Dame.
Matchups & Kickoffs:
12 noon- Bonner & Prendie, Pennsylvania vs NFL Academy UK
B & P is a Catholic school located in Delaware County, just outside Philadelphia, competes in the 2nd largest division of schools in athletics, PIAA 4A. In the 2022 season the Friars rolled to the state quarterfinals with a string of impressive victories. Coach Jack Muldoon will be replacing numerous key starters, but does have a solid returning class who will proudly wear custom-make Kelly green new uniforms in Dublin.
NFL Academy UK is entering their 4th season, featuring outstanding teenage athletes from around the globe, especially across Europe and Africa. The student athletes feel they may have a chance to play major college football in America if they develop during their study years at Loughborough University. With limited contests the past years the Academy has yet to lose to a European squad, and is eager to test their limited experience on the football field against a well-coached, experienced US high school team.
3:30 pm-Seton Hall Prep, New Jersey vs Baylor School, Tennessee
Seton Hall Prep competes in one of America’s toughest football leagues featuring a group of highly competitive New Jersey Catholic schools. Coach Bill Fitzgerald will return to familiar ground as he was offensive coordinator for St. Peter’s Prep at GIFT 2016, when they defeated eventual Georgia State Champs Blessed Trinity. The Pirates are coming off a strong 2022 season and return some stellar players, especially in the defensive backfield, including a player who already has been offered a scholarship to study and play at Notre Dame.
Baylor School is eager to start their 2023 season, the second under Coach Erik Kimrey who led Big Red to the Tennessee State Championship in the state’s Class II-AAA division in his initial go. Baylor has a legendary 130-year history as an outstanding private school based in Chattanooga, where they continue to develop outstanding scholars as well as talented, high-performing athletes across a range of sports. Led by QB Whit Muschamp, a Vanderbilt University commit and son of U of Georgia defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, the Dublin air will be filled with spirals when Baylor has the ball.
7:00 pm-Community School of Naples vs AFI Jr. Wolfhounds
The CSN Seahawks will be led by Coach Paul Selvidio who returns to Ireland with his team for the 2nd time, having played vs Westminster of Atlanta in GIFT 2016. A new administrator this past year to help lead Community School is Eugene Chung, who proudly wear his Super Bowl ring from when he coached with the Philadelphia Eagles following a 5-year playing career as offensive tackle for the New England Patriots. Top college scout Dwight Thomas of Florida says CSN has acquired some impressive new linemen via transfer who likely are attracted by the athletics director as well as the chance to play in Ireland.
AFI Jr. Wolfhounds are a select national team of 18 & under players who are wanting to test themselves against a Florida private high school squad. Coach Alan Orr has the challenge of preparing his team with minimal practice time due to them living across Ireland. These young men will be fired up to represent the host nation for the initial time in the historic GIFT event and to demonstrate that they can match up against highly trained American teenagers.
- 3 of the Team Global staff have a total of 171 years experience coaching football in America! Dwight Thomas was Emmitt Smith’s high school coach at Escambia HS Florida; John Storey mentored Heisman winner Desmond Howard at Cleveland Ohio Mt. St Joseph Hight; Bill Gallagher followed up his stellar Notre Dame running back career by coaching 52 years in the Philadelphia INERAC, America’s oldest high school conference. Mike Creaney was an All-American tight end at ND under Coach Ara Parseghian.
- The Voice of Notre Dame Stadium, Mike Collins, will bring his 38-years’ experience as Public address announcer for the Fighting Irish to Energia Park and GIFT, as he did in 2012.
- GIFT teams hail from 4 states, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania and Tennessee along with Ireland and the UK. This brings the total of GIFT teams to 26 over the four events-2012, 2014, 2016, 2023.
- The future is bright for American football in Ireland as major college games are expected to return annually over the next 5 years at least! That means top High School action also.
- Among insiders, the GIFT Tripleheader is being called ‘Dublin Friday Lights’, similar to the famous movie, book and TV series that features Texas high school football.
- First stop for each American GIFT team will be Experience Gaelic Games, NaFianna GAA Club where the players will try their hands and feet at Gaelic Football and Hurling under the entertaining skills of the staff there. A superb way to shake off the overnight flight cobwebs.
- University College Dublin (UCD) will be home for the American players and staff while in Ireland, an ideal spot for them to rest in the fine student accommodations, eat in the dining halls, meet in classrooms and practice on the natural and artificial turf surfaces scattered about the campus.
- Legendary GAA player and UCD Director of Sport, Brian Mullins, will be recognized for his support of early GIFT events and his leadership within Dublin by welcoming Patrick and introducing him to so many wonderful leaders of sport and education over the past decade. One player from each GIFT team will be presented the “Brian Mullins Global Ambassador Award” as selected by his coaches and teammates. The trophies will rightly be presented in Croke Park at the Hogan Stand Awards area where Brian and his Dublin mates accepted the Sam McGuire trophy 4 times during the midfielder’s brilliant career. Brian’s son, Nathan, will be on hand to assist and comment on his father who passed away in autumn 2021.
- The traditional GIFT Pep Rally will be held and open free to the public at Merrion Square on Thursday August 24 from 4-5 pm. All players and coaches will be present and honored, with inspiring comments by GIFT Honorary Chairman Rear Admiral William Byrne (Ret.) as well as a representative of Ireland tourism & sport. Each team’s captain will also say a few words to his teammates and the football fans in attendance.
- As the ND-Navy game at Aviva Stadium on Saturday is totally sold out, the GIFT High School Showcase, Dublin Friday Lights, will be the best football action in Ireland that weekend that is still available to sports fans. Tickets are on sale for just E20 adults, E15 students and OPA, with children admitted free. One ticket gets the holder 9 hours of top-level American football! Tickets can be ordered online- http://www.globalfootball.com/ireland-2023/tickets/
Patrick Steenberge, firstname.lastname@example.org +1 817.219.7274
Jess Gryder, email@example.com +1 817.243.4618