University College Dublin will host the Global Ireland Football Tournament (GIFT 2014) on Friday, August 29, when Penn Manor and Cedar Cliffs high schools from Pennsylvania travel overseas to renew a fierce rivalry.
The American football event makes a welcome return to Ireland next summer in partnership with the Croke Park Classic and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and promises a headline match to excite Irish sports fans.
The Penn Manor Comets and Cedar Cliff Colts will clash at the UCD Bowl at 7pm under Friday Night Lights having last met in the first round of the 2013 Pennsylvania State High School playoffs, when Penn Manor rallied from 21 points down to narrowly win 35-34 with only a missed extra point separating the teams. The two teams won a combined 19 games in 2013.
“We could not wish for a more exciting matchup than two teams from a true hotbed of high school American football,” said Global Football President Patrick Steenberge. “Fans from Dublin and beyond will be treated to a hard-fought and competitive clash between two in-state rivals. I played my high school football in Pennsylvania where there is a wonderful tradition around these matches that we are excited to bring over to Ireland.”
During a week of preparation spent in Ireland ahead of the match, both teams will use the university’s practice facilities before facing each other in what is certain to be a highly competitive atmosphere. Two other traveling teams that will open the double-header of matches at 4pm will be announced at a later date.
Penn Manor enjoyed a 10-2 season in 2013 under head coach Todd Mealy, who said: “This trip is so much more than simply playing a football game, so on behalf of everyone at Penn Manor School District, we are grateful that Global Football has asked us to be part of this experience of a lifetime.
“For every player involved, the trip to Ireland will definitely be the most memorable experience of their high school career, and perhaps their college career. For many it will be the only time that they’ve left the country. For most, it will be their first time on an airplane.”
During seven seasons with Mealy at the helm, the Comets have had four nine-plus winning seasons and have made the District-3 AAAA playoffs six consecutive times.
Cedar Cliffs head coach Colin Gillen is in his first season in charge of the Colts, having spent six seasons as the team’s offensive live coach. The Colts posted a 9-2 record in 2013.
“We have had some hard fought games with Penn Manor the last two years in district playoffs and came up on the short end each time,” said Gillen. “Penn Manor is a team that is always very well coached and sound with their fundamentals. They pride themselves in running the football and stopping the run. They will provide a great challenge physically for us on the line of scrimmage both sides of the football. We are very excited for the opportunity to face them again on a big stage in Ireland.”
GIFT 2014 will be a condensed version of the 2012 event that saw more than 13,000 spectators flock to three venues to enjoy the spectacle of high school and college American football teams, bands, cheerleaders and dancers in action. The visiting student-athletes, coaches and families will have an opportunity to enjoy some of the spectacular tourist sights of Ireland during their time overseas.
“Our focus this year is on making UCD the hub for our matches and the home of the event,” added Steenberge. “In 2012 we played in three venues and as far away as County Meath, but this year will be focused on Dublin, being a partner event of the Croke Park Classic. The visiting group is excited that they will get to watch some traditional Irish sports and also attend the top college American football game between Penn State and UCF.”