Ireland G.I.F.T. 2023 – Truly was a GIFT!
All our travelers, the players, coaches, cheerleaders, school staff and administrators, parents, supporters
& fans, On Location and Global Football staff have now left Dublin, nearly all have arrived home. I
believe that I am the last one out, as I had planned. Personally, while somewhat weary of body and
mind, my spirit is soaring with the belief that each of the persons we have been responsible for has
returned home with a greater understanding of Ireland, as well as the Irish people past and present. In
addition, every Team which participated should now be a more unified, worldly, thankful and focused
squad. I am most hopeful that everyone’s Experience is one that has enriched you in ways you may not
have anticipated, but which you will relish for years to come. If so, then we did our job.
It is nearly impossible to thank everyone who had a part in the 2023 GIFT event, which began with the
four US high schools and their leaders who embraced the vision I presented them many months ago. I
can only imagine the hurdles they encountered and overcame, with the spirit of KILELENI, the Swahili
word they likely had never heard prior to meeting me, meaning To the Summit. Everyone who is
connected in any way to Seton Hall Prep, Bonner & Prendie, Baylor School and Community School of
Naples should be extremely proud. You are part of a truly unique school, one of only 4 which played in
Ireland in 2022, and of just 25 different schools which have joined the GIFT showcase since it began in 2012. Impressive!
Once the school leaders decided this would be worth the investment in time, energy and funds, each
community found ways to commit, persevere and succeed! You did so in creative ways that enabled
your student athletes to have such a powerful life-enhancing Global Experience. Parents, relatives,
friends, businesses, alumni and local area followers all joined as a TEAM to achieve the Summit of
playing in the Global Stadium and learning within the Global Classroom of Ireland. Thank you!
The visionary leaders of NFL International and the NFL Academy UK are to be commended for asking to
join G.I.F.T. and for diligently preparing their squad for the task of playing an American school team, in
Ireland. What a pleasure it has been to host the AFI Jr Wolfhounds select squad, to witness their
competitive nature, determination and joy of the game which was viewed in person by the Pittsburgh
Steelers Dan Rooney. He is totally motivated to help further develop Irish Football players and fans.
My role in GIFT was actually pretty simple; to set the overall goal and plan, recruit the schools/teams,
help lead the operation with the talents of hundreds who each played their position to the highest level
of their abilities. Talk about a Team of hard-working, positive individuals! Many of them I’ve known
personally, starting with my stellar Team Global including former ND teammates and other travelers
who are accustomed to leading. The Team extends to the On Location folks who expertly led and
functioned as if they had executed this specific event monthly. The overall attitude, as noted by Admiral
Bill Byrne, was exemplary, smoothing over any of the rough spots encountered. I am most grateful to
each of you!
And how about the Irish?! Most of their support our travelers rarely knew of personally, but I can attest
to their professionalism and steady effort, the second tenet Bill Byrne highlighted in his Awards talk.
From the moment our folks hit the ground and for 12-18 months prior, this Abbey Tours-led cadre of
passionate, friendly partners not only work but live daily the Brian Mullins theme of “You are most
Welcome”. The Emerald Isle folks handled so many roles it is nearly scary to note: UCD accommodations, meals, meeting room, practice fields and preparation to start off. Buses, taxis, drivers, coordinators, tour guides, hosts, Experience Gaelic Games mentors, museum directors, Castle story tellers and folks who helped make each stop uniquely educational. Our GIFT Pep Rally stage producers, lights & sound & video, security, the Lord Mayor, corporate.ie folks, Garda and dozens of organizers.
GIFT tripleheaders games stadium staff, game officials from Chicago and Ireland, security and medical
services, public address announcers, music operator, chain gang personnel, ball boys, UCD-provided
field equipment & set up, field lining specialists and goal posts builders and installers, dressing rooms
preparers and cleaners, hospitality vendors and facilities operators. In addition, the Live Stream on-site
Nolan production crew with ReelZeal.org distribution.
Croke Park pros who made the Awards Luncheon possible at the GAA National Stadium featured the
event producers, museum docents, Hill 16 specialists, big and small screen video techs, splendid food
preparers, live on-stage band, All-Ireland Dubs Champion Coach Dessie Farrell, GAA President Larry
McCarthy, Ger Brennan, Nathan Mullins along with his O’Reilly souvenir Swag, and of course Admiral
Sadly missing from the Brian Mullins Global Ambassador Awards occasion inside those hallowed, historic
grounds was the Irish man I/we owe so much to, GAA iconic athlete and dedicated educator, Brian
Mullins. I would simply ask that we are each thankful in our prayers for having brought this man into my
life, and the lives of so many others. Without his belief in the GIFT vision I doubt this would be a reality.
To wrap up our events were the outstanding and bountiful Aviva Stadium welcomers, myriad of hosts
and hostesses, game operations personnel, fireworks and music talent, ND marching band, the
dedicated US Naval Academy brigade in uniform, and of course the Navy Midshipmen and Notre Dame
Fighting Irish football teams, each supported by contingents of highly trained coaches and staff; the
game aired by NBC.
An all-star group of photographers, videographers and sound specialists from Ireland, the UK and across
America documented each element of the 6-day showcase. The work of Jess Gryder was vividly
demonstrated in Croke Park, with all being shown and enjoyed over a multitude of formats from various
venues across America, Ireland and globally for weeks, months and years to come. Job well done!
Finally, I want to thank and congratulate each of you who receive and read this, as YOU played an
integral role, in one or many ways. I am feeling so blessed by your involvement and friendship. Your
commitment and passion were critical in providing what I believe will be a life-enhancing Global
Experience for everyone who joined in the 2023 Global Ireland Football Tournament. A true G.I.F.T.
As James Brown so often sang out: “Whoaaaa…I Feel Good!”
Kileleni…to the Summit.
email@example.com 817.219.7274 globalfootball.com
@gift_ireland @globalfootballguy @patricksteenberge
Bonner & Prendie (PA), The Baylor School (TN) and Community School of Naples (FL) All Win in Dublin at the Global Ireland Football Tournament
The fourth Global Ireland Football Tournament (GIFT) played in conjunction with the Aer Lingus College Football Classic served up three exciting games at Energia Park in Dublin on Friday. Four visiting American high school teams, the UK-based NFL Academy and the Irish Wolfhounds U19 junior national teams were all in action in the Irish capital.
The GIFT games were kicked off fittingly by the boot of an Irishman, NFL Academy kicker Andy Quinn, a native of Donnybrook who grew up kicking rugby and American football balls at the Energia Park stadium hosting the event.
Bonner & Prendie had started their trip with a police escort to the Philadelphia International Airport and won the first of three GIFT games, defeating the NFL Academy 34-24. The Baylor School from Tennessee beat New Jersey’s Seton Hall Prep 42-7 as quarterback Whit Muschamp threw four touchdowns. An enthusiastic crowd cheered on the home team Irish Wolfhounds, but they fell to a 22-0 defeat against Community School of Naples from Florida.
Bonner & Prendie (PA) 34 NFL Academy (UK) 24
In the day’s first game, the NFL Academy went ahead early through a safety when the ball was snapped over the Bonner & Prendie punter’s head and rolled into the end zone. A perfectly timed interception by Mick Johnson got the Friars offense back on the field, and one play later quarterback Kenjai Gatling hit receiver Jalil Hall on a 34-yard touchdown connection for a 6-2 lead.
Rob Ford broke free from numerous tackles having looked to have been stopped on a short gain and raced 34 yards to the end zone to open a 13-2 advantage by the end of the first quarter after Irv Fisher tagged on the extra point.
The Academy rebounded through a Seb Harris 30-yard receiving touchdown to trail 13-9, and then their defense repelled a series of plays within striking distance of the end zone to frustrate the Friars. Wearing Kelly green jerseys made specially for their trip to Ireland, the Bonner & Prendie offense put more points on the board when Noel Campbell tossed up a jump ball that Hall snatched from the hands of a defensive back for his second touchdown and a 20-9 lead.
The NFL Academy reduced the arrears to four points by halftime when Sam Benton produced a 25-yard touchdown pass to Seb Harris and Quinn tagged on the point after.
After the break, Harris reeled in his third scoring grab of the day for the NFL Academy, but it came after Bonner & Prendie had scored and converted two second half touchdowns to win 34-24.
The Baylor School (TN) 42 Seton Hall Prep (NJ) 7
The Baylor School quarterback Whit Muschamp threw four touchdowns and Amari Jefferson and Zane Restelli each had a pair of scoring grabs as the Tennesseans beat Seton Hall Prep from New Jersey 42-7.
Kicker Cooper Keown opened the scoring with a 26-yard field goal then the first Muschamp to Restelli connection opened a ten-point first quarter lead. Seton Hall Prep replied as Caleb Pasols reeled in a one-handed grab from a Liam Londergan pass and fought his way to just inside the pylon. Jack Catchpole’s extra point reduced the deficit to three points.
The Raiders rotated their quarterbacks and Briggs Cherry produced a massive pass to Jefferson down at the Prep 7-yard mark and from there Muschamp handed off after high snap to Cody Davenport who took home a rushing score for a 16-7 lead.
A pooch kickoff caught Seton Hall by surprise and was bounced and grabbed by Joshua Hampton who ran all the way to the end zone but the play was called back. Baylor still had excellent position at the Pirates’ 25-yard mark and Max Leblanc hauled in a touchdown catch on next play from Muschamp.
The Pirates were unable to take advantage of a turnover and trailed 23-7 at halftime and also saw a promising third quarter drive end without points. Jefferson made it 30-7 before a brief weather delay and caught a deep pass for a 36-7 unassailable advantage before a Cherry to Restelli connection beyond the secondary brought up the final score of 42-7.
Community School of Naples (FL) 22 Irish Wolfhounds U19s (IRE) 0
Community School of Naples proved too strong for Ireland’s U19 national team, running out 22-0 winners against the Junior Wolfhounds, who were cheered on by a noisy and enthusiastic home crowd at Energia Park.
Ireland’s Ben Smyth produced a touchdown-saving tackle and recovered a fumble to halt the Seahawks’ first promising drive. The Americans were unable to take advantage of great field possession after a short punt and the first quarter remained scoreless.
Naples ball handling errors, penalties and the dogged determination of the home team continued to keep the Seahawks out of the end zone until Ben Varga fought his way up the middle on the ground for the game’s first score and a 6-0 lead.
A Max Varga interception shut down a promising Wolfhounds drive and with the clock ticking down to halftime, the Seahawks capitalized. Quarterback Cale Austin was flushed from the pocket but managed to find Cal Wyatt open in the end zone for a touchdown and Charlie Youngs slipped tackles to breach the end zone on a two-point catch to open a 14-0 halftime lead.
The Seahawks completed the scoring in the third quarter when Austin lofted pass to Sean McNamara at the back of the end zone and Varga ran in a two-point conversion for a 22-point lead.
The Wolfhounds got themselves into promising field position in the fourth quarter on a special teams play when Tom McEniff blocked a punt with his face cage and recovered the ball, but the Irish were unable to convert the opportunity into points.
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