An Emerald Island Visitor

Nov. 26, 2013

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By Chip Fontanazza

ORLANDO, Fla. ( – American football is a sport that has been gaining interest in Ireland over the past three decades. The Irish American Football League (IAFL) was founded in 1984. IAFL Board Member Matt Craig is one of the people in Ireland who is trying to increase the interest and promote the sport on the Emerald Isle. He recently had a chance to shadow the UCF football team and head coach George O’Leary at a Knights’ practice and was able to take in the UCF victory over Rutgers at Bright House Networks Stadium.

Craig met Coach O’Leary in Dublin back in July during the official announcement of the Croke Park Classic. The Irish football player was one of the player models used during a photo shoot at Croke Park with Coach O’Leary to help promote the upcoming game.

Coach O’Leary told all of the players that day if they wanted to come to Orlando to see how a Division I college football program is run, he would be more than happy to host them. Craig decided to take advantage of that offer and traveled to Orlando last week.

Craig has a unique tie to both UCF and Penn State, the school the Knights will face in the Croke Park Classic. He grew up in State College, Pa. and graduated from Penn State University. Meanwhile, his mother is currently a professor at UCF. He moved to Ireland 10 years ago and resides in Ballymena, which is about two-and-a-half hours away from Dublin – Ireland’s capital city.

With Craig’s role in promoting and growing the sport of American football in Ireland, the Croke Park Classic was something he wanted to be involved with. Ironically, the IAFL team Craig runs over in Ireland is called the Knights and their team colors are black and gold as well.

UCF will have a few more guests from Ireland on campus for this week’s USF game. A small contingent from the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) which includes Director General Paraic Duffy, Croke Park Stadium Director Peter McKenna and Croke Park Head of Operations Alan Gallagher.

To find out more about what Craig learned during his trip to UCF and what American football is like in Ireland, watch the video above.




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