Croke Park is ready for some football!

The final preparation are being made in Croke Park for this weekend’s season opener between Penn State and UCF in Dublin.

With both teams arriving in Dublin today, the stage is set for over 40,000 fans to enjoy the second NCAA Division 1 college football game in two years after Notre Dame took on Navy in the Aviva Stadium in 2012.

UCF are coming in to this game off the back of a 12-1 season, which included a 34-31 win at PSU where now Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Blake Bortles went 20-for-27 with 288 yards and three touchdowns.

2013 season with a win at Wisconsin finishing 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten.

PSU are currently serving a four year bowl ban, the penalty from their highly publicised child sex abuse scandal also included a $60 million fine and the NCAA vacated all of the program’s 112 wins from 1998 to 2011.

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg is in his second season starting, last year he had a 58.9 completion percentage with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Although his number one target Allen Robinson, who had 40 percent of the team’s receptions, has moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the preseason redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo was named the No. 1 quarterback. If he starts on Saturday, he would be the first UCF freshman quarterback to start since Jeff Godfrey in 2010, and the first to start a season-opener since Daunte Culpepper in 1995.

Look out for Cork native Sean Galvin, who is the kick off specialist for UCF. Sean moved to the States in 2004 and has hopes of being drafted to the NFL next season.

Tickets are on sale for the Croke Park Classic through ticketmaster.ie and tickets.ie. For further information visit www.crokeparkclassic.ie.

Eric Dickerson in Dublin for GIFT 2014 Game

Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson will join fellow NFL veteran Kyle Brady for the pregame coin toss before the Global Ireland Football Tournament (GIFT) in Dublin on Friday, August 29.

Pennsylvania high school American football rivals the Cedar Cliff Colts and Penn Manor Comets will open their new season at the University College Dublin UCD Bowl at 7pm on Friday and Dickerson and Brady will join the team captains at midfield before kickoff. The NFL greats will also be guests in the Global Football suite at Saturday’s game between Penn State and UCF, the Croke Park Classic partner event of GIFT 2014.

Dickerson played with the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts of the NFL during a distinguished career and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He still holds the NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards in a single season set in 1984. Dickerson was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft (second overall) by the Rams, having played college football at Southern Methodist University, where he was part of the famed ‘Pony Express’ rushing attack and was a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Former Penn State tight end Brady is the Honorary Chairman for the GIFT 2014 game and enjoyed 13 standout NFL seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and New York Jets. He was a high school star for the Cedar Cliff Colts before making his mark with the Nittany Lions.

“We are honored to have Eric Dickerson join us in Dublin and thank him for his interest in this grassroots event,” said Global Football President Patrick Steenberge. “American football fans who were caught up in the craze that swept through Europe in the eighties will remember Eric for his devastating rushing performances that dominated the NFL for many years.

“Eric and Kyle join an illustrious group of professional football stars who have come out to support Global Football events over the years, which includes Emmitt Smith, Jason Taylor, Nick Saban and Leroy Butler.”

Tickets for GIFT 2014 are available at www.TicketGroup.ie priced €10 for adults and €5 for students. While fans not traveling to Ireland can watch the game streamed live on Aertv Sportslive for a subscription of $10.

http://globalfootball.com/hall-fame-running-back-dublin-gift-event/

Notre Dame head into National Championship as underdogs

Football fans won’t expect much sleep this weekend, after two days of NFL playoffs, Tuesday morning at 01.30am will see Notre Dame playing for their first national championship since 1988 against reigning champions Alabama.

In a season that started with the Fighting Irish thumping Navy 50-10 in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Notre Dame finished the regular season undefeated and ranked first in the BCS.

With a schedule that was filled with potential banana skins, the Irish continued to surprise. Grinding out wins against rivals Michigan, Miami, and beating Southern California with the help of a superb last minute, goal line stand.

The hard hitting Notre Dame defense kept the Irish competitive as the offense stalled at times, scoring over 22 points only five times. The season will be remembered for the unforgettable performances by Heisman runner up Manti Te’o along with stand out seasons for defensive tackle Louis Nix III and defensive ends Stephen Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore.

On the offense tight end Tyler Eifert was a constant threat while running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick kept the Irish offense moving along the ground with some very effective rushing. While sophomore quarterback Everett Golson struggled in the passing game in some games, he was a marked improvement over last years starter Tommy Rees, especially with his ability to make plays with his feet.

Notre Dame will certainly have their work cut out for them next week against 12-1 Alabama in Miami. Head coach Nick Saban is in his sixth year with the Crimson Tide and has already won two of three appearances in the championship game.

The Irish haven’t faced Alabama in a bowl game since a 13-11 win in the 1973 Orange Bowl, and are 5-1 all time against the Tide.

The Alabama defense is just as highly rated as the Irish’s, posting four shutouts and conceding 10 or less points on another three occasions this season.

Their offense is a much more daunting prospect than Notre Dame’s for opposing defenses though. Running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon will be the main threats Te’o and co will have to watch out for but quarterback A.J. McCarron is the “Coach on the Field” according to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.

McCarron has a lot in common with Golson; both are juniors, both have an impressive running game they can rely on, and both have been labelled “game managers”. McCarron has the advantage of this being his second national championship game and has shown himself to be a better decision maker than Golson and that could be the difference between the two sides.

While Notre Dame has stepped up to every challenge they have faced so far this season, this one could be a step too far for the plucky Irish. Even being in contention for the national championship this year would have been been a hugely successful season for them on the back of the last few years.

But maybe there is one magical night left in the tank for Notre Dame. Manti Te’o, Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin, Cierre Wood, and Theo Riddick are amongst the seniors that will play their final game in the Fighting Irish colours on Tuesday morning and, no matter the outcome, should all be immensely proud after the season they have helped their team to so far.

Coverage begins at 01.30am on Tuesday the 8th on ESPN America.

Notre Dame beats USC to finish regular season undefeated

Notre Dame’s defense put on another great show against USC to help the Irish finish the regular season undefeated.

A 22-13 victory over their Southern Californian rivals leave the Irish at 12-0 and number one in the national rankings. The win should mean that Notre Dame will play in Sun Life Stadium, Miami on January 7th for a BCS National Championship. The last time they were champions was under Lou Holtz in 1988.

The Irish relied on their kicker Kyle Brindza to score 15 of their 22 points last night, Theo Riddick scored Notre Dame’s only touchdown of the night in the first quarter.

USC scored through an 11 yard Max Wittek pass to Robert Woods in the second quarter with kicker Andre Heidari kicking two field goals in the game. Wittek started the game due to a shoulder injury Matt Barkley picked up in USC’s loss to UCLA last week.

But it was the fourth quarter defensive stand that made the difference in the game. USC had four attempts from inside the Notre Dame ten yard line but failed to convert any of them, giving the ball back to Notre Dame with two and a half minutes left on the clock.

All season Notre Dame has relied on it’s defense to put teams to the sword as their offense has been built to rely on the running game and keep possession of the football. Last night quarterback Everett Golson completed 15 of his 23 attempts for 217 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Irish running game was as good as ever with Theo Riddick picking up his fourth hundred yard rushing game for the season.

[quote]Well, that’s who we are. It’s been our defense all year. Our offense is able to manage enough points. – Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly[/quote]

Linebacker and defensive talisman Manti Te’o had another brilliant performance which included picking off Wittek in the third quarter, for the Hawaiian’s seventh of the season. The future NFL star should be looking to win Heisman trophy this season based on his performances.

The trophy, which is given to the most outstanding player in collegiate football, has never been won by an by a linebacker. In fact the only defensive player to ever win the accolade was Charles Woodson in 1997 but he also played as a punt returner.

11-1 Alabama will take on 11-1 Georgia next Saturday for the SEC title, with the winner of that game expected to take on Notre Dame in January for the National Title.

Notre Dame 22 USC 13 Highlights