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Aer Lingus College Football Classic
Croke Park Classic
Emerald Isle Classic
Shamrock Classic
StadiumAviva Stadium
LocationDublin, Ireland
Previous stadiumsLansdowne Road, Croke Park
Operated1988–89, 1996, 2012, 2014, 2016
US Ambassador Dan Rooney and Taoiseach Enda Kenny take part in the ceremonial coin toss before the 2012 game at Aviva Stadium
US Ambassador Dan Rooney and Taoiseach Enda Kenny take part in the ceremonial coin toss before the 2012 game at Aviva Stadium

The Emerald Isle Classic was the first NCAA-sanctioned American college football game played in Europe. The game was played at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, Ireland in the years 1988 and 1989. The first game featured a 2–7 Boston College team led by Mark Kamphaus against the 8–1 Army Black Knights. The originators of the game were Aidan J. Prendergast and Jim O'Brien. Prendergast, who is a former president of the Irish American Football Association conceived the idea of bringing a major NCAA game to Ireland in the mid 1980s and started pitching the idea on both sides of the Atlantic. Prendergast promoted both the 1988 and 1989 games.

The game is intended as an annual event to attract some of the 40 million Americans of Irish descent back to their fatherland. College teams with particularly Irish or Catholic background were chosen in an effort to attract Irish nationals to the games as well.[citation needed]


In 1996, Notre Dame and the United States Naval Academy began a second American football event in Ireland called the Shamrock Classic. The event, played at Croke Park, drew a slightly smaller crowd than the first Emerald Isle Classic. Notre Dame won the game over Navy, setting the record for the longest winning streak over an annual collegiate opponent at 33 wins (Notre Dame added 10 additional wins to the streak, which remains the all-time record at 43 consecutive victories).


A return trip by the teams in 2012, held at Aviva Stadium, was confirmed by the two schools and stadium management in September 2010. The Emerald Isle Classic was tied to the Irish tourism initiative The Gathering, which sought to encourage members of the Irish diaspora (especially in the U.S.) to visit their ancestral home in 2013. The first advance sellout for a sporting event in the two-year history of Aviva Stadium, 15,000 tickets sold in less than two hours, and about 35,000 Americans went to Dublin. The 2012 game aired live in parts of Europe as well as the U.S. The U.S. Navy docked an amphibious-assault warship in Dublin before the game.[1] While the event was successful from a tourism perspective, it was marred by the poor treatment of the sport locally by the game organisers.[2][3] Consequently, the originators, who had allowed the name "Emerald Isle Classic" to be used in 2012, transferred the intellectual property relating to the event, including the trademarks for the event name to the Irish American Football Association in 2015 for 'safe keeping'.[4]


In June 2013, Penn State and UCF were reportedly in negotiations to play their 2014 season opener at Aviva, and the stadium was also seen as a potential venue for a proposed bowl game that would begin that season.[5] The Orlando Sentinel, located in UCF's home city, reported in July 2013 that the teams would play the game at Croke Park instead of Aviva.[6] That month the game, to be called the Croke Park Classic, was confirmed.[7] The Croke Park Classic saw the University of Central Florida (UCF) host Penn State in their 2014 Season Opener in GAA HQ on 30 August 2014. This was the first time UCF and Penn State had played outside the United States and Penn State took the Dan Rooney Trophy in a competitively fought game. 53,304 fans attended the thrilling encounter in which Penn State defeated UCF with a Sam Ficken field goal in the dying seconds, by a final score of 26 to 24. The Irish American Football Association was one of the official partners in the game and provided both promotional and technical assistance to Croke Park. [8]


On 4 June 2015, Irish American Events Limited (IAEL), which is a joint venture between and Anthony Travel, announced that American college football would return to Ireland in 2016 with a match-up between Boston College and Georgia Tech. The game was played at Aviva Stadium on 3 September 2016, and billed as the Aer Lingus College Football Classic.[9]

The announcement was made at the reception in Dublin attended by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, which was followed by a reception in Boston College in the U.S. attended by the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh.

Aer Lingus was announced as the title sponsor for the game, with Tourism Ireland, Failte Ireland and the Dublin City Council also lending support.

The game attracted 40,562 spectators and resulted in a 17–14 victory for Georgia Tech.[10]


University of Notre Dame announced on October 25, 2018, that the Fighting Irish would return to Dublin to face Navy Midshipmen at Aviva Stadium on August 29, 2020.[11] On June 2, 2020, it was announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the game would not be played in Dublin and would instead be played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.[12] It was eventually cancelled.


University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced on October 14, 2019, that the Nebraska Cornhuskers would travel to Dublin to face the Illinois Fighting Illini at Aviva Stadium on August 28, 2021.[13]

On February 17, 2021, it was announced that the game would once again not be played in Dublin due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and instead be played at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois, on August 28, 2021.[14]


Season Date Event Venue Winning team Losing team Attendance Source
1988 19 November Emerald Isle Classic Lansdowne Road Boston College Eagles 38 Army Cadets 24 42,525 [15]
1989 2 December Emerald Isle Classic Lansdowne Road 24 Pittsburgh Panthers 46 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 29 19,800 [16]
1996 2 November Shamrock Classic Croke Park 19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 54 Navy Midshipmen 27 38,651 [17]
2012 1 September Emerald Isle Classic Aviva Stadium Notre Dame Fighting Irish 50 Navy Midshipmen 10 48,820 [18]
2014 30 August Croke Park Classic Croke Park Penn State Nittany Lions 26 UCF Knights 24 53,304 [7]
2016 3 September Aer Lingus College Football Classic Aviva Stadium Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 17 Boston College Eagles 14 40,562 [19]

Future games

Season Date Event Venue Matchup Source
2022 27 August Aer Lingus College Football Classic Aviva Stadium Northwestern Wildcats Nebraska Cornhuskers


  1. ^ Pogatchnik, Shawn (31 August 2012). "US fans take over Dublin for Navy-Notre Dame game". Louisville, Kentucky: WDRB. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Emerald Isle Classic Press Release".
  3. ^ "IAFA responds to Navy".
  4. ^ "Irish Trade Mark Register".
  5. ^ Wilson, Christopher (11 June 2013). "Report: Bowl games could be coming to Dubai, Dublin, the Bahamas". Dr. Saturday. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  6. ^ Tenorio, Paul (9 July 2013). "UCF, Penn State to officially announce Ireland game on Sunday". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on 10 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Penn State to Face UCF in Ireland's Croke Park Classic to Open 2014 Season" (Press release). Penn State Athletics. 14 July 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  8. ^ "Penn State native".
  9. ^[bare URL]
  10. ^ "Georgia Tech vs. Boston College - Game Summary - September 3, 2016 - ESPN".
  11. ^ "Notre Dame football: Fighting Irish to take on Navy in 2020 at Dublin's Aviva Stadium". 25 October 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  12. ^ Dinich, Heather (2 June 2020). "Notre Dame-Navy football game moving from Ireland to Maryland". Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  13. ^ "Huskers, Illinois to Open 2021 Season in Ireland".
  14. ^ IAEL (17 February 2021). "2021 College Football Game moved from Aviva Stadium". Aer Lingus College Football Classic | 2021 Nebraska vs Illinois. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  15. ^ Lohr, Steve (20 November 1988). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Dubliners Cheer as B.C. Wins". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2007.
  16. ^ "Croke Park Classic". UCF. Archived from the original on 12 September 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
  17. ^ "Games Played in Ireland". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 4 October 2007.
  18. ^ "Aviva Stadium To Host The 2012 Navy-Notre Dame Game" (Press release). United States Naval Academy Varsity Athletics. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  19. ^ Boston College Athletics - Recap: Georgia Tech 17, Boston College 14