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2,000 footballers and cheerleaders parade in Dublin ahead of matches

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Seamen  on the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

Seamen on the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

Niall Carson

The US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

The US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

Niall Carson

US armed forces personnel are seen on the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

US armed forces personnel are seen on the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

Niall Carson

Navy personnel maintaining a Phalanx anti missile defence gun on the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

Navy personnel maintaining a Phalanx anti missile defence gun on the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

Niall Carson

Irish Naval personnel provide security for the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

Irish Naval personnel provide security for the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

Niall Carson

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Seamen on the US Navy Ship USS Fort McHenry in Dublin port

"We're going to rock this Trinity house!" organiser Patrick Steenberger cheered over the tannoy as more than 2,000 American high school footballers and cheerleaders streamed into the quadrangle at Trinity College Dublin last night for an all-American pep rally.

Led by a bagpiper in a blue tartan kilt, a sea of footballers in uniform and bubbly cheerleaders marched to the ear-splitting beat of a bass drum.

They converged in front of the famed Campanile monument to whip up the masses ahead of today's historic clash between nine American and two Canadian high school football teams. It's the first time that these high school football teams have played each other on foreign soil. And even the rainclouds didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the players and their supporters as they paraded from St Stephen's Green.

They are among an estimated 35,000 Americans and Canadians who have been arriving here all week for the event which was organised by the Global Ireland Football Team (GIFT).

The focal point is the sold-out Emerald Isle Classic on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium as part of The Gathering tourism initiative.

Arch rivals Notre Dame University and the US Naval Academy will play the game -- a fixture that dates back to 1927 -- at the start of the American college football season which traditionally takes place on the Labour Day weekend. Not to be outdone by their college counterparts, American high school football teams from Texas to Wisconsin to California will battle it out at Navan's Pairc Tailteann and Dublin's Parnell Park and Donnybrook stadiums today.

Meanwhile, supporters of Notre Dame and Navy will be holding their own pep rallies tonight ahead of tomorrow's 2pm kick-off.

A massive pre-match party will be held for Notre Dame fans at the O2 arena that will be broadcast live on RTE One. Their rivals will also stage a traditional pep rally at St Stephen's Green tonight.

And the party will continue tomorrow with a classic "tailgate party" taking place in Temple Bar from 10am to 1pm. Also tomorrow morning Notre Dame supporters will attend an open-air Mass in Dublin Castle.

Meanwhile, hundreds of US marines and naval crew will be attending the festivities as part of a scheduled stop-over of the USS Fort McHenry which is docked at Dublin Port for the weekend.

Belfast Telegraph


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