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Croke Park in frame for NFL bonanza

By Donnchadh Boyle

GAA top brass are keeping their fingers crossed that Croke Park can secure a €50m boost to the beleaguered economy after the staging of a major American football game moved a step closer.

In a shot in the arm to the bid to host an NFL match, US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney revealed a visiting delegation were “very impressed” after a tour of the stadium last Friday.

The home of the GAA has competition with Frankfurt's Commerzbank-Arena and the Olympic stadium in Munich thought to be Croke Park's main rivals while Edinburgh's Murrayfield is considered an outside bet.

Wembley stadium in London has hosted NFL matches recently but with the Olympics coming to the English captial next Summer, it's suitability remains in question.

However, with a capacity of just over 82,000, the Jones' Road venue holds a distinct advantage over its rivals.

“They were very impressed,” Rooney said. “I did talk with them and they thought the stadium was excellent and that the professionalism and management of Croke Park was good and that they could work with that as well as anywhere.”

Rooney is chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers but warned that his side would not be in a position to move a ‘home' game to Dublin due to contractual obligations, though he left the door open for the Steelers to play an ‘away' game here.

The Steelers played in Croke Park in 1997 when they beat Chicago Bears 30-17, before the stadium's multi-million euro facelift.

“The league does want it to be successful so they would try to pick teams that would generate interest. I think the Steelers would generate more interest here but I'm a little biased.

“There are a number of clubs in the NFL that are willing to give up home games. Tampa Bay are willing to give up a game and there are others that are too. So that wouldn't be too a major stumbling block.”

That Dublin is already due to host an American football match in 2012 when Notre Dame face Navy at Lansdowne Road on September 1 may be counted against Dublin but Rooney insisted Ireland is in a strong position.

“The commissioner of the NFL is an Irish man and you have me and a lot of other other Irish guys involved in NFL teams. And then here you have a great stadium and a great city that people want to come too.

“And the Irish get up for a big event, especially sporting events so there have been a lot of plusses without question.”

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