The NFL in Dublin: it’s the tease that just won’t end.
For years Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a former US Ambassador to Ireland, has been talking up the prospect of his beloved football club playing a regular season game in the Irish capital and the project got another airing yesterday when the 81-year old returned to these shores.
Accompanying him for the Fourth of July celebrations at his former residence in the Phoenix Park was Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ quarterback and one of the most recognisable faces in gridiron this past decade. Naturally, he too was dragged into the debate.
“I would like it for him,” said Roethlisberger when mined for his views. “That’s how much he means to me and I think everyone on our team would say that. Even if guys said they would never want to play in London, 100 percent of the guys on our team would say they would play in Dublin for Mr Rooney. I’d do it for him.”
Rooney’s role in the success of one of the US’s most successful sporting franchises was barely touched on during his official three-year stint on these shores, between 2009 and 2012, but the 6’ 5” superstar spoke volumes for the dynasty first established by his father, Art Rooney Snr.
“People are what makes Pittsburgh special. Why the tradition, why the history, why the most Lombardi’s (trophies)? To me it starts at the top. That’s him, Art his son and his family. When he was in Pittsburgh, we saw him every day. After every game win or lose. For us to see our owner every day, whether out at practice, just working out and them saying ‘hi’ to you, sit down and have lunch with you, to me that speaks volumes.”
Whatever about Dublin, the Steelers are going to London.
They face the Minnesota Vikings on September 29 in one of two regular season games to be played at Wembley Stadium this season but the chances of something similar being seen in Dublin were encapsulated by the QB’s thoughts on last year’s Navy-Notre Dame game at the Aviva Stadium.
Thousands of American fans swarmed into the city for a game whose worth was estimated at up to €100m but 40% of that was in projected long-term effects which, according to Roethlisberger, may not be as far-reaching as hoped.
“I forgot about that game until last night. We were having dinner and people were saying there was millions of Notre Dame fans over here. But it doesn’t make as much (impact in the USA) as you’d think it would. Maybe it does to other people but not to me.”
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