PITTSBURGH STEELERS CHAIRMAN Dan Rooney says Croke Park chiefs were the victims of bad timing in their failed bid to bring a regular season NFL game to Dublin.
Plans at GAA Headquarters were dealt a blow with the news that the Minnesota Vikings will host the Steelers, owned by US Ambassador to Ireland Rooney, next autumn.
The game will be the second tie at Wembley in 2013, marking the end of Irish hopes of a top-level gridiron game in Dublin for the time being.
Rooney says NFL chiefs want to test the depth of interest for the game in Britain however.
“We were very close to getting it here,” the ambassador told Newstalk’s Off The Ball tonight. ”The problem is they’re trying to see what London can do and whether it can handle more than one game and that’s what happened.
“But you know the people here at Croke Park were terrific. I mean they did everything they could do. They set up a video and I talked to them about who they should talk with and all that kind of stuff but unfortunately it came at the wrong time. I think in a couple of years we could do it most definitely.
“Now we played pre-season game here in ’95 and it was great. It was a great experience. We had been in a lot of these American Bowls, as they said, and it was without a doubt the best game of all; the players had a great time and it was a very good game, it went well. So we know the place is terrific here. You have the training facilities and Croke Park is great and it holds a lot of people — 85,000 — so you know hopefully we’re going to get it one of these years.
Rooney agrees that the NFL — led by the league commissioner, Roger Goodell — are keen to develop a London fanbase.
“[F]or the one game, they always get a big crowd. But they wanted to see if they can get [it for] two. Because I said I think if we’re going to be spreading American football, there should be two places and I think it should be Ireland. And if it isn’t Ireland, there’s other places that are interested, particularly Germany and places like that.
“But the commissioner’s Irish so I’m sure if he were going anywhere else he would be pushing here.”
Ambassador Rooney also insisted that Croke Park chiefs did not make any mistakes during their efforts to secure the lucrative event.
“I don’t think so, I think they did everything possible,” he told Eoin McDevitt. “It was just a question of what the National Football League was trying to do. And… they had my full support, I spoke to the commissioner. They sent people over, [Croke Park stadium director] Peter McKenna went over with others and talked. But as I say the timing was just bad, that’s the only real problem. I don’t think there’s any doubt that if they were willing to going anywhere else then it would have been Ireland.”
The coveted second European game will be played on 29 September in Wembley Stadium, league officials confirmed. A regular-season game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Francisco also takes place in north London on 27 October 2013.
Dan Rooney added that the game will not now happen before 2014, if at all, in his view.