Special Olympics Ireland has been chosen as the official charity of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, per the event’s website. One euro from each ticket sold will be donated to the cause as part of the Boston College-Georgia Tech game at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.
Earlier this month, the announcement was made on College Football Ireland’s website with a video featuring Jon Bon Jovi.
The game will feature a number of fundraising activities and special events in the build-up to the BC-GT game. On the preceding Friday, six high schools from Florida, Georgia, and New Jersey will play at Trinity College Dublin.
In addition, Trinity College will serve as a Welcome Village with pep rallies in the main square. There will also be guest speakers and cross-cultural opportunities for American fans to immerse in a full Irish experience. It all leads up to the game on Saturday afternoon local time (early morning back in Boston) between the Eagles and Yellow Jackets.
Special Olympics Ireland touts 15 sports, including summer games, plus a Motor Activities Training Programme for anyone with an intellectual disability aged six or older. They offer weekly training across multiple sports as well as regular competitions. The local programs rely on volunteers, so fundraising is incredibly important to ensure these athletes have the most robust opportunities available.
So far, over 20,000 visitors are expected to travel from the United States to the game in Ireland, including both schools’ marching bands and cheerleaders. The game is expected to be in a near-sellout capacity at the Aviva, which seats 49,000 for American football.
The Aer Lingus College Football Classic is the sixth game in the spiritual succession line from the original Emerald Isle Classic. BC played the first ever game in Ireland, defeating Army, 38-24, before 42,000-plus fans at Landsdowne Road in 1988. The next year, Pitt beat Rutgers, 46-29, before less than 20,000 in the same venue. Though both teams would eventually play in the Big East, both were independents at the time.
Six years later, college football ventured back to Ireland in 1996, when Notre Dame beat Navy in the Shamrock Classic, 54-27, at Croke Park. But that was the final game overseas until the Irish and Midshipmen revived games in Dublin in 2012; Notre Dame won that game, 50-10, before a near-sellout crowd of 48,820.
The first “close game” game two years later in 2014 when Penn State defeated Central Florida, 26-24, before 53,000 fans at Croke Park. That leads to 2016 where the Eagles and Yellow Jackets will become the first teams to play a conference game in Ireland.