College football returns to Dublin soon, providing a unique sporting experience
On September 3rd, Boston College and Georgia Tech will face off at the Aviva Stadium, bringing college football back to Ireland after two hugely successful previous trips in recent years.
Although it wasn't a close contest, the game between Notre Dame and Navy was a huge event which saw thousands of people travel to create a fantastic atmosphere in a sold-out stadium, as the Fighting Irish ran out 50-10 winners. The standard of effort form both sides couldn't be questioned, and neither could the quality of play, but the gap between the two sides was too big to surmount.
Penn State played UCF in a closer contest in 2014, with a nail-biting finish teeing up kicker Sam Ficken for a game-winning field goal with just seconds left on the clock.
As the ball flew between the posts, it was clear that the intensity and the excitement of the game had taken hold for the 50,000 people in attendance, and it was about more than just the sport going on out on the field.
Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Given that it's Boston College who are making the journey again this time around for the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, there will be a strong Irish connection, thanks to the close ties between the two communities. With around 20,000 people expected to travel to Dublin for the game, the atmosphere is set to be unique and completely different to any other ticket in town.
While the National Football League (NFL) also knows how to put on a show, the college level game is a totally different experience - from tailgating pre-game and post-game, to the passion of the fans as they roar on their team. Supporters are, perhaps, even more attached to the players, given that they could be their friends, classmates or family out there, while the community that grows up around the college and their sports teams is one that is perhaps best compared to how GAA fans feel about their club or county.
As the home side in the Aviva Stadium, Georgia Tech will not just be bringing their full roster of players, but their band as well. The displays they put on are a sight to behold, getting the whole stadium moving in unison to the beat of their drum, literally.
Outside of the game itself, Dublin will be a hive of activity, footballing and otherwise, in the buildup to the big day. Donnybrook Stadium will host a triple-header of high school football, allowing fans to get a glimpse of the sport at a different level, get to grips with the intricacies of it, and witness just how passionate and dedicated the athletes are.
The central hub of events for travelling fans and Irish spectators alike will be Trinity College, with pep rallies and a marching band display to beat the band taking place in a number of other venues around Dublin.
The sport itself is a true spectacle. Although there are stops and starts that alter the pacing of the game, it is akin to a chess match with moving parts as each coaching team looks to outwit their opponents.
Boston come into this season's opener with a strong defence, and although they had a losing record last term, they were somehow on the wrong end of three games where they allowed 17 or fewer points, which would normally be tight enough to see them over the line. Their offence will need to step up to the plate if they hope to provide tough opposition to Georgia, a team whose 2015 season didn't go to plan either.
Beset by injuries at key positions, the offence that had shown such promise the previous year (when they won 11 games) fell back to a losing record, winning just three last term.
With the exciting Justin Thomas at quarterback, there's sure to be an air of expectation this season. A versatile talent, he's equally at home passing the ball deep as he is taking off and leaving defenders trailing behind him. Despite only being a sophomore, he was named as the captain of the team, showing the promise and leadership potential he has.
With an expected audience of nearly two million people watching on ESPN in the United States, as well as a packed stadium full of passionate fans, Ireland will once again be in the spotlight, showcasing exactly why this is a pretty great place to host a party.