Villanova coach Samir Chahine (left) is welcomed by Cllr Shane Cassells at the civic reception.
Navan Town Council has hosted a reception to welcome the Canadian high school team, Villanova, to the town as part of the Global Ireland Football Tournament 2012.
Deputy Mayor of Navan Francis Deane welcomed the team, coaches and parents to the town at the civic reception, at which the attendance included the Canadian Ambassador, Loyola Hearn.
Mr Hearn thanked the Villanova team, which has been staying in Navan since the start of the week, for bringing their great game to Navan and Ireland.
"For many of you, it is the land of your ancestors, and you will find it is a tremendous country - and I can see from the look in your eyes that you are enjoying it," he said.
Mayor Deane said that the team had captured the hearts and mind of the town, and by coming there had made Navan very proud.
He commended the character, commitment, values, respect and leadership of the players and coaches, and their parents, and said they showcased all that is great about their country.
They were all true ambassadors, he said.
The Villanova school, from near Ontario, will play Oak Park High School from Manitoba in Pairc Tailteann, Navan, at 4pm on Friday 31st August.
The game will be making a small piece of history as it will be the first time that a Canadian high school football game will be played outside North America.
There are some rule differences between Canadian and American football. Canadians will line up with 12 men on the field, rather than 11 players on American teams, giving the Canadian quarterback an extra offensive weapon.
Canadian rules give the teams only three downs to move a ball a minimum of 10 yards, compared with four downs allowed by the Americans. It is a much faster game and fans can expect an exciting game full of passing and points.
The Canadian playing field is also longer and wider, but Oak Park High School and Vilanova College will adjust while in Ireland and play on the American-sized field.
At the civic reception, presentations were made to the Villanova coaching team, led by Alexander Montini, as well as to Xela Steenberge, daughter of Peter Steenberge, the Global Football tournament President, and to Ambassador Hearn.
Town clerk Shane Donnelly highlighted an advertisement which appeared in the Meath Chronicle in 1907, for tickets to go to Canada on the Lusitania, which could be bought in Woods or Keappocks stores in Navan. Ironically, the date of sailing was 31st August 1907, the same date as the Canadian schools were now returning to play in Navan over a century after emigrants left on that ship
Those attending the reception were treated to a feast of Irish music, food and hospitality, with Navan Silver Band and Kane O'Rourke playing, and Irish stew on the menu, before a showcase of Irish dancing.
Earlier in the week, the students had visited Meath's historic sites and the coaches took part in a training session with over 200 local youngsters at Navan O'Mahonys GAA grounds.
More about the GIFT 2012 tournament ........
A total of 12 American football high school and college teams from the United States, Canada and the UK will kick off the biggest overseas event of its kind in the sport's history in Ireland on Friday.
The Global Ireland Football Tournament - GIFT 2012 - has been two years in the making and on the eve of Sunday's other game, the Emerald Isle Classic, sports fans in Dublin and Navan will be treated to a showcase six regular season games at three venues in and around the Irish capital on August 31.
The games, organised by Texas-based Global Football, will kick off at 4pm and 7.30pm local time at three venues usually reserved for Gaelic football, hurling and rugby. But for this Dublin Friday Night Lights spectacular, Donnybrook Stadium and Parnell Park in Dublin and Páirc Tailteann in Navan, will all be painted with the gridiron and will welcome touchdowns, tackles, helmets and shoulder pads.
"There will be some intense and exciting games played on Irish soil on August 31," said Patrick Steenberge, President of Global Football. "These are real, competitive, regular season games, not exhibitions. For most teams this will be their big season-opening game and for some their second of the new campaign and while they are excited to be visiting Ireland, make no mistake - they are here to win.
"So many people at the core of several sports in Ireland have welcomed this event with open arms. We have been overwhelmed by their passion for our game and their willingness to embrace this venture and to ensure the players, coaches, staff, families, friends, fans, cheerleaders and marching band members visiting Ireland enjoy the trip of a lifetime."
Canada's Oak Park High School (Winnipeg, MB) and Villanova College (King City, ON) arrived on Sunday and their practices near the Páirc Tailteann venue where they will meet on Friday night have already attracted hundreds of intrigued local fans. The visiting American teams flew in from the United States on Wednesday morning to commence two days of practicing and sightseeing before hitting the gridiron.
While the games in Ireland will be the season openers for most teams, some schools played the first game of their 2012 season last weekend.
Loyola Academy warmed up for their clash with Jesuit Prep Dallas at Donnybrook Stadium by beating Simeon 20-0, while Hamilton High School suffered a surprise 17-14 loss to Phoenix Mountain Pointe. It was the first time Hamilton has ever lost two straight games, coming on the back of a state championship game loss lasts season.
Fellow Arizona team Notre Dame Prep suffered a 42-0 loss to Tempe Marcos de Niza in the first game in school history without head coach Scot Bemis, who passed away in January after a battle with cancer.
Global Ireland Football Tournament Games Schedule
Friday, August 31
Donnybrook Stadium: Main Street, Donnybrook, Dublin
4pm Loyola Academy (Wilmette, IL) vs. Jesuit Prep Dallas (Dallas, TX)
7.30pm St Norbert College (De Pere, WI) vs. John Carroll University (University Heights, OH)
Parnell Park: Clancarthy Road, Donnycarney, Dublin
4pm Kent School (Kent, CT) vs. National School of American Football (UK)
7.30pm Notre Dame HS (Sherman Oak, CA) vs. Hamilton HS (Chandler, AZ)
Páirc Tailteann: Brews Hill, Navan, Co. Meath
4pm Villanova College (King City, ON) vs. Oak Park High School (Winnipeg, MB)
7.30pm Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale, AZ) vs. Father Judge (Philadelphia, PA)
Tickets are available priced Ä15 at www.Tickets.ie/GIFT2012.
Many of the 7 U.S. high school teams, 2 NCAA D-III college teams, 2 Canadian high school teams and a UK all-star team will be accompanied by marching bands and cheerleaders as Dublin and Navan embrace a long weekend full of all the flavours of American football.
The festivities begin at 5.30pm on Thursday, August 30, at St Stephen's Green in Dublin City Centre when all participants march along a parade route to Trinity College for a Pep Rally at 6.30pm. With more than 30,000 gridiron fans expected to travel to Ireland in the last week of August, the town of Trim will add to the celebrations by holding the 'Feile Americana'. The five-day festival will showcase the very best of music, arts and cuisine from both sides of the Atlantic from August 29 to September 2.
The Navan Games
Two Canadian high school teams meet at Páirc Tailteann and will play by Canadian rules, adding a unique flavor to the GIFT event. Villanova College was established in 1999 and the football program was started in 2002 under head coach Marcello Lio, who played American football with Bergamo and Nuremburg in Italy and Germany. Last season the Knights posted a 2-4 record. Opponent Oak Park High School suffered only one defeat in 2011 and reached the final of the Winnipeg High School Football League ANAVETS Bowl for the third year in a row as defending champions under head Coach Stuart Nixon, who has led the Raiders fortunes since 2003.
Some rule differences between Canadian and American Football:12 players on the field (11 in USA), only 3 downs to move the ball 10 yards (4 downs in USA),players other than the quarterback can be in forward motion prior to the ball being snapped (no motion in USA), only 20 seconds on the play clock (40 seconds in USA). Teams can score a 'Rouge' - Any kicked ball that lands in the end zone and is not a successful field goal or extra point, is considered live and if a player from the defending team then fails to return the ball out of the end zone, the kicking team scores one point. (No such rule in USA)
Páirc Tailteann: 7.30pm Notre Dame Prep (Arizona) vs. Father Judge (Pennsylvania)
Notre Dame Prep won back-to-back Arizona Class 4A Division II championships in 2007 and 2008 and just missed out on the championship in 2010, losing a heartbreaking 49-48 game to Williams Field, then made the first round of the playoffs in 2011. Opponent from Philadelphia, Father Judge High School finished with a won 7, lost 4, record in 2011. The football program, which competes in the Philadelphia Catholic 4-A league, has won five championships (1964, 1975, 1981, 1983, 1984) and most recently reached the championship game in 2008.
Fans who cannot be there in person to witness the Friday Night Lights spectacular can watch the games via a webcast and can order the live stream advance at http://www.gift2012.com/watch-live. All games will air live except the Loyola Academy-Jesuit Prep Dallas game, which will be shown at 3pm US EST.