At the official launch of the American Football that will take place at Pairc Tailteann on Friday 31st August (from left) were: back - cheerleaders Louise McCormack, Peace Olaniyi and Brenda Kelly with Meath Fotballer Alan Forde; front - Eddie McMahon, Tomas Ratkevicius and Pete McMahon of Trim Bulldogs.
Visitors to Páirc Táilteann after next week might think they have stood on a stray sod and ended up 3000 miles across the Atlantic.
Gone will be the green and white umpires flags, the areas in front of the goals will be transformed into end zones and the traditional 13, 20, 45 and 65-metre lines will be replaced by the gridiron as American and Canadian High School football comes to the Royal County.
Four top high school American football teams from the United States and Canada will open their regular season at the home of Meath GAA on Friday 31st August as part of the Global Ireland Football Tournament (GIFT) 2012.
The clash between Oak Park High School from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Villanova College from King City near Toronto, Ontario, will be the first game of Canadian Football on European soil and will kick-off a double-header of action at the 18,000-capacity venue in Navan.
The Canadian rivals will kick-off at 4.0, with the clash between the Notre Dame Preparatory High School Saints from Scottsdale, Arizona and Father Judge High School Crusaders of Philadelphia set to start as 7.30.
One of Canada's top-ranked high school teams, Oak Park 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.
The 'double-header' at Páirc Táilteann is one of three American football showcases featuring a total of 12 teams from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin being played at Páirc Táilteann, Donnybrook and Parnell Park. The games will be played on the eve of the major college American football clash between Notre Dame and Navy, which takes place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin the following day.
Tickets for all GIFT 2012 events, which each offer six hours of top-quality American football action, are on sale at the three host venues and through Ticketmaster, €15 for adults and €10 for students, with free admission for children aged 12 and under.
The visiting teams will immerse themselves in the local community during the event. Notre Dame Prep will hold a public training session at the Trim GAA on Wednesday 29th August from 5.0 and the Saints will also stay in the local Knightsbrook Hotel Spa & Golf Resort.
Villanova will stay at the Newgrange Hotel in Navan and will hold a public training session on Tuesday 28th August from 10.0 at Navan O'Mahonys, Brews Hill, sessions open to the public.
The Irish American Football Association (IAFA) endorses the GIFT 2012 event and one of their member teams, the Trim Bulldogs, will provide support for the activities associated with games at Páirc Táilteann.
Trim Bulldogs manager Joe Rayfus is excited about the games and he is looking forward to welcoming some of America's top young talent to play in the fine facilities of the GAA
"We're delighted to be involved with GIFT 2012. The games give us the opportunity to work with some great football players and coaches and experience top football programmes first hand. Hopefully these games will spark huge interest in the sport locally, which can only stand to us in terms of recruitment and sponsorship for future seasons to come," said Rayfus.
Meath Co Board chairman Barney Allen was only too delighted to throw open the doors of Pairc Táilteann and he is sure that the GAA public will get behind the High School teams that will play at the Navan venue.
"The great bond between our two nations is well documented. I trust our visitors will enjoy their historic visit to an equally historic county and Meath Co Board is determined to make their stay an unforgettable one," said Allen.
Speaking at the media launch of the GIFT 2012 at Páirc Táilteann on Monday, Meath Tourism chairman Cllr John V Farrelly welcomed the occasion and expects it to bring plenty of excitement to the area.
"The arrival of the GIFT 2012 series in Navan is an unprecedented opportunity for the people of Meath to see some of the American Football stars of the future up close and personal," said Farrelly.
"I would urge everyone to make their way to Páirc Táilteann on Friday 31st August to see this feast of American and Canadian football.
"We are particularly appreciative of the huge efforts of Joe Rayfus of the local Trim Bulldogs club who in association with Patrick Steenberge at GIFT 2012 has made Meath a focal point of the entire trip.
"We look forward to showcasing our county to all the American and Canadian visitors - and in particular to Notre Dame Prep and Villanova who are using our county as their base during their stay," concluded Farrelly.