Westminster, Marist, Blessed Trinity take in Ireland, get ready for games
Marist cheerleaders enjoy the end of a parade on Thursday at The Campanile belltower of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Marist plays Belen Jesuit of Miami on Friday in the American Football Showcase.
All-state running back Zay Malcome is a tourist in Ireland this week, but he and his Westminster football teammates are an attraction, too.
Westminster and Atlanta rivals Blessed Trinity and Marist are among six American high school football teams that will play in Dublin on Friday in the American Football Showcase, a prelude to Saturday’s Aer Lingus College Football Classic between Georgia Tech and Boston College.
‘’Being from America together as a football team attracts a lot of attention from Ireland,’’ Malcome said by phone Thursday as he waited to parade through downtown Dublin with the eight American teams, their cheerleaders and bands. “They ask us where we’re from and what sport we play. They get really excited when they hear it’s football.’’
This marks the first time that Georgia high school football teams have played out of the country. The games count as part of the GHSA regular season.
Westminster opens at 11 a.m. – that’s 6 a.m. in Atlanta – against Community School of Naples, Fla. Blessed Trinity plays St. Peter’s Prep of Jersey City, N.J., at 2 p.m. (9 a.m. in Atlanta). Then it’s Marist against Belen Jesuit of Miami at 5 p.m. (noon). in The games will be webcast live on the NFHS Network (subscription).
Since arriving on their 4,000-mile journey on Wednesday, the teams have visited local attractions such as Croke Park, Malahide Castle and the Battle of the Boyne site.
Blessed Trinity sophomore J.D. Bertrand was eager to see Blackrock College, his team’s host. Bertrand’s father, Jim, attended school and played rugby there. “This has been a new and exciting experience for our team,’’ Bertrand said. “We’re all very thankful to have had this opportunity.”
Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin’s great-great grandfather and his brother were immigrants from Northern Ireland. McFarlin’s schedule didn’t allow him to make that side visit, but his wife, Kay, and their two children spent the day there on Thursday. ‘’It was very meaningful to see the town and country of their origin,’’ McFarlin said.
The teams squeezed in a couple of practices at a local soccer field. Malcome said the workouts weren’t as tough as usual. ‘’We did all the hard work back in the states,’’ he said. “We just went over sets. We wanted to keep it light and just make sure everybody knows what they’re doing.’’
Westminster head coach Gerry Romberg couldn’t make the trip for family reasons, so assistant Marty Wild has been in charge.
“I thought that after not sleeping for 24 hours they might be a little dull, but they’ve really adapted to the environment and I’m really happy with the way they’ve reacted to the ride across the Atlantic,’’ Wild said.
Marist coach Alan Chadwick said it’s been a smooth trip and looked forward to exploring Irish culture. “In some respects it is a distraction to do this in the middle of the football season, but now that it’s here, everybody’s excited about it and are raring to go,’’ he said.
Thursday’s parade ended with a high school-style pep rally at Trinity College. Then it was time to hone in on the games. The high school teams will play at 6,000-seat Donnybrook Stadium, normally used for rugby. Tech and Boston College will play at the much larger Aviva Stadium two miles away.
After the Tech-BC game, there will be an awards banquet for all eight teams. Sunday is a travel day.
‘’A truly amazing experience, and I’m glad to see the growth and expanding opportunities for high school football on many fronts,’’ McFarlin said. “The people of Ireland have welcomed us with open arms. There seems to be a strong and very special connection between the U.S. and Ireland.”