Skip to main content

Steelers welcome contingent from GAA, Croke & GPA

The bond between the Steelers, the Rooney family, and the Island of Ireland has always been a strong one, that has come from the Rooney family ancestry. 
Over the course of the past year, since the team was awarded rights to expand their brand and activities for the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland as part of the NFL's 'Global Markets Program,' that bond has grown even stronger through an increase in football education events, Irish content and fan activities.

This past week, the Steelers connected with a contingent from the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Croke Park, as well as the Gaelic Players Association, hosting them for several days at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Acrisure Stadium, and as special guests at the Ireland Funds Pittsburgh Gala, an event that had great meaning to Jarlath Burns, the President of the GAA.

"It's actually the second Ireland Funds dinner that I have been at this week," said Burns, who previously attended one in Washington, D.C. "The Pittsburgh one was extremely special because it was such an intimate gathering. You could see the link between the Steelers and the Irish community. The fact that the community of Pittsburgh, many of whom come from our country and some who don't, recognize the cause of reconciliation is the biggest cause at the moment in Ireland. They can see the fruits of their labor because, particularly in Northern Ireland, we are in a really good place. They know that the money that they have been raising down through the years has really helped many reconciliation projects, many of which I have seen as well from being in my former job, the principal of a very large school in South Armagh, right beside the border, where there would have been a lot of tension and a lot of conflict in previous years."

While the work of the Ireland Funds was a key portion of the visit, seeing the team's facilities and sharing best practices was also a major highlight for all those who were part of the GAA and GPA contingent. 

"They have been great partners in terms of what we are trying to do in Ireland," said Steelers President Art Rooney II, who spent time meeting with the visitors from the GAA and GPA. "They were interested in learning some of the things we are trying to do over here."

"They gave us access to different aspects of the Steelers operation," said Burns. "Going to their training facility was almost overwhelming when you look at how scientific the entire operation is. 

"And of course, the values of this club. It's so important to have inclusion and commitment to the community. They took us on a visit to the Hall of Honor Museum at their stadium and that was absolutely superb to see. It really gives you an insight into the soul of this club and its tangible link with the community of Pittsburgh."

"From a players association perspective, it was a really valuable trip to share the lessons and learn from the environment that supports a culture of caring for the player," said Tom Parsons, the CEO of the Gaelic Players Association. "That's what I was really interested to know. How do the Steelers support the player and what takeaways could we bring back to Ireland? What I was really interested to learn about was the off-field stuff. That was a huge takeaway in terms of the amount of investment and development, investing in players personal growth away from the field, transitioning from being a rookie to a mid-career player, to then transition when you leave the game and what's going to get you out of the bed when retirement comes. That transition is really important. And that really is symbolic of how much the Steelers care. 

"That was really interesting for us and also really interesting to speak with the medical team in terms of what's best in class treatment recovery, preparation for elite athletes in the NFL. It was so valuable for us. We are an amateur game, but we play at an elite level and just learning about what the guys do here at the Steelers is invaluable." 

Like many who follow the Steelers, there was one thing that really stood out many in the group, and that was seeing and hearing the consistent messaging of 'The Standard is The Standard,' throughout the facilities. 

"The whole arena of match preparation, including the psychology of some of the messages that were almost subliminally around, such as 'The Standard is The Standard,' is the last thing that the players see before they go onto the pitch," said Burns. "Things like that are exciting for me, having been a former player from my home county Armagh for 13 years, that's the sort of thing that excites us. It gives you that little edge, that wee bit of an advantage over the other teams. You can see why the Steelers are such a top team, why they won all those Super Bowls. Because their attention to detail and their insistence that everything has to be perfect is very commendable."

Related Content