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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Steeler Nation and the Luck of the Irish

The Pittsburgh Steelers, looking to become the 2011 Superbowl Champions in the National Football League, have a strong connection to Ireland, thanks to the team owner, Dan Rooney and the Rooney family.

Rooney is the US Ambassador to Ireland, appointed by President Barack Obama in July 2009.

Rooney's grandfather, also named Dan Rooney, came to Pittsburgh from Newry, County Down, in the 1880s, along with thousands of Irish immigrants seeking work in the coal mines and steel mills.   He settled in Pittsburgh’s gritty North Side – where the family still lives - and by the turn of the century opened his own saloon.

Dan Rooney's son Art  Rooney purchased the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise in 1933, and over the next three decades built it into a stable - but often struggling - enterprise as it competed for its place in the professional football world.  Art's son Dan, the current owner, got involved in the Steelers in the late 1960s and helped to usher in a era of dominance, as the Steelers began winning the AFC and the Super Bowl regularly.

Like his father, Dan Rooney has also been inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. 

The Irish connection has remained strong.  There's even a Pittsburgh Bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which has an enthusiastic Steeler following, and even a Dan Rooney Lounge, operated by a local group, the Flax Trust, a group dedicated to economic and social development.
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