Irish entrepreneur Martin Naughton on left with the late Don Keough.

Don Keough and Martin Naughton are collaborating once again on a U.S.-Irish initiative. Irish roots go deep.

Mr. Keough, the legendary president and COO of the Coca-Cola Co.. died earlier this year, but his legacy lives on as his family teamed up once again with Mr. Naughton, founder of the Glen Dimplex Group, an Irish company that is the largest global manufacturer of electrical heating appliances.

Messrs. Keough and Naughton grew to be friends while serving on Notre Dame University’s board of directors. Their friendship and devotion to Ireland resulted in the  Dublin-based Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies.

Their new initiative is the “Keough-Naughton Trophy” to be awarded in next year’s Aer Lingus College Football Classic.

Yes, Boston College and the Georgia Institute of Technology are to compete in an American football game for the inaugural Keough-Naughton Trophy on Sept. 3, 2016, at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, the city’s official rugby and soccer venue.

The handcrafted trophy is a gleaming crystal football made by Waterford Crystal, the crystal man-ufacturer that is named after the city of Waterford, Ireland, an iconic Irish firm that currently is owned by the Finnish Fiskars Corp.

The Keough-Naughton Trophy
The Keough-Naughton Trophy

Neil Naughton, Martin Naughton’s son, led an Irish delegation to Atlanta this week as a chair of a steering committee for the classic that bears the slogan, “More than Just a Game.”

The delegation including Dublin city officials and Irish journalists were hosted by the Irish Chamber of Atlanta at a luncheon in Midtown on Nov. 12 as part of their three-day visit to Atlanta.

Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson welcomed the delegation at the luncheon during which he praised the “More than Just a Game” initiative as supporting both the university’s 25-year-plan that calls for the university to internationalize the exposure of its students as well providing an overseas experience for many of its students whose visit to Dublin will mark their first trip overseas.

From l-r: Neil Naughton, Shane Stephens and Padraic O'Kane.
From l-r: Neil Naughton, Shane Stephens and Padraic O’Kane.

Both Mr. Naughton and Stephen Shane, the consul general of Ireland based in Atlanta, underscored the commercial aspects of the initiative in promoting tourism and binding ever more closely the economies of the two countries.

Jim Keogan, Dublin City Council’s deputy CEO, and Bettina Gardner, deputy director of Atlanta’s international affairs office, also said that the event would bring their administrations closer together as they investigated economic development and service programs in each other’s cities.

Padraic O’Kane, spokesperson for the promotional firm Irish American Events Ltd., told Global Atlanta that between 20,000 and 25,000 visitors from the U.S. are expected to attend with additional numbers coming from Europe.

He based his projection on the 35,000 attendance at the 2012 Notre Dame-Navy game held in 2012. “It was the largest single movement of Americans outside of the U.S. since World War II,” he claimed.

Aside from meetings at the Metro Atlanta Chamber and local firms  operating in Ireland, the delegation attended Georgia Tech’s game against Virginia Tech in the evening.

“More Than a Game” ticket and sponsorship information is available by clicking here.