Penn State fans ready to hit Croke Park with ‘force’

Up to 20,000 people expected to travel from US to Dublin for college football clash

Some 20,000 American football fans are expected to travel from North America to Dublin this week to see Penn State play University of Central Florida in the “Croke Park Classic”. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Some 20,000 American football fans are expected to travel from North America to Dublin this week to see Penn State play University of Central Florida in the “Croke Park Classic”. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

 

A first trip to Croke Park as a visiting player or fan is a daunting experience for most.

With a capacity of 82,300, the Dublin stadium is one of Europe’s largest. But for the student American football players of Penn State, who face the University of Central Florida at GAA headquarters on Saturday, a full house will represent a downsizing on the crowd they are used to.

Beaver Stadium, home to the Penn State Nittany Lions, holds almost 25,000 more spectators than Croke Park, and travelling fans do not expect the scale of the surroundings to get to their young players.

“107,000 come to Beaver Stadium, so we’re used to big venues,” says Penn State graduate Joe Doncsecz, who has landed in Dublin for the game. “We’ll show up in force. Penn State will be there in force.”

TV broadcast

Penn State has had to come to terms with sanctions arising from an abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, which has seen it fined, stripped of titles and banned from post-season, or “bowl”, games.

“We don’t have a bowl game to go to at the end of the year this year, so this is kind of our bowl game,” Mr Doncsecz said, when asked if the trip was an inconvenience. “It’s really nice that we have an opportunity to do that [in Ireland].”

He added: “In America, once you’re an alumni of a university and they have a big football programme, that’s part of your connection to the university. It carries with you through your whole life.”

Emerald Isle Classic

CelticMartin Murphy

The exact economic impact of such an event is hard to measure but organisers see this fixture generating some €30 million.