Croke Park Classic: high kicks, wayward parachute and a great game

The Penn State Nittany Lions played the University of Central Florida Knights in a game that attracted 20,000 American visitors to Dublin

 

Noisy aircraft, navigationally-challenged parachutists, and one hell of a last-minute finale: it’s a wonder they don’t play this game in Croke Park more often.

Although there was no repeat of the 2012 antics when American football fans herded livestock through Temple Bar’s pubs, there was still plenty of revelry from the estimated 20,000 American visitors who made the transatlantic trip to witness Saturday’s Croke Park Classic.

Gripping finale

Penn StateFlorida Knights

Despite the success of the match itself as a spectacle, things got off to a decidedly inauspicious start as one of the pre-game parachutists landed on the train tracks behind Hill 16. A thunderous overhead fly-by from F16 fighter jets then drew complaints from disturbed Dublin residents.

Nonetheless, local businesses were cheering. With vacationers thronging Temple Bar from early Friday, the pep rallies and tailgate parties contributed to a reported €30 million boost for the Dublin economy.

Ticket sales

“We’re always in short-sleeved shirts and shorts, and we don’t ever wear long pants to the games except for today – we also brought a jacket,” said Jim Rieb who, along with wife June, are enjoying their fourth and third trips to these shores respectively.

“We’re hoping the Irish are going to be rooting for our team because our coach is called George O’Leary. We’ve got seven people on our team with Irish influence, between coaches and players,” added Jim, being sure to make particular reference to UCF kicker and Bandon native Sean Galvin, whose return to his land of birth prompted the Knights to sport green shamrocks on their helmets.

After travelling around Ireland over the last week Lisa Corradle was happy to bask in the convivial company of her Penn State compatriots following their season-opening triumph.

“We just travel really well, we’ll go anywhere there’s a ball game. This is exciting because it’s the first time we’ve been outside the United States to play a game so we all make a vacation out of it.”

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