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George O’Leary caught hurling with Penn State AD

As long expected, Penn State and Central Florida will be meeting each other in Ireland to kick off the 2014 season. The two programs will play in Croke Park in Dublin, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association and host of the traditional Gaelic games. Over on this side of the country you may not be familiar with many of these sports, but some of them are actually quite entertaining.

One of the sports is hurling. Most Americans probably think of Wayne’s World when they hear the word, but in Ireland hurling is sort of what we see in lacrosse and field hockey. Teams use a wooden stick to hit a small ball through an opponent’s goal by a goalkeeper or up through the uprights for a smaller point total. I visited Ireland on a sightseeing tour about 13 years ago and happened to watch some of it in the hotel bar with some locals who helped introduce me to the game. I enjoyed watching it and feel it would be a sport that might be received well by Americans if not for the popularity of lacrosse and field hockey already. Central Florida head coach George O’Leary and Penn State athletics director Dave Joyner took a few moments to have a hand at the basic elements of the game by seeing what they could do with a couple of hurleys, the wooden sticks used in the sport.

George O'Leary PSU AD hurling

During a press conference at Croke Park on Sunday Central Florida head coach George O’Leary said to the local media that their game against Penn State will be played at a tempo and style that should be well received by those who enjoy hurling. Ireland is no stranger to American football of course, but it is still a sport largely unfamiliar to many in the country. Getting an chance to play the game in front of a receptive audience can only help build the game with a new audience in a region there is clearly an emphasis to attempt to grow the American sport.

Speaking of which, you have to love the generic USA cheerleader in this photo, as a promotional shot for the game was being set up…

Croke Park Classic

But getting back to that game of American football that will be played in Dublin in 2014…

The game will be played in the 82,300 capacity stadium on August 30, 2014. The game will technically be a home game for Central Florida, although it may have been Penn State driving the idea of playing the game in Ireland. Playing in Ireland has long been something teased by Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and Central Florida always seemed like a viable candidate to play the role of opponent in any overseas game if the game was to be played in the next few years.

The game does require a couple rescheduling notes for both schools. Penn State was to open the season at home against Temple on that same day, but the two Pennsylvania schools will instead play their game in November. That leaves Temple with a full schedule that will kick off a week later than initially planned unless the Owls can work any schedule tweaks of their own. With Penn State, Notre Dame, Maryland and Navy already on the schedule, that seems unlikely. Central Florida was to open their season against Florida International, but the two will play a week later instead.

Photos courtesy of Central Florida Athletics.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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