The Irish Go American For Football



Sept. 14, 2013

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By Andy Seeley

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. ( - Plenty of dignitaries were on hand Friday night at the Nittany Lion Inn. In advance of Saturday's UCF-Penn State tilt, a contingent from Ireland joined top brass from UCF and Penn State at a reception to celebrate the United States launch of the Croke Park Classic, slated for August 30, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.

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UCF was represented during the evening's program by President Dr. John Hitt, Head Football Coach George O'Leary and Vice President/Director of Athletics Todd Stansbury. Their contemporaries at Penn State - President Rodney Erickson, Head Football Coach Bill O'Brien and Athletic Director Dave Joyner - also spoke during the evening.

The Gaelic Athletic Association - which will be hosting the Croke Park Classic - was represented by its Director General Páraic Duffy, among others. Below is a look at some highlights from the program during Friday night's reception:

George O'Leary, UCF Head Football Coach
"It's a great honor to be here. I want to welcome the Irish delegation. I had the opportunity to go over to Ireland this summer. My parents used to travel over all the time to Ireland. They said the thing that makes Ireland is the people of Ireland. I would have to say there's no question about that.

"I'm going to tell you, Penn State, you couldn't have made a better choice for a head coach (than Bill O'Brien). He's a very loyal guy. I think he proved that last season. I'm really happy for him and his success ... I don't know about tomorrow night.

"Our school is very excited about the (Croke Park Classic) and what's going to take place. I'm sure Penn State is also. The big thing is that two schools are going to get a lot of recognition. I think the fanbases are thoroughly going to enjoy the game. I don't think there's a better place to visit than Dublin and see the country side of Ireland and the people that make the great country of Ireland."

Bill O'Brien, Penn State Head Football Coach
"We have a tremendous opponent coming in here tomorrow night. Obviously, Coach O'Leary and I are concentrating on that game. But the other honor is that we will play (UCF) next year in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin. We're really excited about that.

"One of the things that is important to us here at Penn State ... one of the things that I've looked at when Coach O'Leary and I talked about this game. We both felt like it was a great opportunity for our players, our student-athletes, to get on a plane, travel overseas to Ireland, stay in Dublin and experience that. Obviously, it's a business trip, because we have a tough game. But we're going to go over there a couple days early, let our kids see Dublin and see the culture of Ireland and really broaden their horizons.

Dr. John Hitt, UCF President
"Let me say how pleased we are to be working with our friends from the Gaelic Athletic Association. I know the game next year is going to be a tremendous treat for our fans and a great opportunity for our student-athletes. It's so important that we keep the focus on the student-athletes. We want them to be successful on the field, on the court and in the classroom. We want them to develop as leaders in society. That means they need to not only hone their athletic skills, but get a good, high-quality education as well. I look forward to seeing you all in Ireland next year. We're hoping for a really great day tomorrow. President Erickson and I have ardently wished one another moderate success. I hope we have a wonderful contest."

Rodney Erickson, Penn State President
"The Croke Park Classic "is going to be a wonderful event for us. It's been a great pleasure today to meet so many folks from the Gaelic Athletic Association. We are just thrilled with the opportunity to play in the Croke Park Classic next year. I hope to see all of you in Dublin next fall. Whatever the outcome is, I think it will be a win-win for two great universities. While I certainly hope we're on the side with the winning score, I don't think anybody is going to lose in this endeavor."

Páraic Duffy, Director General of the Gaelic Athletic Association
"For us, this game next August 30 will be very, very special. We have the fourth biggest stadium in Europe, in Croke Park. It's a stadium with a huge history. It's one of the best and most modern stadiums. I think it will be a very suitable venue for two great teams.

"For us to welcome two great American colleges to play in our stadium at Croke Park is not just another sporting event. It's another symbol of a long-established link between Ireland and the USA. I can assure you next summer that we will extend 100,000 welcomes, roll out the red carpet. And I can assure you ... this will be a well-run, well-organized event at a wonderful stadium."

Peter McKenna, Croke Park Stadium Director of Operations
"Hearing these two coaches speak, it gives you a real tingle. Both those men are just so passionate about what they're doing. George O'Leary is a fantastic individual. I don't know how the game will go. But you have to say George has something special with the way he presents himself. The level of intensity and preparation these boys put in is extraordinary. Any athlete that is privileged to play for either of these colleges is really blessed."



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