10 things you might not know ahead of the Croke Park Classic
Published 30/08/2014 | 02:30
American College Football returns to Croke Park today as Penn State take on University College Florida (UCF) and for those heading along, here are 10 things you should know about the game:
1 An Irish man will feature. Sean Galvin was born in Bandon, Co Cork but left these shores when he was 15. After excelling as a kicker in high school, he was snapped up by UCF, for whom he is now a senior.
"Growing up as a kid in Cork - that's your dream. No matter what sport you play, you want to play in Croke Park. Coming back and being able to look at my family up in the stands, it's going to be amazing," the 24-year old said. "Only my mom and dad have seen me play in America, but I've cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents coming."
2 Neither team will be fazed by the size of Croke Park. Most teams arriving in Croke Park for the first time would be overawed by the size of the stadium, but not these college football teams. Penn State's Beaver Stadium can hold 106,572 spectators. UCF's home holds 45,323.
3 'Croke Park Classic' is the opening game of the season for both sides. The game will be broadcast live on American television on ESPN. With close to 50,000 expected at Croke Park, today is an ideal opportunity for Ireland to showcase their hosting of what is seen as a major sporting event across the Atlantic.
4 Penn State are emerging from a shadow of controversy - former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sex abuse on June 22, 2012 - he is currently serving 30-60 years in prison.
The College have since reached settlements with 26 victims which is reported to have cost them $59.7m.
5 Today's game will be the fifth College Football game played on these shores. The first was played in Lansdowne Road in 1988 when Boston College beat Army Black Knights 38-24. The game was called the 'Emerald Isle Classic'.
The most recent game took place in the Aviva Stadium in September 2012 when Notre Dame drew a huge crowd for their win over Navy.
Croke Park has held a College game just once previously: in 1996, Notre Dame again took on Navy in the 'Shamrock Classic'. This is the first time these colleges have played outside America.
6 It may be the opening game of the season for both sides but there is silverware on offer for the winners of today's game. The winning team will collect the Dan Rooney Trophy, while there is a Waterford Crystal helmet for the winning coach.
7 Penn State is more than just a university. It is so large (100,000 students) that the local town is called after it. State College is a predominantly a college town that is dominated economically and demographically by the University Park campus. The State College area is known as Happy Valley.
8 Expect displays of freakish athleticism. JJ Worton is one of many players to keep your eye on. He racked up 47 receptions and seven touchdowns last season and is one of UCF's key men. A quick YouTube search of 'JJ Worton' will give you an idea of how athletic this guy is. If he can showcase that talent today, it will be worth the entry fee alone.
9 There are other events taking place. American Football and College 'ball in particular is about much more than the game itself.
Temple Bar has been transformed in a fan zone area with cheerleaders and marching bands providing plenty of colour and noise. Get there early to soak up the pre-game atmosphere.
Dublin Bus are offering a free shuttle service from Temple Bar to Croke Park, where the famous 'tailgate' will take place prior to kick off. With plenty of food and drink on offer, the Croke Park Classic is set to be much more than just a game of football.
10 UCF are introducing a new quarter-back. Blake Bortles was one of UCF's key players last season, so much so that he opted to skip his final year of university and enter straight into the NFL draft.
He went third overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and coach George O'Leary will be looking to Pete DiNovo to shine on his UCF debut today.