Penn State to Open 2014 Season in Ireland
It’s official! Confirming previous reports, Penn State announced this morning that the football team will open the 2014 season in Dublin, Ireland at Croke Park. As part of the “Croke Park Classic,” Penn State will play the University of Central Florida on August 30, 2014.
“We are thrilled to announce that we will play UCF at Croke Park to open the 2014 season, ” said Bill O’Brien. “Our players and coaches are so excited to go to Ireland and play a college football game in such a historic and outstanding venue. I have great respect for Coach O’Leary and his team and playing UCF in Ireland will be a fantastic experience for all the players, coaches and fans.”
Penn State was originally scheduled to play Temple on the same date, but that game will be moved until November 15, which was previously an off-week for the Nittany Lions.
Historic Croke Park was first opened in 1913 and is the headquarters of the Gaelic Games. It serves as the fourth largest stadium in Europe and is the largest not used by a professional soccer team. Capacity will be 69,000 for the football game.
The Croke Park Classic will kick at 1:30 p.m. in Dublin (8:30 a.m. ET) and air on ESPN2. Penn State will be the first Big Ten Conference team to play internationally since Michigan State and Wisconsin met in Tokyo in 1993.
“Our visit this weekend has only reinforced our reasons for wanting to come and play in Dublin,” said AD Dave Joyner, who was in Ireland for the announcement. “We’ve not only grown our appreciation for the games so entrenched in the history and traditions here in Ireland, but have also confirmed that, because of the Irish people and their hospitality, Penn State fans are going to love their time here in late summer of 2014.”
Penn State’s ties to UCF run mainly through Bill O’Brien. O’Brien coached under UCF coach George O’Leary at Georgia Tech from 1995-2001. Penn State coaches Stan Hixon and Mac McWhorter also coached for O’Leary.
“On a personal level, obviously Coach O’Brien and I are both of Irish heritage, so it means a great deal to both of us to be in a position to bring our teams here,” said O’Leary. “We are confident that Croke Park will be an excellent venue for us to play in, we have been hugely impressed to date with the facilities and we are looking forward to a huge crowd to get our 2014 season off to a flying start. We are confident that Croke Park will generate an unforgettable atmosphere for this game.”
Penn State is offering an official travel package through Anthony Travel, which includes accommodations at three-, four- or five-star hotels, an exclusive private party at the world-famous Guinness Storehouse, a full Irish breakfast each morning, and more. Prices start at around $1,500 for the cheapest package without airfare, which can be viewed on the tour website.
It’s a great fit, and if the Nittany Lions can’t go to a bowl game, this is the next best thing. See you in Dublin!