Croke Park Classic Memories

Students from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State reflect on covering the Croke Park Classic for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

Living History

by Bobby Chen 

From the moment we touched down at Dublin Airport, the European history and politics of my textbooks came to life.

The first restaurant we ate at was a favorite of noted Irish republican politician Martin McGuinness. We stood on the grounds of Trinity College and heard its story, so deeply interwoven with Ireland’s religious and political history. We watched a Gaelic football at Croke Park, the field where the Bloody Sunday of the Irish War of Independence took place.

Penn State Nittany Lion leads parade on Dublin street

Nittany Lion in Dublin

The Nittany Lion got the streets of Dublin rocking during a performance by the Penn State Blue Band, cheerleaders and Lionettes on Aug. 28, 2014.  Ireland is welcoming both Penn State and Central Florida for the 2014 Croke Park Classic.

IMAGE: Hannah Byrne

Across the street from our hotel was a bookstore associated with Sinn Fein, the Irish republican political party. On one wall was a campaign poster for Bobby Sands, an IRA member who won a seat in the British Parliament while in prison, and who led (and died from) a hunger strike while incarcerated. Scattered elsewhere around the store was memorabilia from freedom movements around the world.

How interesting it was, while covering an American football game, to be able to soak in so much rich history.

No Tie?

by C.J. Doon

When Kerry and Mayo ended their spectacular semifinal match in the All-Ireland Gaelic football championship in a tie last Sunday at Croke Park, forcing a replay in Limerick, I was stunned.

Mayo had fallen behind by five points at the break and stormed back to take a four-point lead with minutes remaining. Then Kerry tied the score with less than a minute left. But seeing such a remarkable game rendered meaningless was disheartening.

Coach James Franklin and kicker Sam Ficken celebrate Ficken's game-winning field goal.

Winning kick, Croke Park Classic

Penn State head coach James Franklin celebrated with kicker Sam Ficken following Ficken's 36-yard, game-winning field goal that secured the Nittany Lions 26-24 win over Central Florida in the 2014 Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland.

IMAGE: Bobby Chen

Imagine if last season against Michigan, after Allen Robinson’s soaring catch and Christian Hackenberg’s quarterback sneak into the end zone, the game was over. No four overtimes. No delirious Beaver Stadium. No Bill Belton game-winning touchdown.

Even a week later, I can’t help but feel a little empty. I’ll always wish I’d seen the end of that match.

Feeling at Home

by Melissa Conrad

The warm-up lasted for four days. It wasn’t until Wednesday morning, when the Penn State football contingent of more than 300 people stepped off the plane though, that widespread media coverage started to intensify. The pictures had greater meaning, the words on the page resonated more deeply and the tweets spread more rapidly. Everyone’s responsibility became amplified.

Fans cheered, media snapped photographs, I tweeted 140 characters faster than I ever had before and fought for the best spot as people walked through the arrivals hall. In only a few minutes’ time, the city of Dublin became the second Happy Valley. Seeing it made a foreign country feel like home.

Penn State Lionettes Dance Team leads Blue Band through streets of Dublin during pep rally

Pep rally in Dublin

The Penn State Lionettes Dance Team led the Blue Band through the streets of Dublin on August 28. Penn State will face Central Florida in the Croke Park Classic.

IMAGE: Hannah Byrne

Deep Blue (and White) Sea

by Hannah Byrne

The closer I got to Penn State’s pep rally in Temple Bar, the louder the familiar sounds of Beaver Stadium rang in my ears. As I turned the last corner, I found so many Penn Staters I wasn’t sure how to get to the front to make photographs. I moved through the crowd, apologizing.

I bumped into a woman who demanded to know what I was doing. When she realized I was a Penn State student, she pushed me forward and said, “Anything for the university.” I ended up in perfect position, in the center of the commotion, to take photographs of Nittany Lion dancing with a young Irish girl.

Caught up in the moment

by Kelsie Netzer

Having the opportunity to not only attend the All-Ireland semifinal match between County Kerry and County Mayo, but also to also photograph it was an experience I won’t forget. As supporters of the teams cheered, jumping to their feet with flags and scarves waving in the air, it was like the sky was painted in green and red.

Despite everything I’ve been taught as a photojournalist, I looked away from the game on the pitch and up into the crowd as a funnel of noise reached my ears on the field. It felt like the student section at Beaver Stadium. It wasn’t just noise from rowdy fans —it was the heart and soul of a community.

To read more student reflections and see their full coverage of Croke Park Classic, click here.