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July 14, 2013

Lions set for international showdown

* Courtesy of Penn State Sports Information

Croke Park and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) today announced the 2014 "Croke Park Classic," as Penn State will meet the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the Saturday, August 30, 2014 season opener for both teams.

The clash will take place at Croke Park, the headquarters of the GAA, in central Dublin. The international contest will be the first in Penn State's 127-year gridiron history. UCF also will be playing outside the United States for the first time in program history.

The Croke Park Classic will kick at 1:30 p.m. in Dublin (8:30 a.m. ET) and air on ESPN2. Capacity at Croke (pronounced Crow) Park will be 69,000 for the contest.

Details of the Croke Park Classic were revealed on the pitch during halftime in the Leinster Senior Football Championship Final between Dublin and Meath. Penn State Director of Athletics Dave Joyner and UCF coach George O'Leary announced details of the upcoming game.

The Penn State-UCF contest will be the eighth American college football game held in Ireland. The last American football game hosted in Croke Park was in 1996 when Notre Dame played Navy. The Irish and Mids played in Dublin's Aviva Stadium to open the 2012 season.

Penn State will be the first Big Ten Conference team to play internationally since Michigan State and Wisconsin met in Tokyo in the 1993 regular season finale.

"This is a hugely significant event for Croke Park and Ireland. We in the GAA are looking forward to hosting a competitive sporting occasion." Said Páraic Duffy GAA Director General. "Irish people are renowned for their love of sport as evidenced by the thousands who attend our games throughout the year. I have no doubt that this game will be every bit as attractive. "

Last year's game in Dublin is believed to have added Â?100m (approximately $130 million) to the Irish economy and contributed to the 1.6% rise in Tourism Ireland's figures for August - October 2012 (CSO).

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Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport LeoVaradkar said: "This will be a fantastic event for Croke Park and for Ireland. The Navy vs Notre Dame game in 2012 welcomed 35,000 U.S. visitors to Dublin. The "Croke Park Classic" will be every bit as important, and just as exciting, and both teams are guaranteed a warm welcome. It's great news for sports fans, for the GAA and the wider economy. I congratulate everyone involved on making this possible."

"Our visit this weekend has only reinforced our reasons for wanting to come and play in Dublin," said Dave Joyner, Penn State Director of Athletics, who led the Nittany Lions' delegation to Dublin this weekend. "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 coach Bill O'Brien worked with UCF coach George O'Leary at Georgia Tech. O'Brien was a member of O'Leary's staff from 1995-2001 and they helped the Yellow Jackets win the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

"We are thrilled to announce that we will play UCF at Croke Park to open the 2014 season, " said O'Brien, the 2012 Maxwell Football Club and Big Ten Coach of the Year. "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 assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Stan Hixon (1995-99) and offensive line coach Mac McWhorter (2000-01) also coached with O'Leary and O'Brien at Georgia Tech. Jim Bernhardt, Penn State Special Assistant to the Head Coach and Director of Player of Development, was a member of O'Leary's UCF staff from 2004-07, helping the Knights to their first Conference USA Championship game and bowl berth.

"We are very excited about the prospect of playing our 2014 season opener in Dublin," said O'Leary, in Croke Park for today's announcement. "It's a great opportunity for UCF, and a chance for us to grow the exposure of our football program.

"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. 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."

During the 2013 season, Penn State will host UCF on Sept 14 (6 p.m.) in the third all-time meeting between the schools. The teams previously played in 2002 and 2004 in Beaver Stadium.

Fans interested in traveling to Ireland for the historic game can do so on the Official Penn State Tour, presented by the Penn State Alumni Association and the Nittany Lion Club. Packages include accommodations at three-, four- or five-star hotels, game tickets, an exclusive private party at the world-famous Guinness Storehouse, excursion tours, gameday transportation, a full Irish breakfast each morning and much more. Game tickets are currently available only through the Official Penn State Tour.

For complete information on travel packages for this first of its kind opportunity for Penn State, visit PSU.CrokeParkClassic.com. More information on travel packages for the Croke Park Classic will be announced on Monday.

With the addition of the Croke Park Classic, the 2014 Temple at Penn State game will move to November 15, which previously was an open date for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State opens the 2013 season vs. Syracuse on August 31 (3:30 p.m.) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Nittany Lions will host five bowl teams from 2012, including three teams that finished in the BCS Top 25: Michigan (Oct. 12-Homecoming), Nebraska (Nov. 23) and Kent State (Sept. 21). UCF, Purdue, Illinois and Eastern Michigan also will visit Beaver Stadium this fall.

For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and purchasing season tickets and for the Syracuse game, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can visit www.GoPSUsports.com or call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Penn State Athletics is on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pennstatenittanylions) and Twitter (http://www.gopsusports.com/ot/socialmedia.html).


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