This part of the trip was what Ben was most excited for since we were headed to the Croke Park Classic the following day to see Penn State take on University of Central Florida. I must tell you. As maddening as it is to drive on the left side of the road (well for Ben I had no chance of tackling that) it was by far more crazy to navigate the endless one way streets that made up this city. We got lost several times, bickered a bit more than we would care to admit, but after a bit we did find our hotel, The Beresford. Parking was a nightmare so I had to make a few trip up to our room once we were checked in and then Ben was able to move the car.
This is where Karen panics a bit. The parking garage was about a 5 minute walk so it should have taken 20 minutes tops for Ben to park and make it back. Forty five minutes later he was still no where to be seen. I stood outside for awhile and then just waited in the lounge. After another ten minutes he finally popped in and I was relieved beyond belief. The streets of Dublin can be hard to navigate, even with a GPS. My best travel advice here is to give yourself ample time if traveling by car to allow for that. Also, a healthy dose of patience helps too.
Once we were settled we decided to go find something to eat and get the lay of the land. We headed over the bridge to the area where The Temple Bar is located. I was looking around and noticed a LOT of Penn State gear and then I saw a stage in the middle of the road. I grabbed Ben's arm and we headed over to see what was happening. Turns out we made it in perfect time to join a pep rally for Penn State! We also walked right near the stage and ran in to John Shaffer, a member of the Las Vegas Chapter for the Penn State Alums in Las Vegas. How crazy is that?
After that we headed out for dinner and settled on The Porterhouse where we had some of the best bar food. Definitely the best pork spare ribs ever.
Saturday morning was game day. One of the most important parts of our trip here to some extent because it gave us an opportunity to travel to one place I had always dreamed about. First we need some breakfast to fuel up so we found a little café along the way.
After breakfast we started our trek up to Croke Park and had about an hour to kill before we had to be at the Stadium so we stopped by a small museum called the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. It was free admission so it was a no brainer. The gallery was small but had some awesome pieces including some Renoit, Monet and even Degas, and a contemporary artist called Eva Rothschild. Her work was more modern for my liking but it was interesting, colorful, and unique.
Soon though our trek landed us at Croke Park, a stadium that holds roughly 80,000 people. On game day we were about 50,000 strong from both sides. The energy was amazing and after a brief stop at the gift shop to pick up my cap, we headed to our seats. On the way we ran into John from the Penn State Alumni Club in Vegas AGAIN. Too funny!
The game itself was amazing. Christian Hackenberg, our QB, looked strong despite some hiccups. The offense and defense made some errors along the way including a few penalties that were mind boggling. Despite this the Nittany Nation kept the energy high and despite a comeback from UCF we managed to keep that energy going until the end of the game which resulted in a PSU win over UCF after a stunning field goal from Ficken! I turned my head just before he kicked the ball, unable to look, but heard the yells from fans around me and knew that we had one in the win column. Ben gave me grief about missing that play, but hey, we won. That is all that mattered to me! It was so exciting to be there and also to see history made as Hackenberg was the first Penn State player to reach over 400 yards in a single game. According to ESPN.com he rolled over that mark with a stellar 454 yards in total. We did make mistakes but we finished strong. In true Nittany style! #PSUnrivaled