Blogs: Chad Koch

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Today was a long but eventful day. Our first stop this morning was to Croke Park, a stadium for the Gaelic Athletic Association. This is an incredible complex built with decades of rich history. Croke Park mainly hosts amateur sports like hurling and Gaelic football.

Amateur sports athletes are not paid. For instance, Stephen Cluxton, the hero of Dublin's team after scoring the winning free kick in the All-Ireland Championship a few years back, is a tenth grade biology teacher during the week. All the athletes have various trades and professions during the week that they rely on to make a living. I can't imagine how it could be considered normal to be taught by a famous athlete or work with one on a weekly basis, but the people of Ireland do it every day.

These athletes play not for themselves, but they play for their home county. There is more passion in this than I have ever seen in any other sport. They are not worried about the money and endorsements, but rather they are honored to represent their county and bring the cup home.

The tour of Croke Park may have been my favorite place so far this trip. I can hardly imagine the atmosphere on match day as fans of counties all over Ireland file into the stadium. Penn State has an electric game day experience that is truly unique when compared throughout all of college football, but I have a feeling the energy at Croke Park during the All-Ireland Championships may top a Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

Other visits of the day included the Jameson distillery and the Guinness brewery. These two locations are must-sees for anyone visiting Dublin. The Gravity Bar atop the Guinness Brewery offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Dublin, seven stories in the sky. The Gravity Bar is also where you can enjoy your free pint of Guinness after finishing the tour. All in all, it was another fantastic day in Ireland.