UCF Knights touch down, get some work in at luxury resort
DUBLIN – Central Florida touched down safely in Ireland on Wednesday morning, but the biggest relief for the team was escaping Orlando’s blazing late summer temperatures.
“It feels good to get out of the 105 index and stuff and (the) field is great, kids are anxious to get out and run around a little bit,” coach George O’Leary said on a gray, showery day in Dublin.
The Knights have the luxury of staying on the grounds of Carton House Sports and Training Facility.
The four-star hotel doubles as a workout venue and has hosted Premier League soccer teams. The team practiced Wednesday afternoon and will meet again Thursday morning before touring Dublin. UCF plays Penn State in the season-opening Croke Park Classic on Saturday.
O’Leary is of Irish descent and still has family living in the country. He will share some of his culture with the team by taking them to Kilmainham Gaol, an infamous prison that’s now a museum.
UCF’s Irish ties extend through its roster. Kicker Sean Galvan was born and raised in Cork, before moving to Florida for high school.
Galvan serves as the Knights kickoff specialist and may have the chance to open the game in a stadium that’s known as the home of Irish sports.
“Growing up as a kid in Cork, that’s your dream … no matter what sport you play you want to play at Croke Park,” Galvan said. “Being able to run on the field and look at my family up in the stands is going to be amazing.”
As O’Leary’s squad gears up for Saturday’s game, one of the coach’s greatest concerns is how his team will adjust to the stadium’s enormous pitch.
“Our field is like a postage stamp on their field when you look at it, but I’m concerned about depth perception,” O’Leary said. “But we’ll get a chance to go over there Friday with the team, and we don’t practice at any place, we just walk through and check the locker room out just so they have that sight before they get to the game on Saturday.”
(Jake Somerville is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.)