UCF tackles an Irish history lesson

Story posted August 29, 2014 in

DUBLIN – Since Wednesday, when Central Florida touched down on Irish soil for the Croke Park Classic, coach George O’Leary has stressed the importance of learning from the trip.

So Thursday, two days before the Knights take the field against Penn State, they tackled an Irish history lesson on the streets of Dublin.

“One of my players asked me, ‘Does Ireland have a downtown?’” O’Leary said with a laugh at morning practice. “That’s how much they know about Ireland.”

They know more now. The team spent the afternoon touring Trinity College and Kilmainham Gaol (jail), two of the most popular and important sites in the city.

Kilmainham, which now serves as a museum, is the site where hundreds of nationalist fighters were imprisoned in 1916 after they attempted to form an Irish Republic separate from Great Britain – and where 14 of the leaders were executed.  UCF’s players were whisked back into the early 20th century as they walked the halls that confined many of the country’s rebel leaders.

When the players entered, they were split into groups and sat through a short film that introduced them to the story of the prison, which opened in 1780.

From there, they toured the cells and execution courtyard, while learning the stories of the revolution’s key figures. These characters included Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford, a couple who were married just minutes before Plunkett was executed for his role in planning the uprising.

“I’m just an open mind – I love learning new things,” defensive end Deion Green said. “So just being able to get a little education about how things were done in the old days of Ireland was pretty cool.”

As the Knights took in the sights of a new city and continued to learn some of the country’s history, there still were a few things it’s been difficult for them to wrap their minds around.

UCF kicker Sean Galvan – a native of County Cork – has served as his team’s unofficial tour guide for the week.

“Trinity College obviously opened up hundreds of years before UCF did, so they had a good laugh because UCF opened up in the 1960s, while Trinity College opened up in the 1700s,” Galvan said.

Links golf courses also made the list of oddities.

“They couldn’t imagine the fairways,” he added. “None of them could’ve shot par over here. … They couldn’t imagine driving on the left side of the road. They were all confused, but other than that they’ve all had a good time.” 

(Jake Somerville is a student in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.)