Penn State fans really had taken over the city about 4 p.m. Friday. The smartest of them arrived at a pep rally double-fisting beers from a pub just down the block that was selling to-go cups.
They flooded into three streets at the intersection of Parliament and Essex in the Temple Bar district. The dichotomy was striking: About 10,000 fans clad in navy, cheering for their favorite college football team, surrounded by tall European buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. Some fans drinking beers. Some of them standing on rooftops or window sills. Nearly all of them participating in cheers.
Oddly, this mashup of college football fan in the heart of European culture fit together. This entire week has.
As early as Monday, the Dublin airport featured posters and signs welcoming Penn State fans, and a banner for the Penn State global campus hung just before the walk through customs. Three local bars were designated for Penn State fans — and another for Central Florida fans. These bars featured posters or drawings of the teams and plenty of other bars or hotels advertised for the game, too. Stores sold T-shirts and scarves.
Asked if this was the best road trip he had ever been on, 2008 Penn State graduate Nathan Thomas said, “For sure, for sure.”
He had come to Ireland with 15 friends. They immediately started planning the trip after the game was announced last year. Most of them had graduated from Penn State but some of them were friends who thought a trip to Ireland sounded like fun and decided to come.
Before Dublin, they traveled through the countryside, stopping for nights in places like Cork, Galway and Killarney, finding familiar people in every city.
“It was all Penn State fans,” Thomas said. “Everywhere.”
The only people who might have been bothered by the Penn State prominence were a handful of the locals. The 10,000 or so fans had crowded the streets so much for the pep rally they were nearly preventing them from squeezing through to their apartments.
Still, some of them took to the pep rally Friday. Some of them stared out their window sills onto the street and started dancing along.
“You’re the visitors,” said Gaelic Athletic Association director general Paraic Duffy in an Irish brogue. “In Ireland, the tradition is with the visitors. The love of the Irish will have to be with the visitors.”
Then he led a “We Are” chant.
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05. ___