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Rich Scarcella | Reading Eagle | August 29, 2014

Penn State gets taste of Ireland national sports

DUBLIN, Ireland -- The Penn State Nittany Lions and members of the Gaelic Athletic Association, sponsor of the Croke Park Classic, were scheduled to exchange jerseys Thursday. But the post-practice session at University College Dublin turned into a demonstration of Gaelic football and hurling for the Nittany Lions, which are two of the most popular sports in Ireland.

"We're learning about their culture and how big this is to them," Penn State safety Adrian Amos said. "They really enjoy this."

GAA members instructed several groups of Nittany Lions during a 45-minute session. On one side of a field, half the team received instructions on hurling while on the other side the rest of the team learned the fundamentals of Gaelic football.

The two sports are played at Croke Park Stadium, the site of Saturday's college football game between Penn State and Central Florida.

"Playing [Gaelic] football was great," Penn State running back Bill Belton said. "It's kind of a mix of volleyball, basketball and soccer. We had fun with it.

"I think it's great for us. I think everyone's enjoying seeing and playing different sports that they play here across the country."

It was comical to see some of the Lions try to dribble the volleyball-like Gaelic football down the field. Even more comical was the sight of 335-pound offensive tackle Donovan Smith wearing a hurling helmet and trying to pick up the ball with his stick.

During a hurling demonstration, a goalie who plays in the GAA snared a blistering shot with his bare hand, drawing a huge reaction from the Penn State players.

"The people who were doing it in the middle of the field were really good," Belton said. "I don't think I would be able to do what they were doing. [That goalie] is very good at what he does."

By the time the demonstration ended, it was obvious that the Lions weren't about to take up hurling or Gaelic football.

"Everybody pretty much looked terrible," Belton said. "It takes skill to play this stuff. You can't do this overnight."

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