By Cory Giger
DUBLIN, Ireland - No worries, as the locals say.
This is a brilliant place with lovely people who are right when they drive on the left side of the road and usually wrong when
you ask them questions about football.
American football, that is.
So many people in picturesque Ireland seem oblivious to the sport, or at least to the fact that Penn State is playing Central Florida on Saturday in Ireland's historic Croke Park Stadium.
"You're here for the match?" taxi driver Anne Tuitt of Dublin asked as she weaved her way past cars driving on the left-hand side of the road, which if you've never experienced, it certainly forces you to do a double take.
When asked if she knew who was playing in the "match," the friendly blonde Irish woman offered a polite smile and said, "Not a clue."
The answer to whether a large number of local people are interested in Saturday's game was summed up in two words by a middle-aged man named Robert O'Brien (no, not everyone in Dublin is named O'Brien).
"Not really," he said.
"I don't know the first thing about the game," he added.
When the conversation, however, turns to Gaelic football, Ireland's national sport that morphs soccer and rugby, the people here sing a different tune.
"Oh yeah, wonderful game," Billy Finn of Dublin said.
"That's our game," O'Brien said.
Downtown Dublin is a busy place, with cars zooming by nonstop and, of course, driving on the left-hand side of the road, as is custom in Europe and other parts of the world.
It rarely snows here, but apparently it is very windy all the time.
If you say thank you to someone, the response isn't "you're welcome."
"No worries," is the reply. So if you're polite to others, you'll hear a steady stream of that return phrase all day.
They also toss soothing words into casual conversations, such as "brilliant" (for great) and "lovely" (for nice or thank you).
The bottom floor in hotel elevators isn't the first floor. It's zero, which means the second floor is actually the first floor and, well, you get the idea.
The people are very patient with Americans unfamiliar with the customs, such as when we have to ask an otherwise silly question like, "So, is my fourth-floor room actually on the fifth floor?"
It is very expensive here. Everyone pays with Euros, and the conversion rate is only 72 cents for a dollar. Even with that low conversion rate, prices on many items range 10 to 20 percent higher than in the U.S.
And while the Irish people might not be fighting mad over American football, Dublin has been overtaken by a large number of traveling fans from the states.
This is the first international game ever for the Nittany Lions, and their fans have kept up the tradition of traveling very well to see the team play.
On a plane ride over from Chicago to Dublin, approximately half of the 280 or so passengers on board appeared to be Penn State fans, most decked out in team gear. A handful of Central Florida faithful were in the mix, as well.
"It's impressive," PSU football coach James Franklin said of the number of Nittany Lion fans who travel. "You play a game in Ireland, and you have a huge support of fans and alumni to be with the guys. What makes Penn State special, and always will, is the people. That's never going to change, and we plan on it only getting stronger from here on out."
Franklin continues to stress that this is a "business trip" and that the football team's sole focus is on Saturday's game.
But the reality is that the Penn State and Central Florida players are more than 3,000 miles away from home, in a gorgeous part of the world, and taking part in activities that other college football players back in the U.S. would love to enjoy leading up to a game.
They're on business, sure, but there's also nothing wrong with mixing business and pleasure from time to time.
One example of that occurred after Penn State finished its afternoon football practice Thursday, then played around with instructors doing Gaelic football drills for about an hour.
"The whole team had loads of fun," linebacker Von Walker said.