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Penn St. football team readies for logistical challenges of Ireland trip

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 9:24 p.m.
This is a file image taken from video Saturday, May 8, 2010, of a column of ash rising from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano. It was reported Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, that thousands of small intense earthquakes are rocking Iceland amid concerns that one of the country's volcanoes might be close to erupting. Iceland has raised its aviation alert level for the risk of a possible volcanic eruption to orange — the second-most severe level. The alert is worrisome because of the chaos that followed the April 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokul, when more than 100,000 flights were cancelled because volcanic ash floating in the atmosphere was considered an aviation safety hazard.

Since arriving at Penn State about two weeks ago to begin duties as the Nittany Lions football equipment manager, Jay Takach has worked a succession of 18-to-20-hour days.

Getting a major college football team to Ireland and back — with all its staff and stuff — is a daunting task.

“I've been trying to get caught up on this trip to make sure we're in line to have everything taken care of,” Takach said. “I've been working from 5 or 6 in the morning until 12 or 1 a.m. most nights.”

Getting an estimated 118 players — and 310 people overall — and a 53-foot tractor trailer full of equipment to, say, Bloomington, Ind., is a chore. Throw in the headaches associated with customs, passports, currency exchange, TSA regulations, electrical-outlet adaptors, a five-hour time change…

A possible volcano?

“There's an enormous amount of challenges we've had to face,” Takach said.

Croke Park Stadium in Dublin was announced as the site for Penn State's Aug. 30 season opener against Central Florida in July 2013. The previous staff under coach Bill O'Brien spent six months in the preliminary stages of planning the logistics for the trip.

New director of football operations Michael Hazel credited predecessor Kirk Diehl with “having a good plan in place” in securing passports for most of the players who were on the team prior to this season.

Passports, though, are just the beginning.

“There's just a lot of moving parts that exist,” Hazel said. “When you are going overseas, you are required to complete certain documents where you basically have to list every item that you're taking with you. A box of 24 pencils, 180 socks to 190 pairs of cleats — whatever you are taking, it needs listed from A to Z.”

The Nittany Lions will leave Tuesday evening from Harrisburg on a charter to Dublin, where they will arrive early Wednesday morning IST (Irish Standard Time). By mid-Sunday, the team will be back in State College — many of the players napping — before settling back into a routine of a normal game week.

In between? Anything but normal.

And that doesn't even count the possibility of a volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupting travel plans.

Iceland's government has raised the volcano alert level following thousands of small earthquakes recently near Bardarbunga. More than 100,000 flights across Europe were canceled following the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, which sits about 900 miles from Ireland.

“We're monitoring that situation,” PSU director of football administration Kevin Threlkel said. “Really, we have to lean on United Airlines and the folks that are handling our cargo, as it relates to that. That's kind of out of our area of expertise.”

Players will be kept on as close to an eating and sleeping routine as possible. Similar to a bowl, group outings are planned — to the Guinness Storehouse and a bus tour of downtown.

“It's going to be a cultural experience, but we won't have a lot of time to do sightseeing with the guys,” Hazel said. “This is going to be a business trip. Once we touch down there, we're going to be going nonstop… until we play and come home.”

All of that takes planning.

The Associated Press contributed. Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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