What goes on the day before Georgia Tech lands in Dublin

A day ahead of their team’s arrival in Ireland, Georgia Tech’s men on the ground hustled Wednesday to ensure that the Yellow Jackets can make a smooth transition from plane to hotel to practice field Thursday before moving forward with the rest of this unusual week.

As Aviva Stadium prepared for a Wednesday night exhibition match between the Irish national soccer team and Oman, Tech assistant equipment manager Punt Windham readied the Jackets’ locker room for the team’s Thursday practice in advance of its season opener against Boston College.

Last Friday during the team’s final preseason scrimmage, Windham felt considerable relief when he received an e-mail message that the shipment of Yellow Jackets gear and equipment, shipped out Thursday, had arrived safely in Dublin. The customs list that documented the place of manufacture, number and cost of each item that the team was taking to Ireland – from cleats to chinstraps to gloves – was 2,500 lines long. The first shipment included 750 of those lines. The rest were to come with the team on its charter flight Wednesday after practice. All told, it was 20,000 pounds of property deemed essential to the success of the trip.

When Windham arrived Tuesday at Aviva shortly after landing, it was all there, ready to be sorted. A full day’s work followed, and he had reached a stopping point Wednesday morning. Because of the soccer match that night, Windham could only lay out practice gear in one of the two rooms set aside as locker-room space. Tech was to take over the Irish national team locker room after its game.

Given his concerns and anxiety prior to the trip, Windham was encouraged by the first stages of the process.

“It’s turned out better than expected,” he said before adding, “I don’t want to jinx myself.”

Closer to the team’s hotel north of Dublin, assistant operations director Craig Candeto was checking off appointments with the hotel, the restaurant where the team was to eat Thursday night, the movie theater where the team was going Friday morning and the airport. Candeto, who played quarterback for coach Paul Johnson at Navy, was near the end of a months-long effort to ensure that the team would have a travel experience as close to a standard road trip as possible, a process that has included countless conference calls and e-mails to nail down the last detail.

“I’ve been telling people, ‘I’ll be excited when we win the football game and it’s Sept. 4 (Sunday),” he said last week. “Mercer at home (next week’s game) doesn’t look quite as involved.”

Wednesday, awaiting the arrival of the team – and the remaining gear – Windham was hardly ready to kick back. There was the possibility, for instance, that the team’s equipment might get held up at customs Thursday longer than expected, which could throw off the day’s schedule. Also, once the game ends Saturday, the process will shift into reverse – everything that came with the team goes back with the team, everything that was shipped earlier will be shipped back, only the packing and sorting will have to happen much more quickly.

Said Windham, “I’ll feel good when it gets back.”