Fans travel for international season opener
Sam Stryker | Monday, September 3, 2012
DUBLIN – It would be hard to determine who enjoyed their Irish experience even more – the Notre Dame football team, who throttled Navy 50-10 in their season opener, or Fighting Irish fans, who enjoyed all the Irish capital had to offer over several days of Celtic fun.
Thousands of fans descended upon the Irish capital for the Emerald Isle Classic festivities, including a pep rally in The O2, tailgate in the Temple Bar District and to cap off the weekend, the season-opening football game against Navy in Aviva Stadium.
Even Irish football coach Brian Kelly said he enjoyed his time in Dublin during his postgame press conference, despite previously saying while a fan of Ireland, he didn’t relish the idea of playing a game overseas.
“[Ireland is] such a friendly place,” he said. “[There is] beautiful scenery. The hospitality was amazing. It just feels welcoming coming to Ireland.”
Kelly said playing an international game represents a unique opportunity for the University.
“It galvanizes your fans, your alumni, everybody that is a Notre Dame supporter, you get the opportunity to bring everybody together in such a great atmosphere,” he said.
Kelly quipped that now the team had the logistics for traveling mapped out, the Fighting Irish would be more than happy to make a return trip.
“We’ll be back any time you ask us,” he said.
For fans that made the trip, the weekend was a resounding success. Senior Elliott Pearce said gameday in Dublin surpassed even that of a home Notre Dame football game in South Bend.
“It’s a lot more exciting, I think,” he said. “Everybody’s excited to come to Ireland and visiting Dublin and being in a new city, and being welcomed as warmly as we have by the Irish people here [has been great.] Everyone’s been in a good mood and been happy.”
Caroline Gallagher, a Saint Mary’s senior, said the weekend’s events were made even more special by the fact she studied abroad in Ireland her sophomore year.
“It’s the combining of two forces I really love, Notre Dame and Ireland,” she said. “I think it is the atmosphere that has made it a little bit extra [special]. It’s nice to see Notre Dame and South Bend in Dublin.”
Pearce said Notre Dame’s already existing Irish identity was accentuated by the game’s location.
“Notre Dame folks like to think they’re Irish, and we get a very Irish vibe,” he said. “It’s almost like it is done to an even greater degree here, because this is actually Ireland. There are [thousands] of us here, and that makes it feel even more like a Notre Dame place.”
Playing more international games in the future should be in store for Notre Dame, Pearce said.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” he said. “I’m looking forward to going to the next one.”
Gallagher also said an international game has benefits for all of those involved.
“I think it is really good for a fan base, and that it is good for the University and for both countries to have an alliance.”
For juniors studying abroad in Dublin at University College of Dublin (UCD) and Trinity College this semester, Saturday’s game was their only opportunity to experience a Notre Dame gameday until their senior year.
Sara Dryden, a junior set to study at UCD for the semester said the Emerald Isle Classic was the perfect way to kick off her semester in Dublin.
“We knew [about the game] when we were applying, so that kind of factored into where we were going to apply,” she said. “But Ireland is great for everything else … Ireland was always my first choice, but it was an extra boost.”
Patrick Schmitz, a junior set to study at Trinity College, came to Ireland early to attend the game. He said as soon as he stepped off the plane in Ireland, the hospitality of the host nation was in full effect.
“It’s been very welcoming,” he said. “Just arriving at the airport, everything was decked out with American flags and Notre Dame flags and Navy flags. They were very excited about it, and it made me even more excited than I would be about a regular game.”
Schmitz said attending the season opener compensated for the fact it would be his only football game of the year.
“I was upset that I wasn’t going to be at all the other home games, but I think this made up for all the home games I am missing,” he said.
Notre Dame alumni made up a large contingent of the thousands of Fighting Irish fans who made the trip overseas. One of those alumni, Arnie Vance, a member of the Class of 1968, attended through the Notre Dame Club of Greater Sarasota.
Vance, who serves as president of the club, said 37 club members made the trip, including alumni ranging from the classes of 1952 to 2007. Like Pearce and Gallagher, Vance said he hopes more international games are in Notre Dame’s future.
“It’s a wonderful idea,” he said. “We should do it every 10 years or so. We should do it again.”