Observer on the Ground: Irish eyes smile in Dublin
Emily DeFazio | Tuesday, August 29, 2023
With 40,000+ fans flocking to the city, Dublin this weekend felt like South Bend Abroad. On each of my four flights to and from the city, at least 90% of travelers self-identified as Irish fans, sporting everything from baseball caps to full-on shamrock suits in a declaration of their loyalties. While there were a handful of Navy supporters in attendance well aware of the reason for the migration, the remaining poor travelers in ignorant bliss of the game were surely greeted with a surprise at the gate.
But the airport was only the beginning. Pick a street in the city, and at least one building had gold and blue balloons lining their awnings, not to mention travel-essential Dame Street transforming into “Notre Dame Street” for the weekend. When the front desk manager of our hotel noted this kind of shutdown had never happened before, not even for St. Patrick’s Day, you knew they were pulling out all the stops ahead of Saturday’s match.
As someone who has attended St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, that is the only thing I can liken the fervor of the weekend to. Flags advertising the game dotted our path into town, forming a kind of yellow-brick road as we inched toward Aviva Stadium. But instead of the parking lot hosting the majority of fans as it does in South Bend, game day’s usual tailgates transitioned into a universal pub crawl.
Even as we made our way to Dame Street for the marching band’s midday concert, we were fighting through crowds spilling out the doors of different establishments in the Temple Bar district. The Temple Bar itself was a Fighting Irish stomping ground. Seeing the iconic pub’s patrons exclusively in Hammes Bookstore-issued merchandise was a worlds-colliding moment that is still hard to wrap my head around. However, this new way of tailgating did nothing to detract from the traditional excitement of a game day. If anything, it only enhanced it.
As a Notre Dame student, hearing “Here Come the Irish” echo through the streets of Dublin could only be described as spiritual. The band’s performance only heightened the sentiment as Central Plaza replaced Bond Hall for the day. By the time we disbanded and hopped in line for merch, we were already ready for the game to begin.
Once it did a few hours later, it didn’t disappoint. The overwhelmingly Notre Dame crowd was deafening from the beginning as players took to the field alongside traditional Irish musicians and dancers. The usual hype videos certainly brought South Bend to Dublin; however, the pre-game rendition of the national anthem was accompanied by Ireland’s and a fly-over unlike any we’ve seen at Notre Dame Stadium. The roar of three aircrafts operated by the U.S. Navy Ospreys took us by such surprise and awe that we didn’t have time to process and scrambled to try to capture the moment with our phones.
We got lucky with our seats and sat right alongside the players’ tunnel, giving us a first-hand view of the team as they prepared for their season debut. Coach Freeman looked locked in from the moment he came into view, and the couple of minutes the team stood there waiting were exhilarating as we screamed at the top of our lungs, adding to the chorus of shouts and cheers coming from the players themselves. It seemed from the moment they lined up, they were ready for the job they had to do, especially with all the build-up and hype leading to that moment.
With the Irish dominating the entire game, the excitement never tapered — but the touchdown push-ups unfortunately did. They occurred all throughout the stadium as the points racked up, but slowed as the number continued to grow. My three friends and I made an attempt, getting each of us in the air at least once, but quickly realized we had taken the group of twelve we usually have at games largely for granted.
By the end, we were tired but overwhelmed by the rush of the whole day. The grand finale of the trophy presentation was the perfect cap for the Aviva Stadium experience, and as the golden streamers floated through the air and fireworks set off behind the end zone, we had the collective feeling that this once-in-a-lifetime experience was one we’d relive again and again back on campus. It seems everyone shared the same sentiment, for as we walked through town after the crowds had returned to the pubs, cheers to the Irish and an unforgettable day in Dublin clamored over the typical excited chatter of a home win.