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"82 thousand people and the roar is deafening" | Cultures collide as major US sport comes to Dublin

Off The Ball's Adrian Barry spent Dublin's historic All-Ireland final replay victory over Kerry i...

Other Sports

"82 thousand people and the roar is deafening" | Cultures collide as major US sport comes to Dublin

Off The Ball's Adrian Barry spent Dublin's historic All-Ireland final replay victory over Kerry in South Bend, Indiana. Here's Adrian's story...

Conor Lane flings the ball high into the Dublin night. The second half is underway and it’s pushing 7pm.

New Mexico are 3rd and 13 midway through the second quarter. In South Bend, Indiana it’s nearly 2pm.

The ball drops out of the Autumn sky falling just on the Dublin side but David Moran can take it if he chooses.

The Lobos center snaps the ball to his QuarterBack. Notre Dame lead 14-0.

Moran opts to punch. Even as he picks it up on his own 65, Eoin Murchan knows it’s on. The sides are level.

Sheriron Jones is standing on the 50. He needs to hit the 31-yard line to keep his team in the game.

You expect him to check back or pass but Murchan marches forward.

Jones hits the 40 but his running back is looking elsewhere.

Murchan is spent, he’s run 60 metres with a desperate David Moran on his shoulder.

Notre Dame’s Jalen Elliott takes the gift and hits the turf.

Murchan buries it and Dublin go three points clear.

82 thousand people and the roar is deafening.

82 thousand people and the roar is deafening.

That’s the ball game.

Game Day

Close to 6,000kms separate Dublin and South Bend but the two cultures will collide on one weekend in August 2020 when the latest Aer Lingus College Football Series comes to town as Notre Dame take on Navy at the Aviva Stadium.

Twenty-four hours out from game day in Indiana and the University campus is alive with alumni and locals for Game 2 of the new season. On game day itself, they estimate 170,000 people turn up for The Fighting Irish’s first home game.

It will be a 66-14 rout to Notre Dame but that’s not the story, not even close.

Fighting Irish

The Irish connections run deep here, Paul Browne is Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications at Notre Dame (the son of emigrants from Wexford and Tyrone and himself former NYPD) explains the complex background to the Fighting Irish nickname; "It was used in a derogatory fashion to describe the Notre Dame football team.

"We were originally called The Ramblers. Because of the (anti-Catholic) bias in the mid-west we were unable to play a number of Universities in the area. The Ramblers got their name because they would travel to distant cities in order to find teams who would play them despite our being Catholic."

‘The (media) coverage in the mid-west wouldn’t call us The Ramblers they’d call us The Fighting Irish – meaning the fighting, drunken, rowdy Irish.

'But the brilliant coach at the time decided to grab that moniker and use it proudly to say ‘Yeah, we’re the fighting Irish who are going to prevail as students intellectually and we’re also going to beat you on the field.'

"They proceeded to do that and became the aspirational University for the Irish and other immigrants around the US".

Coming to Dublin

That spirit has been needed too in recent years as Longford-born restaurateur Padraic O’Kane in partnership with John Anthony, the Indianan founder of Anthony Travel – one of the largest travel agents in North America, have fought to keep the Series alive.

Convincing big colleges with big budgets and Head Coaches with even bigger salaries to make the trip east hasn’t been easy but now with a five-game Series locked in Irish American Events plan to bring over 35,000 football fans across the Atlantic next year and upwards of 20,000 for each of the subsequent games.

Replicating every aspect of the big game experience is another task set by IAE Chairman Neil Naughton and his board.

Trumpets under the Dome the day before as well as Drums at Midnight and on the day itself the traditional Ask Jack (charismatic ND Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick) session and of course the staple Tailgating session.

ESPN have also confirmed that it’s College GameDay show will be live from outside the US for the first time ever when they broadcast from Dublin.

That’s the ball game.

And on the last weekend in August next year don’t be surprised to see The Dubs and Notre Dame get the job done. Again!

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All-Ireland Football Championship Aviva Stadium College Football Navy New Mexico Notre Dame