Navy-Notre Dame a big hit in Dublin

Posted: September 02, 2012

DUBLIN - Saturday's game in Dublin between Navy and Notre Dame has brought an estimated 35,000 Americans to the Irish capital for a road game like no other, and the novelty of the event has captured the Irish imagination.

The Navy docked an amphibious-assault warship in Dublin and its fans have rallied in the city's central park, St. Stephen's Green.

Not to be outdone, Notre Dame's night-before pep rally was broadcast live on Irish state TV, followed by an open-air Mass from inside the grounds of Dublin Castle.

Oh yeah. There's also a game, officially called the Emerald Isle Classic, to be played at Ireland's gleaming new Aviva Stadium, a 50,000-seat venue normally home to Ireland's national soccer and rugby teams, which has just experienced the first ticket sellout in its two-year existence.

Both coaches said it's been a challenge to keep their hyped-up players focused on the importance of the game - and sufficiently well rested following what, for most athletes, was their first trans-Atlantic flight - since arriving here Thursday at the crack of dawn.

"We feel very privileged and very blessed to be here along with Notre Dame. There's not too many teams that get this kind of opportunity," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "But other than that, we've got to remember we're playing a very good football team, so we'd better get ready."

Navy is officially the home team, but that's tough to discern given the heavy Irish Catholic bias in favor of Notre Dame. Sightings of tourists and locals in Fighting Irish regalia easily outnumber Midshipmen supporters 20 to 1.

"Obviously the Notre Dame brand is pretty strong out here, so although we're away from the United States we feel pretty comfortable here," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who traces his Irish roots to great-grandfather Eugene.

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