Fighting Irish Dublin bound as The Gathering delivers dollars for southern economy

 This Saturday (2nd September) heralds the beginning of the latest campaign by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team to bring a National Championship back to the success-starved South Bend, Indiana home of the team that can legitimately claim to be the most supported collegiate sporting outfit in the US (and, for that matter, probably the world as collegiate sport has a unique place in American society.)

This season opener is special as the game will be played at the Lansdowne Road Aviva Stadium before a sell-out crowd under the grand title of ‘The Emerald Isle Classic.’ The opponent will be the US Naval Academy (Navy) who have played the Fighting Irish annually since 1927, the longest uninterrupted college football rivalry series.

It promises to be a significant boon for the Irish economy, with over 30,000 Americans purportedly making the trip. Several other college sides and US high school football teams are also making the trip to play in a series of games hosted around the capital on the Friday evening, which will culminate in a Pep Rally at the 02 Arena that evening.

 On Saturday morning, a special Mass will be held at Dublin Castle before the famous Notre Dame marching band parades down O’Connell Street (as they did on St Patrick’s Day earlier this year) as a tailgating party commences in the Temple Bar district of the city (where I will likely be located at about this time…..)

Notre Dame has a special place in the American sporting scene, provoking strong emotions in favour or against the team. The Irish identity of the team’s support base was more accidental than intentional in origin, but it is undoubtedly the case that for long the university’s sporting teams have attracted a level of National support and prominence well beyond that of other teams simply due to its association with the Irish community and its status as one of the most pre-eminent of catholic universities in the country.

For this reason, Notre Dame’s football team, alone amongst major universities, has bucked the trend and remained an Independent as opposed to member of a regional conference, meaning it is free to devise its own playing schedule and (most importantly) secure its own lucrative television contracts. Every Notre Dame home game is featured on NBC in the States, and for the past couple of seasons Eurosport has shown the Irish’s home fixtures on this side of the Atlantic with numerous away games being shown on ESPN.

The team’s National reach and appeal has been reflected in US popular culture: before being elected as California Governor and subsequently US President, Ronald Reagan was best known for his portrayal of the legendary Notre Dame star George Gipp in ‘Knute Rockne- All American Hero,’ a film about the greatest head coach in Notre Dame and college football history.

Another Hollywood film about the Fighting Irish, ‘Rudy,’ recently provided the storyline in an episode of HBO’s ‘The Newsroom’ and references to Notre Dame appear throughout the most popular of American television series’ (The West Wing’s President Bartlett was an ND fan and the classic ‘Airplane’ featured a parody of the legendary death-bed appeal by George Gipp to Coach Rockne to tell the boys to ‘win one for the Gipper.’)

For generations, the Irish ruled the roost, claiming the most National Championship titles as well as Heisman Trophy winners (the award given to the best college player at the end of every season.) Renowned college football legends like Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian, The Four Horsemen and George Gipp have been known to Americans of all ages for generations as, more than any other programme, the Fighting Irish dominated college football during the glory days when it outshone the professional game.

But whilst history was good to the Irish, the past 25 years have witnessed one disappointing season following quickly after another, the lowest point being a record nine consecutive bowl losses.

Bowls are the end of season games to which college teams are ‘invited.’ The most significant were for a long time played on New Year’s Day, but nowadays they are stretched out over the first week and a half of the New Year and are preceded by more than 30 less significant bowl games. It was this tradition of collegiate ‘bowls’ which led to the creation of a ‘Super Bowl’ as a means of determining which professional team was the Nation’s greatest at a time when two separate leagues vied for fans’ attention nationally.

The Notre Dame- Navy fixture has for long been an encounter dominated by the Fighting Irish, whose record 43 consecutive victories over Navy was only brought to a halt in 2009 (a humiliation revisited upon the Irish the following year.)

Anything less than a comprehensive rout of Navy for the Fighting Irish will cause considerable anxiety for the Irish fan base who know that this season’s schedule is particularly challenging, with the team due to face numerous potential National Championship contenders in USC, Michigan and Oklahoma, as well as difficult fixtures with Stanford and Michigan State.

The most anticipated aspect of the game will undoubtedly be the performance of the new starting quarterback for Notre Dame, Everett Golson, who was only officially given the nod by Head Coach Brian Kelly on Thursday of last week ahead of Andrew Hendrix and previous starter Tommy Rees (who blotted his copybook by getting arrested following a street party in the university town of South Bend in the off-season.) In reality, Rees was never likely going to emerge as starter as his turnover rate was alarmingly high last season.

Fighting Irish fans will be hoping that Golson can lead his team through a dynamic performance combining his exciting running game potential with accurate passing against a Navy side the Irish are heavily fancied to beat.

Ironically, the evolution of American Football as a quarterback driven passing game owes much to Notre Dame’s legendary victory over another institution associated with the US Armed Forces, the Army.

The development of the ‘forward pass’ as an integral part of the game is often incorrectly attributed to the stunning Irish victory over Army in 1913- though, as this 1906 newsreel illustrates, the movement to bring the pass into the game had already begun before then in response to the violence associated with the ground game.

It was the ingenius schemings of Pop Warner as coach of a school for Native Americans (Carlisle Indian Industrial School) who first proved how effective the passing game could be in 1907, using one of his most gifted players and future 1912 Olympic gold medallist, Jim Thorpe, to great effect. Incidentally, future President Dwight Eisenhower would be injured when attempting to tackle Thorpe in a contest between Army and Carlisle 100 years ago in a famed 1912 encounter. That contest, just 20 years after the massacre of Native Americans at Wounded Knee, inspired Pop Warner’s pep talk which included these words:

“Remember that it was the fathers and grandfathers of these Army players who fought your fathers and grandfathers in the Indian Wars. Remember Wounded Knee.”

Whilst Warner and his Carlisle team effectively patented the passing game at collegiate level, it was the success of the passing game in the famous Notre Dame-Army 1913 triumph engineered by Irish players Gus Dorias and Knute Rockne that popularised the passing game on the National stage. 

Many famous professional footballers were former Notre Dame heroes. The great Joe Montana, whose 49ers were so dominant when the game was first introduced in a meaningful sense to a British and Irish audience by Channel 4 in the 1980s, was one of the greatest ever Notre Dame quarterbacks (and hero of ‘The Chicken Soup’ game for the Fighting Irish.)

One of his rival quarterbacks throughout the early and mid-1980s, the Redskins’ QB Joe Theismann, was also a former ND starter.

More recently, former Pittsburgh Steeler running back, Jerome ‘The Bus’ Bettis, was a star turn for the Irish – as this clip of his stunning performance in ‘The Cheerios Game’ illustrates- and the most exciting player to come out of Notre Dame for many years, Michael Floyd, was drafted by my own beloved Arizona Cardinals earlier this year.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN this Saturday and the 02 Arena Pep Rally is being broadcast live on RTE1 on Friday evening under the heading ‘The Gathering: A Welcome Home.’

The Gathering is a tourism campaign launched by the Irish Government aiming to entice members of the Irish Diaspora back to Ireland, and the Notre Dame game has been sold as a part of that overall strategy. Alas, it would appear that our DUP Tourism Minister, Arlene Foster, has shunned efforts to include the North in this tourism campaign.

Of course, any prospect of the North hosting such a fixture would require a pro-active approach from Executive Ministers who one would have thought should jump at the prospect of 30,000 Americans making Belfast their summer holiday destination, in spite of the natural antipathy such an expression of Irishness would be met with by some of our unionist elected representatives. The only northern stadium capable of hosting such an event would be the renovated Casement Park.

What chance then of Notre Dame- Purdue @ Casement Park, 2022?

  • Reader

    Is SF going to organise an Iraq/Afghanistan protest for when the Naval Academy side turns up?

  • Dec

    Chris

    can’t believe you missed out Tim Brown in your list of Irish alumni, Notre Dame’s last (to date) Heisman Trophy winner (1987).

    ‘What chance then of Notre Dame- Purdue @ Casement Park, 2022?’

    Hopefully we’ll see a regular season NFL game in Croker long before that. The Rooney family are particularly keen to bring the Pittsburgh Steelers to play a game in their ancestral homeland.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    OMG, Chris, those nasty imperialist Americans going to peace loving southern Ireland. What will the shinners do???

    30,000 patriotic Americans in southern Ireland and with internment at Guantanamo Bay, Extraordinary rendition, an American occupying force still in Afghanistan, forcing out and oppressing the legitimate Taliban government of Afghanistan and an anti UN war in Iraq.

    My gawd this must be manna form heaven for the shinners to conduct their national sport of street politics. Can we expect hundreds of vocal banner carrying shinners on the streets and at this event, demanding national self determination for the people of Afghanistan and respect and a return fo the legitimate Taliban government of Afghanistan???

    It will be great to see Gerry and Marty and the rest of the shinner politburo protesting at the imperialist occupying forces of the US government and Army. Who forced out and are still oppressing the legitimate Taliban government of Afghanistan. And putting in an American puppet government into Iraq.

  • aquifer

    NAMA should get on the ball and sell some timeshares.

    Why do Oul Sod when you can have new semi-D.

  • “The Gathering [Ireland 2013] is a tourism campaign launched by the Irish Government .. (Foster) has shunned efforts to include the North in this tourism campaign.”

    Chris, the Irish government excluded the ‘wee six’ yet you’re trying to spin it as the fault of the DUP tourism minister 🙂

    Mr McKay talked about why the Department was not engaged on the issue of “The Gathering”. I was told about “The Gathering” initiative — and members of the SDLP might like to take cognisance of this issue — one day before it was launched in Dublin at the Clinton Global Initiative .. Assembly debate

    Dublin’s ‘Ireland’ contains only 26 counties, a point that Chris has overlooked.

  • Old Mortality

    Have they learnt how to pronounce the name yet? Maybe they should just change it to Our Lady.

  • sonofstrongbow

    “a special Mass will be held at Dublin Castle before…….parades down O’Connell Street”.

    What is it 1949 or something?

  • lamhdearg2

    Is another Notre Dame scandal brewing?

    By Matt C. Abbott

    A female student who attended St. Mary’s College committed suicide after she was allegedly sexually attacked by one of Notre Dame’s football players — and the university has seemingly swept it under the rug — according to a Nov. 21 story in the Chicago Tribune.

  • lamhdearg2

    Notre Dame University has been hit for a second time in recent months with accusations that it failed to properly investigate an allegation from a young woman that one of its students sexually assaulted a young woman.

    The charge is particularly sensitive for Notre Dame, one of the country’s most prestigious Catholic universities, because the school is still reeling from the suicide of Elizabeth Seeberg. Seeberg was a 19-year-old student at neighboring St. Mary’s College who killed herself Sept. 10, 2010, after Notre Dame did not aggressively pursue her sexual assault complaint, her family has said.

    The Seeberg family issued a statement to ABC News today saying “Notre Dames’ investigatory process has failed another young woman entrusted to its care.”

    Both incidents occurred around the same period. Seeberg claimed she was molested Aug. 31 and committed suicide 10 days later.

  • lamhdearg2

    This Is What Happens When You Accuse A Notre Dame Football Player Of Sexually Assaulting You

    Last week, the National Catholic Reporter published a lengthy piece on reported sexual assaults at Notre Dame. Its fulcrum is the case involving Lizzy Seeberg, a 19-year-old freshman at nearby St. Mary’s College who committed suicide in September 2010, just 10 days after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. That case led the civil rights office of the U.S. Department of Education to launch a seven-month investigation of Notre Dame that last summer resulted in a settlement agreement.

    The Seeberg case is awful enough, but according to a former school administrator whose own daughter says she was raped 10 years ago, “They”—Notre Dame—”do a poor job in general.” The takeaway from the NCR story—written by Melinda Henneberger, a political reporter for the Washington Post and a 1980 Notre Dame graduate—is that Seeberg wasn’t the first woman to be put through the university’s meat grinder after making a sexual-assault accusation. And judging by Henneberger’s reporting, she won’t be the last.

    The smear about Seeberg was that she was “a troubled girl” who had “done this before” (according to friends and family members of a “long-serving trustee” at Notre Dame). She was “the aggressor” (according to the accused player’s lawyer, a Notre Dame alum). She was “all over the boy” (according to a “top university official” at Notre Dame). After reporting the alleged assault to campus police, Seeberg was told by a friend of the football player: “Don’t do anything you would regret.
    Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea.”
    No charges were filed.
    Notre Dame police didn’t interview the player—who was never disciplined by the school or the football program—until five days after Seeberg killed herself. Later, they told the family they weren’t sure when they could follow up. “They said they were pretty busy,” said Lizzy’s mother, Mary, told Henneberger, “because it’s football season and there’s a lot of underage drinking.”

  • lamhdearg2

    All was quite but for the sound of a gentle wind blowing the tumbleweeds.

  • Mike the First

    I know this is a bit of a tangent, but I’ve always thought that logo is a stereotype that would provoke all sorts of hue and cry if used these days for example in a newspaper cartoon.

  • SDLP supporter

    Jeez Chris, I bet you regret you ever started this particular thread! Ah well, it’s the start of a new school year and you’ll soon be busy, um, educating a new generation of school kids.

  • Greenflag

    They need to reduce the number of time outs and advertising breaks in American football to make it a worthwhile sporting spectacle . I understand that the game is analysed , parsed , with every pass and block statistified to the nth degree and the diagrammatics of field play are sometimes worthy of winning a Nobel Prize in physics but surely sitting for 4 hours to watch the Rosebowl with just 90 minutes (plus/minus ) of actual play .Is there any other sport in the world where the combined figure for breaks , intervals and time outs is greater than the actual game / Just wondering .

    Oh I’m supporting the Navy as a token of my support for all those Americans , and Irish and Irish Americans who may be ‘underwater ‘ right now in the property /housing sector !

    They too will rise again just like Notre Dame ?

  • Dec

    ‘I know this is a bit of a tangent, but I’ve always thought that logo is a stereotype that would provoke all sorts of hue and cry if used these days for example in a newspaper cartoon.’

    Mike

    It depends on what it’s used to represent. No one seriously believes that logo (or that of the Boston Celtics) is a representation of Irish people. I’m not so sure whether the same could be said for the logo of MLB’s Cleveland Indians or the name of the NFL team that plays in Washington.

  • Dec

    ‘surely sitting for 4 hours to watch the Rosebowl with just 90 minutes (plus/minus ) of actual play .Is there any other sport in the world where the combined figure for breaks , intervals and time outs is greater than the actual game / Just wondering .’

    Cricket, baseball, snooker…oh and its 4 quarters of 15 minutes each.

  • Greenflag

    @Dec ,

    60 minutes out of 240 mins ? Good grief . But thats for the folks armchairing it (the Rose Bowl ) I mean .Presumably the spectators at the Aviva will find other divarsions before and after the game .

    I’ve seen a live baseball game and I remain fascinated by how the batters ever managed to hit the ball – Cricket except for the truly committed remains for me a cure for insomnia which I fortunately don’t suffer from well not yet anyway .Snooker is a series kind of game which goes on and on like tennis until one or other wins .

    However I stand corrected but remain committed to a win for the submariners i.e Navy on this occassion being the underdogs and all that.

  • Mike the First

    Dec

    A fair point. The appropriation of Native American names/symbols and application of stereotypes is a troubling aspect of certain American sports franchises.

  • Kevsterino

    @Greenflag, last week I had tickets 21 rows behind home plate at Busch Stadium. Believe me when I tell you that it looks even more difficult the closer you get. All the great sluggers (in the American Baseball sense) had terrific vision and quick hands.

    As for the Midshipmen, as a veteran enlisted sailor in the USN, I can’t bring myself to cheer for a nest of future Ensigns ;o)

    Go Fighting Irish, Sink Navy!!!!

  • Mister_Joe

    I agree with Greenflag. As an avid watcher of football (soccer) matches on TV and even saw Liverpool against Crusaders in Belfast, I was looking forward to watching American football when I emigrated. Nothing more boring. And I was astounded to hear an American saying that he wouldn’t watch soccer because it was too slow.

  • lamhdearg2

    lock up your daughters.
    see above!.

  • Kevsterino

    The stoppages in play in American football allow us to get another beer from the fridge. And make nachos, lot of nachos.

  • Greenflag

    Notre Dame win and heres some links from RTE with videos on whats a tail gate party and how to keep the fans amused for three and a half hours . A good time was had by one and all and why not .

    The absence of the tail gate phenomenon from Ireland and the UK is probably due to the fact that there are a sufficiency of pubs near the stadiums to quench thirsts and also to protect from inclement weather .

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/0901/american-football-tourists.html

  • Greenflag

    American fans are a good natured and cheerful bunch of folk and well behaved .Alas the same cannot be said for some soccer supporters although there has been less ‘violence’ in recent years -mainly due I think to enhanced security etc.