Touchdown for American football fans

Wed, Aug 29, 2012, 01:00

THE ECONOMIC benefits of this weekend’s American football game in Dublin are already being felt around the country as thousands of US visitors have arrived early to visit popular tourism sites and to play golf.

More than 35,000 Americans are expected to travel to Ireland for the sold-out Navy versus Notre Dame game on Saturday afternoon. The Emerald Isle Classic will kick off at 2pm in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

CIÉ Tours International is hosting 1,500 visitors, taking them to attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara and Killarney.

John Madden is leading a group of 227 football fans from Scranton, Pennsylvania. They arrived in Dublin on Monday and stopped at the Guinness Storehouse in the city and Kilbeggan Distillery, near Mullingar, Co Westmeath, before heading west.

“Nothing like a Guinness and a whiskey early in the day,” he said. “Everyone is having a ball. They love the pubs at night and today we are enjoying a visit to Connemara Marble.”

CIÉ tour guide Brendan Heneghan is with a group of 84 fans who arrived on Saturday. “They are very excited about the game on Saturday,” he said.

Accommodation is so scarce in Dublin this weekend that the group will be staying in Cavan on the night of the match, returning to Dublin to fly home on Sunday.

The group leader Inge Gladieux said the two teams last played each other here in 1996. “Sixteen years ago we did exactly the same itinerary, and about 30 per cent of our group are from that trip. They enjoyed it so much they wanted to do exactly the same thing.”

Their trip takes in the Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle, Dingle and the Ring of Kerry.

In the group are some retired football players, including Bob Gladieux and Coley O’Brien, who were both on the Notre Dame team in 1966 when they controversially drew with Michigan State and both colleges were awarded national championships.

Mr O’Brien said he had wanted to come here when Notre Dame played Navy in 1996 but left it too late to book his place.

“When I heard they were coming back I said I would definitely be there,” he said. “We are enjoying it so far. I will have seen a lot of country before the game.”

Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar said the arrival of 35,000 Americans was “a massive tourism boost” and would be worth about €100 million to the economy.

HAVING A BALL: Events planned around the Navy v Notre Dame fixture

Dozens of events have been planned around the Navy v Notre Dame college football game this weekend.

* The 02 will host Notre Dame’s pep-rally on Friday evening. The pre-game celebration, hosted by Miriam O’Callaghan, has been sold out but will be broadcast on RTÉ One television, RTÉ Radio 1 Extra and on RTÉ’s YouTube channel. The concert will include performances by Brian Kennedy, Damien Dempsey, Eimear Quinn and the High Kings as well as the Notre Dame folk choir and cheerleaders.

* The Navy pep-rally will be held in St Stephen’s Green at 5.30pm on Friday and will include traditional band and cheerleader performances.

* On Saturday morning, up to 5,000 Notre Dame supporters will attend an open-air Mass in the upper courtyard of Dublin Castle, which will be broadcast on RTÉ television and radio on Sunday morning.

* On Monday, a Notre Dame family pilgrimage will include Croagh Patrick and Attymass, the birthplace of Fr Patrick Peyton. An alternate route will include Knock shrine.

* The Global Ireland Football Tournament, involving 12 American and Canadian high school teams will be held in Parnell Park, Donnybrook Stadium, and Páirc Tailteann in Navan on Friday.

* The Navy and Notre Dame teams are also bringing other sports teams with them. Rugby, boxing, tennis and squash matches have been arranged against local opposition.

* The US Navy dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry will be docked at Dublin Port and will be offering public tours on Saturday and Sunday through a lottery run by the US embassy in Dublin.

* The University of Notre Dame is also involved in a series of academic events in Dublin, including lectures in Trinity College, the Royal Irish Academy and the Science Gallery. ALISON HEALY

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