There will be a bit more of the Irish -- well, the American variety, that is -- in Dublin on Saturday when Notre Dame takes on Navy in a college football season opener.
This will be the first college football game played in Ireland since 1996, when the Midshipmen also took on the Fighting Irish, who won the game, 54-27, before a half-filled stadium at Croke Park in Dublin.
When the two teams meet on Saturday in the Emerald Isle Classic, it will be in the newly built Aviva Stadium, which holds 50,000 and usually plays host to Ireland’s top soccer and rugby teams. The game will be broadcast by CBS at 6 a.m. Pacific time.
An estimated 35,000 fans of Notre Dame and Navy have traveled to Ireland for the game. And it’s not just Dublin that is getting a boost in tourism.
“Dublin is full, there are people staying 50 miles away,” said Tim Fenn, chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation. “What has been great about this particular event has been the fact that it has taken the people out into the regions.”
Many visitors are expected to take advantage of Ireland’s golf courses.
“When Americans come out here and visit and play golf, they are absolutely overwhelmed with the beauty of the place, provided the weather is benign,” said Henry Collier, president of the Island Golf Club in Dublin. “We all know with Irish weather it is hit and miss.”
Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly was prepared for foul weather.
“No rain, very shocking, I was expecting rain,” Kelly said on Thursday. “I had the rain gear out, but this is a beautiful sunny day in Ireland.”
Adding to the flavor of the event, the U.S. Navy docked an amphibious-assault warship in Dublin and Middie fans have rallied in St. Stephen’s Green, the city’s central park. A Notre Dame pep rally Friday night is being broadcast live on state TV in Ireland. Later, an open-air Catholic Mass from inside the grounds of Dublin Castle will take place.
Notre Dame leads the series, 71-12-1. Navy has won three of the last five meetings, although the Irish won last season, 56-14.
Wire service and Internet reports contributed to this report.