An amazing day at the Aviva as big time American Football came to town
The Emerald Isle Classic between Notre Dame and Navy took place in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin and JOE soaked up all the colour, craziness, craic and madness that was the NCAA on tour.
You have to hand it to the Yanks, no one does spectacle like them.
Approaching a sun-bathed Aviva Stadium was a shock to system as the Irish and American fans-alike soaked up the shared novelty of each other’s company for the big game.
The atmosphere wasn’t too dissimilar to a big rugby or soccer match, but it was imbued with a trademark starry-eyed US optimism.
No aggro, no adrenaline-fuelled bravado or shouting, just cheery-Americans and bemused Irish fans enjoying some of the marching band music which carried on from the tailgate party in Temple Bar earlier in the day.
The NCAA on tour.
Some things were different. Scalpers with cockney accents were trying to make a quick buck selling tickets of dubious quality.
Phrases such as “Did you finish your hooch?” were overheard as some ball-fans drained the obligatory pint of Guinness in some of D4’s finest watering-holes.
For the American fans too, there were some points of interest.
The jerseys worn by the few lucky Irish, who procured tickets for one thing; Gone were the navy, gold and white colours of the Fighting Irish and the Navy Midshipmen and in their stead the green of Irish soccer and rugby geansaís and an assortment of NFL jerseys, the majority with Tim Tebow’s name emblazoned on the back.
The usual traders who have hawked their wares outside Lansdowne Road for time in memoriam were astounded at the amount of half-in-half commemorative match scarves they sold in the morning.
A press release from the Navy media team on arrival to the stadium revealed that both sets of US fans loved the “European-style soccer scarves.”
Like a good first date, there was an initial awkwardness but after embracing the novelty factor the fans got on and enjoyed the fresh feel.
Some things were the same however.
The competing battle cries of the two sides – “Navy, Navy, Navy!” answered by “Irish, Irish, Irish!” – sounded very similar to the incessant droning of the “Leinster, Leinster...” chants that have become a frequently played soundtrack to the Aviva in recent years.
Aw, well – you best put up with the annoyances too.
Speaking of which, the match was interspersed with musical interludes like Rocky’s theme music and ACDC’s Highway to Hell, this was balanced out by some crappy early noughties Nu-Metal from the likes of Linkin Park.
Again, the good with the bad.
The match kicked off with renditions of the Star Spangled Banner, followed by one of the most amazing renditions of Amhrán na bhFiann we’ve ever heard ironically sung by the US Navy Glee Club. We've heard some pretty appalling attempts at the Irish anthem in this stadium over the years and it took a foreign band to show us how it should be done.
In return we gave our visitors Minister Leo Varadkar shilling The Gathering on the big screen.
Not that The Gathering is bad idea (it’s actually a nifty enough one) it’s just, Vardakar, a man frequently mocked by comedian Mario Rosenstock as “The American,” and his Fine Gael party can’t do razzmatazz like, well, the actual Americans...
The game itself was just under four hours long and broadcast on ESPN America.
It didn’t go well for the Navy Midshipmen as the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame dominated and lived up to their nickname, pummelling their opponents with greater physicality and size.
An early heavy hit on the Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson drew groans from uninitiated Irish hacks and shrugs from the ones from the States.
This wasn’t going to be no prom-dance guys.
With 10minutes to go in the quarter, the Irish, Notre Dame that is, went over in the corner for a touchdown, finally breaking a stalwart Navy defence.
Running back Theo Riddick was the man that went over and the Aviva got to see the first chest-bump celebration in its history, here’s hoping that Drico might adopt it for the next rugby test.
Notre Dame ended the first quarter 13-0 up, Irish fans also getting to see a spectacular 56 yard touchdown from running back George Atkinson III, some US fans seeing his rugby-style dive over the line as a tribute to the home of Irish international rugby.
After a tribute to Navy’s rugby team, one of the best collegiate sides in the States, though they loss to Trinity 19-12 the day before in one of the numerous athletic events taking place surrounding the classic, the second quarter got underway.
It was much same as the first quarter, Notre Dame scoring two touchdowns.
The first was a clever throw from quarterback Golson into the goliath-like Tyler Eifret.
One Irish fan made an observation of the freakish physical attributes of Eifret:
Watch out Paulie and Tommy in that case.
Navy registered a field goal in the last action of the second quarter and first half to leave the score 27-3 at the break.
At half-time the Irish in attendance were treated to a special tribute by the Notre Dame marching band that played the admittedly corny Danny Boy, but pulled off this formation:
Pretty damn cool Notre Dame. Kudos
The Navy finally bagged their first touchdown at the start of the third quarter to give them some hope of recovering something from the match.
The touchdown came appropriately from an Irish-sounding player, Shawn Lynch, who converted the 25 yard pass from Trey Miller.
Any thought of a recovery for Navy was as quickly dismissed though with the following scores.
We’re not sure if Notre running backs Atkinson and Riddick picked up any souvenirs from Carroll’s Giftshop while they were here, but they picked up a two touchdowns apiece in the Aviva Stadium, both scoring their second in the third quarter.
A pretty successful trip for the two lads.
The game finished 50-10, a rout for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in Ireland against the Navy.
All in all, there was a great vibe leaving the Aviva Stadium from Irish and Americans alike, "this worked well" was the general consensus.
Initial misgivings over the logistics of the trip were forgotten in the festival atmosphere in the Aviva, that found a feel-good factor that has been lacking in some rugby and soccer matches held here in the recent past.
Many hoped for a return.
Some Irish fans hoped that American ambassador to Ireland and former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers Dan Rooney would continue to press for an NFL match to be played here in the Aviva or Croker. This match hopefully evidence that Dublin could handle American Football as well as Notre Dame's running backs can handle the pigskin.
Some American fans asked about where to visit in the country in their remaining days on the Emerald Isle.
Nearly all the lads leaving the stadium, Irish and American alike, hoped that some of the cheerleaders would find their way to Copperface Jacks nightclub later, showing that despite the wonderful differences, there were a lot of similarities between us.