Notre Dame Head Coach Marcus Freeman said his team is "excited" to be in Dublin ahead of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening, August 26.

"We're finally here and it's exciting to have wheels down here in Ireland," Freeman said on Thursday after the Fighting Irish squad arrived in Ireland.

"We're excited to be a part of this.

"I keep telling our players that we have to understand that we're here for a reason - to play a game and to win a game - but it's okay to enjoy being in the country of Ireland. I want them to embrace it and enjoy it because I'm going to." 

He added: "We're going to try and enjoy our time here.

"We obviously know we're here for a reason, but the chance for us and our families to experience a place like this is really exciting."

Freeman said at a press conference on Thursday that the eagerly anticipated Notre Dame - Navy game has been a "long time coming." The two rivals were due to play each other in Dublin in 2020, but the pandemic forced the event to be canceled.

More than 30,000 Notre Dame fans are expected to be in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, with thousands of local Irish fans also expected to support the Fighting Irish in their opening game of the college football season. 

Notre Dame has played Navy twice in Dublin before - once in 1996 and again in 2012. Notre Dame won both times. This year will be the first time the Fighting Irish have the home team designation while playing on the Emerald Isle.

Freeman said he expects the Aviva to be noisy on Saturday evening, adding that he hopes the atmosphere works in Notre Dame's favor. 

"I just had the chance to walk out in the stadium for the first time and you see how it's structured - it looks like it's gonna keep a lot of the noise inside. That, hopefully, is going to work in our favor," Freeman said.

"I've heard from the people I've talked to that there's Notre Dame fans everywhere over here. It's exciting but also a reminder of the global impact this university has." 

Freeman, who is beginning his second full season as Notre Dame's Head Coach, said Saturday's game would help grow American football in Europe. 

"Games like Saturday's game will help to grow the sport in Europe. There are great athletes in Europe, we see it in plenty of other sports."

Freeman also joked that he had been bamboozled by Irish roads since his arrival on Thursday morning. 

"I'm still messed up about driving on the other side of the road. The roads are so narrow. It scares me sometimes." 

Meanwhile, Notre Dame linebacker JD Bertrand spoke of his deep familial ties with the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's game. 

Bertrand's father Jim once captained Irish high school rugby team Blackrock College in the Leinster College Senior Schools Cup final at Lansdowne Road Stadium. The Aviva Stadium, which opened in 2010, stands on the same site as the old stadium. 

Bertrand said it was special to follow in his father's footsteps. 

"It's definitely exciting. I think the coolest opportunity for me is just that it brings together family from the US and from Ireland. It brings everyone together and allows us to be here.

"Just to have the opportunity to play in front of them, it's just an exciting time."