Dame Street - one of the busiest streets in Dublin City - has been renamed Notre Dame Street for the weekend ahead of Notre Dame's clash with the Navy Midshipmen in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic at the Aviva Stadium.

College Green and Dame Street have also been pedestrianized for 24 hours, starting at 8 p.m. on Friday and lasting until 10 p.m. on Saturday to allow college football fans to tailgate. 

Roughly 40,000 Americans have traveled to Ireland for the eagerly anticipated clash between Notre Dame and Navy, with approximately 32,000 Notre Dame fans and 8,000 Navy supporters flying across the Pond. It is reportedly the largest-ever movement of US citizens for a single event in peacetime. 

Padraic O'Kane, co-founder and director of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, revealed that the decision to rename Dame Street for the weekend happened after a "moment of madness" in South Bend last year. 

"It was a fantastic thing to do because you'll see them tailgating on Saturday," O'Kane said at a media event on Thursday. 

"Apologies Dublin, there's a little bit of disruption here, but when you've a huge event like this in town and if we're serious about bringing in big events, we have to have a central town that we can close down for huge events like this." 

Several events will be taking place around Dublin on Saturday ahead of the game, including pep rallies, cheer squad performances, and band performances. 

An independent report carried out by Fáilte Ireland and Grant Thornton has estimated that the game will contribute €147 million to the Irish economy and O'Kane said it will benefit the entire country, not just Dublin. 

"These guys are staying an average of seven nights. This is not a Dublin thing. This is an Ireland thing. Everybody is benefitting, everybody is getting to see what these teams are about.

"Every bar and restaurant in town is doing okay out of it. It's huge." 

O'Kane pointed to the Ireland-US CEO Club Lunch, which took place in the Mansion House on Friday with roughly 500 CEOs from both sides of the Atlantic in attendance. 

"It's a real great opportunity to connect Ireland and America and long may it last," O'Kane said. 

Variations of the Aer Lingus Classic took place sporadically between 1988 and 2016, with six college football games coming to Ireland over the 28-year period. 

However, next year's meeting between Georgia Tech and Florida State will mark the third year in a row that college football has come to Ireland and O'Kane told IrishCentral that he plans to make it an annual event, making Ireland a go-to destination for the opening weekend of the college football season - known as Week Zero. 

"We're in year three of a five-game series, but as far as we're concerned this is an annual event and Dublin will kickstart the college football season in Week Zero every year going forward. We've moved from every five years to every year and that's the objective," O'Kane told IrishCentral. 

He said he hopes the event will help build lasting connections between Ireland and universities that don't necessarily have an Irish connection. 

"While Notre Dame and Navy have great connections with Ireland, the two teams Georgia Tech and Florida State don't necessarily have them, but we still expect to see them back in eight or ten years as they build their relations with Irish universities and Irish businesses."

Notre Dame and Navy last played in Dublin in 2012 and were initially due to play in 2020 before the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

O'Kane said it took a huge level of cooperation between the public and private sector to reschedule the game for 2023 as it meant Notre Dame had to give up a home game at their 80,000-seater stadium to come to Dublin. 

"This is a Notre Dame home game which is usually a game we can't afford because their stadium holds 80,000 people. So we had to buy them out of that game and move two teams, which is two planes, two hotels, and 12 buses,

"We got like-minded people together, the likes of Aer Lingus, Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin City Council, and Grant Thornton. It's a fantastic public-private partnership that other events can learn from. We have both sides in a room doing the best for Ireland."