A group of fans of the University of Notre Dame American football team in
Galway's Eyre Square on Tuesday.Photograph credit: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Dublin: It is hard to miss that there is a Notre Dame/Navy football game going on here in Dublin.

There was not an empty seat on the Aer Lingus 109 from New York to Dublin last night as we joined the 35,000 mostly Irish fans who have flown from America in an unprecedented pilgrimage.

If you saw more green and “Go Irish” t-shirts per square foot than you’d see on St. Patrick’s Day, then you knew you were on the plane to the game.

You could hardly have missed it either as the Aer Lingus employees at the airport were decked out in Notre Dame caps in a nice touch.

Not that Navy was utterly outmatched. When the pilot announced as we closed in on Dublin that a Navy battleship was steaming into Dublin port right underneath us, the cheers for “Go Navy” were loud and raucous.

At the airport itself, Uncle Sam on stilts, perfectly kitted out in his red white and blue was there to greet the tired but eager fans as they poured off the plane.

A host of photographers and TV cameras closed in on theIrish Americansas they left the terminal. This game is big news here in Ireland and a massive boost worth an estimated $100 million to the ailing economy.

A large Notre Dame display in the main arrival hall at the airport added that extra touch to the festivities. This game has been organized expertly down to the last green balloon knot.

I had shared the flight with a couple from upstate New York who compared their trip to Ireland with the Hajj to see Mecca.

Lifelong Notre Dame fans, Bob and Ruth Murphy were living the dream as the plane decelerated and the Irish coastline came into view.

Neither had been to the Emerald Isle before but had been there often in their dreams. A sunny day sweeping away the wet weather that has plagued Ireland this summer awaited them.

“Perfect,” said Bob as he gazed out the window, as his wife slept. “A dream come true.”

The pilot announced that we were coming in over Mayo where Bob’s ancestral people come from so he felt right at home

At the Merrion Hotel, staff marveled at the enthusiasm and child-like happy faces they were seeing these last few days.

Notre Dame fans were in their second home and all of Dublin knew it.

The game has taken over the city and tickets on the black market are changing hands for $2,000.

The locals have embraced it. I had four messages from friends here asking about tickets.

It will be a wonderful occasion, like no other I have seen as the Fighting Irish take the field on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium a mile or so from here.

We can hardly wait.

Read more: For all the up-to-date news on the Notre Dame/ Navy Emerald Isle Classic click here