Nightmare end to the season for Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame team

Miami: In the end the dream season ended in a nightmare for Notre Dame, but the fans in Sun Life stadium in North Miami were still resilient despite the beating.

“Think how bad we’ve been for so many years,” said the woman from Virginia beside me as the Alabama juggernaut rolled over and crushed the Irish. “We made the national  title  game, that is amazing.’

True, but we had somehow convinced ourselves the stars had aligned and an incredible victory was at hand.

But as Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted, to be Irish is to know the world will break your heart.

There were a lot of broken hearts but no real complaints in Miami on Monday.

A journey that began in Dublin in September with a win over Navy took Irish fans on a magic carpet ride that finally crashed to earth on a humid night in Miami.

The refereeing decisions in the critical early plays went against Notre Dame, but even if they had got every bounce of the ball it would not have been enough.

It seemed like men against boys at times and the Irish faithful so boisterous, so upbeat, so hopeful at the start were soon reduced to shocked silence as Alabama moved the ball at will. The crimson tide proved unstoppable.

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It was clear from the beginning that the Irish fan base were more energized. This was not Alabama’s first rodeo and their fans were far less boisterous in the pre-game cheering sections.

They were like the Yankees in baseball, they expect to be playing for national championships every year.

The Irish certainly do not. The long drought since the mid 80s seemed interminable. The pent-up demand for Irish success was never more evident, the dream of a national championship no mirage as the season advanced with win after win.

Earlier, the Notre Dame tailgate party in Miami Beach was a celebration of a remarkable year. 10,000 fans paid $75 dollars a head to wine and dine, bask in the Florida sun, reminisce and brag and talk about the big game. The atmosphere was electric, the anticipation total. The shattering disappointment to come was still unseen.

So defeat was utterly devastating.

We trudged out of Sun Life Stadium late in the fourth quarter, heads down and spirits sagged but the disappointment will lift. As the lady from Virginia noted, the Irish have come a long way and the road back was always bound to have many turns. But the Fighting Irish made their fans proud from Dublin to South Bend and beyond.

Alas, it was not a championship season but it was a wonderful year.