Quick! Can you name the overseas event that will attract the largest number of Americans ever to Ireland or indeed anywhere in Europe?

You would be right if you answered Notre Dame vs. Navy in Dublin, set for August 26, 2023, a football game that will attract 39,000 fans from the US, according to ticket sales and airline bookings.

It really is an astonishing number, the biggest American invasion of Europe ever bar D-Day. It certainly is a counterpoint to all those Irish-based critics who love to announce the imminent death of the Irish diaspora. Like the corpse in the ballad “Finnegan’s Wake” who leaps back to life, the diaspora is far from done.

The 2023 Aer Lingus College Football Classic, to give it its full title, will be at Aviva Stadium in Dublin and it has now officially sold out, according to organizers.

“The demand for tickets for the 2023 Aer Lingus College Football Classic proves that Ireland is the home of college football outside of the United States,” said Padraic O’Kane, co-founder and director of the event.

“This year’s event in Dublin will see the largest movement of Americans into Europe in peace time, with the game set to provide a huge boost to the Irish economy and hospitality sector.”

The game between the Fighting Irish and Midshipmen will be the third meeting between the two historical college football teams in Ireland. The first was held on November 2, 1996. The legendary Lou Holtz was the Irish coach and 10,000 traveled over for the festivities.

On November 2nd 1996 an American Football clash between Navy & Notre Dame was held @CrokePark. The ‘Fighting Irish’ defeated Navy 54 to 27. pic.twitter.com/oHWQ7phzks

— Croke Park (@CrokePark) November 2, 2016

The game itself was the brainchild of Irish businessman Michael Smurfit and Don Keough, president of Coca-Cola and chairman of the board of Notre Dame. He was the leading Irish American of his era. 

Keough had created the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies in 1992 in tandem with Dublin-based businessman and philanthropist Martin Naughton, and the 1996 game was a huge opportunity to introduce the Notre Dame colossus to the Irish public. The Irish won 52-27.

The most recent Notre Dame - Navy game in Ireland was September 1, 2012, when the Irish defeated the Midshipmen 50-10 at the Aviva. Brian Kelly was the Irish coach. 

The 2023 meeting will be the first Notre Dame home game played in Ireland, as the previous two meetings were Navy home game designations in the series. 

The events have been an unrivaled success. Notre Dame fans went everywhere and did not just stick around the Dublin area. I remember being in Kerry a week after the game and seeing hundreds of blue and gold fans still filling the tourist haunts.

It is clear that Notre Dame followers have bought into the Irish journey. It is a brilliant piece of marketing. For Notre Dame fans who had planned someday to go to Ireland, the game provides the perfect opportunity.

The 2023 College Football Classic has been valued in an independent report from Failte Ireland and the Grant Thornton accounting firm to be worth in excess of €147 million to the Irish economy. 

O’Kane said, “Based on previous college football events held in Ireland, data indicates that American visitors for the game will stay an average of seven nights in Ireland and visit three different destinations. The most popular of those destinations include Dublin, Galway, Belfast and Killarney.”

The game will be televised live on NBC and Peacock in the United States while Sky Sports will also broadcast the game live to Irish and United Kingdom audiences. 

The official game week app will go live at the start of July when the full official events program will be released.

Seems like an Irish hooley like no other.

*This column first appeared in the May 31 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral