In any aspect of life, taking a step up is always tough. A
new challenge will always add to the physical and mental strains being put on
you. This is particularly true in sport. When a team is promoted to a higher
division it can take a while for the players to adjust to all aspects of
playing at that higher level. If you’re going to be playing with the big boys,
then you’re going to have to put in the work.
It starts in the gym. Like it or not, strength and
conditioning are going to play an integral part in your success at the next
level. You don’t need to be jacked, but you need to have the durability and
explosiveness to compete with the guys you’ll be playing against. Becoming
stronger should also help you to avoid the unfortunate injuries that are part
and parcel of playing American Football.
But playing American football out of your comfort zone is more than big muscles and fast 40’s. It’s as much a mental thing as it is physical. You need to have faith and belief like never before. If a game isn’t going the way you had hoped the worst thing you can do is let your head drop. Becoming a student of the game will also help immensely. Get your head into game tape and learn about your opponent. What are their tendencies? How often to they blitz? Having even the slightest advantage over the other guy will go a long way. When you line up and you already know what the guy across from you is going to do, your chances of beating him have doubled.
Both the talent of players and the standard of play in a
higher division is naturally going to be higher, so It’s up to you to put in
the necessary work that will be required to compete. I’ve played at all levels of competitive
American Football in Ireland and in a lot of cases there is a massive gulf
between teams playing in the top division and those in the lower leagues. And
realistically, it should not be that hard for teams playing in IAFL1 or 2 to make
the jump. It will take consistency, it will take dedication and it will take
sacrifice. But if you love this sport as much as I do, it will be worth it.
If you want to win trophies and you want to play with the
big boys then you better up your game.
The Notre Dame mascot is one of the most iconic in sport. On
game day, the spirit of the ‘Fighting Irish” is brought to life by the Cheer Squad,
in particular those select few who don the green blazer and bowler to become
the Leprechaun. Notre Dame recently announced three new mascots and one of
those fortunate enough to have earned this honour, is Conal Fagan. Conal hails
from Derry, in the North of Ireland and is the first native Irishman to take on
the mantle of the Notre Dame Leprechaun.
But how does a kid from Ireland end up as Notre Dame’s most recognisable
representative? We caught up with Conal and he told us all about his amazing
journey from St Columb’s College in Derry to a scholarship studying Political
Science and Peace Studies in South Bend.
So how just did Conal end up at Notre Dame?
“Two kids from my school had gone to study in the US before
me, so they really inspired me to look into it. “ While still in school, Conal
began applying for the Sutton Trust, a program which helps youngsters from low
and middle income families apply to Colleges in the states. “The process for
applying to US colleges is a lot more holistic and denser than applying in the
UK or Ireland so it’s not really something you do half-heartedly. As soon as I
put my mind to it, I knew that the US was where I needed to be.” As part of the
Sutton Trust program, Conal was flown to the US to experience first-hand what
college life was like in the States. After months of research and preparation,
Conal’s decision came down to either Notre Dame or University of North
Carolina. “I’m confident I made the right choice!”
What was the draw of
For Conal, it was vital that he ended up in a place where he would feel right at home, and where he would be part of a community. “A word that really resonates with people here is ‘family’ – no matter when you graduated, if you meet a fellow alum there’s an instant connection.” The Notre Dame family has a global reach, even as far as South Africa, which Conal found out while coaching soccer in the townships as a volunteer last summer. A family of Notre Dame Fans spotted the ND hoodie he was wearing and instantly recognised him as one of their own. It was then that it really hit home for Conal how powerful and influential the ND brand is around the world. “One of the hardest things to explain back home is just how influential and integral Alumni are.”
to being a lifelong member of such a powerful graduate network, the
opportunities offered to students at Notre Dame is absolutely “crazy”. From
getting to travel around the world for research to meeting some of the most
promising young athletes, there’s so much to do. The driving factor for moving
abroad to study is summed up by Conal as a desire for self-growth, and to defy
the norm. “One of the biggest reasons why I decided to move to the US was that
I wanted to push myself outside of what was comfortable. And I really haven’t
looked back since”.
Now to the burning question we all have, how the hell did Conal end up on the Notre Dame Cheerleading squad? Well, it all started with a Notre Dame Onesie. That onesie became his attire for every basketball game he attended, and at every game Conal would be courtside leading the fans in their chants. “ Going to the Brandywell ( the home ground of Derry City FC) to see Derry play, I used to sit in the ‘Jungle’ – so I had good experience of being noisy!” But Conal wanted to do more at games than just sit in the crowd. He wanted to be a bigger part of the experience. And joining the cheer squad was the best way to do this. “I honestly think the cheerleaders were confused as to how I was so energetic at the games! I had a friend on the squad and when she heard me discussing the possibility of joining, she gave me the push that I needed. It’s been such an incredible experience so far!”
What’s it like being the mascot and representing the Notre Dame spirit? “I can’t emphasise enough how amazing the experience has been” Conal’s friends initially thought it would be hilarious if someone from Ireland auditioned for the role of the leprechaun, but once he began to realise what exactly the position meant and the opportunities that came with it, it was simply too good for him to turn down. Because mascots aren’t really a thing in Ireland, at first it was quite difficult for Conal to convey the significance of the role, but one he started to appear on TV and on social media people began to grasp the idea a little better.
“Putting on the suit honestly makes you feel like a
superhero. When you adopt this persona, it represents more than you can ever
The first few weeks of being the mascot were quite
overwhelming for Conal as he adjusted to being bombarded for photograph
requests as well as being constantly on the go to events, games and other
appearances. But no matter how hectic the schedule, for Conal “..The benefits
will always outweigh the drawbacks.”
“Pulling on that jersey (in my case a suit) is one of the
best feelings. It’s the stuff dreams are made of”.
As Cheerleading isn’t
really a thing here in Ireland, can you tell us how big part of University
sports culture it is in the States?
“A lot of people’s perceptions of cheerleading are based on
what they see in movies, and to be honest, it couldn’t be further from the
truth. I think most people imagine that cheerleading involves running around in
a leotard waving pom- poms! In reality, I get to throw people in the air and do
some really insane stunts, none of which I ever thought I could do! It’s a
super dangerous sport that requires a huge amount of strength, technique and
focus.” Cheerleaders in America are full time athletes, who have to train four
times a week as well as lifting twice a week. But the reward for all the hard
work is getting to run out in front of 80,000 people at home football games as
well as the millions watching on TV at home. “I don’t think I could have ever
pictured this as a kid back home!”
Becoming the face of the Fighting Irish cheer squad wasn’t
Fagan’s first brush with Athletics. In fact, he had previously been part of the
Notre Dame Men’s Soccer programme! Before he came to South Bend, he was already
playing soccer at a high level having made appearances for both the Northern
Ireland U15/16 team as well as Derry City’s U17/19 team. Fagan had already considered playing in a US
college, but didn’t want soccer to define his university experience. An email
from a highly respected coach encouraging him to give it a shot, however, made
his decision a lot more straightforward. And although he did not ultimately
make an appearance for the team, working with some of the best players and
coaches in the country undoubtedly gave him a strong start and a competitive
edge to his time in Notre Dame.
As Conal gears up for the 2019/2020 season, his main goal on
the field is to learn how to do a flip! “It’s something I’ve always wanted to
learn to do but never really been able to focus the time on so I feel that it’s
the perfect time to take advantage.” Off the field, a summer internship in
Australia awaits where he’ll be working with Paralympians and Disabled
Athletes. A flat out but very rewarding
year awaits him! Best of luck Conal and thanks for taking the time to talk to
American football is a contact sport, and chances are that if you play at some stage you’re going to get injured. Bumps and bruises are part and parcel of the game and normally won’t impact on your playing time. But twisted ankles, sprained wrists and cracked ribs all pose a bigger challenge! There’s a distinct difference between playing hurt and playing injured. In the ten or so years I’ve been playing American football in Ireland, I’ve almost lost count of the number of injuries that I’ve picked up.
In fact, this year alone I’ve been injured 7 (yes 7 ) times since January. I’m what you might call injury prone”.
But the point of this article isn’t to focus on the negative aspects of being injured. Quite the opposite in fact. Oftentimes when players get injured, their heads will drop and they’ll get disheartened. The worst thing you can do is wallow. This will only make things worse. Recovering from an injury is just as much a mental thing as it is physical. So what exactly can you do to make sure you get back on the field as soon as possible?
Keep working out.
The most important thing you can do to aid your recovery from a football injury is to stay as active as possible. Not only will working out keep you in game shape, it will keep the blood pumping and flowing which is vital in promoting healing. One of the biggest benefits of exercise is the release of endorphins; that magic happy hormone too boost your mood and overall productivity. It goes without saying that you should only push yourself as much as you feel comfortable with, doing your best not to re-injure yourself.
Just because you’re injured, doesn’t mean you’re no longer part of the team. Get yourself to training – you can learn just as much from watching and listening as you can from actually playing. Watching from the sideline will give you a different perspective and a different viewpoint from which to improve. Staying involved will keep you sharp and make your return to the field a lot easier.
You won’t be injured forever. Keep your head up and keep working towards getting back to playing. Tracking your rehabilitation will help you to see how you are progressing and how close you are to returning to play.
Injuries happen in our sport, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to never experience one then you are truly one of the lucky ones. But if you’re like me then you know just how demoralizing it can be to have to sit and look on as your team play. But trust me when I say that if you rehab properly and have the right attitude then you will be recovered and ready to play in no time.
On Saturday afternoon, the 2019 SBC Season will kick off with the South Dublin Panthers hosting last year’s runners up, the Dublin Rebels. This season there are 22 teams competing in kitted football, the most that we can ever remember being active at the one time. It is without a doubt a time of great growth for the league and indeed the sport on the Island of Ireland. With one brand new team coming on board and one team returning to the fold, there will be a lot of football played in Ireland over the next 5 months.
There are changes afoot in the IAFL, and after years of poor management and shenanigans, the league finally seems to be moving in the right direction.
We recently sat down with IAFA Commissioner Brian Cleary to get his take on this growth and what is in store for the Irish American Football League during 2019 and beyond.
GG: What are your thoughts on the recent growth of the game in Ireland?
BC: I think everyone will agree that growth in any sport is a positive thing and it’s brilliant to see new teams expressing an interest and joining the association every year. This year we have a brand new team with the Causeway Giants and we welcome the return of the Waterford Wolves. We already have interest from two brand new teams for next season in parts of the country that has never had a team so we are definitely heading in the right direction. It’s important though that we manage our growth responsibly to ensure that all the clubs are sustainable and that we have the resources within the association to meet the growing demand for football in Ireland. While it’s great to have new adult kitted clubs coming on board each year, I feel it’s important we don’t neglect the need focus on the growth potential of flag football, youth football and indeed women in sport. Those are the areas that I feel will take our association to the next level and plans are underway to ensure we experience growth in those areas in the coming years.
GG: What, if any, challenges are presented by new teams coming on board?
BC: New teams means more football, which is great but the challenge is then scheduling all those games to take place within the 5-6 months of our season. We are somewhat limited with the amount of games we can facilitate every Sunday and it’s pretty much dictated by the availability of home grounds and number of qualified full-time officials. We have started scheduling some games on Saturday’s and/or having double headers and I’m hoping that going forward more teams are willing to play on days other than a Sunday. We have recently restructured our officiating department and we now have a dedicated officiating development manager so we hope to see more full time officials coming on board to meet the growing demand.
GG:How have the league been working to promote the sport and support the creation of new teams?
BC: In late 2018 the board appointed a Director of Development – Niall O’Connor. This is a position that has been vacant for a number of years within our association and probably one of the positions we needed the most to develop and promote the sport. Niall brings in a wealth of experience and spent the last few months learning about the association and identifying our needs. I think we will start to see the benefit of his work and input in the months to come.
In relation to new teams we are currently in the process of developing a handbook. The aim of this handbook is to help brand new or developing teams identify everything they need to successfully set up and run a club. A very rough version of this was actually supplied to the two new teams that joined us this year and indeed to the teams that are hoping to join us next season. It included a basic checklist on what was required to set up a club, a sample budget, constitution bylaws and general pointers on what is expected of a club. To my knowledge this was the first time the association has issued such a document to clubs and the feedback has been very positive. We hope to have the final version complete before the years end, which should be a big support for new clubs.
GG: How will the announcement of more college games to be played here impact the growth of the game?
BC: The college games present an amazing opportunity to promote our sport and raise awareness that American Football actually exists in Ireland. We have developed a good working relationship with organizer of these events and there will be most certainly opportunities for IAFA to benefit from these games. While I can’t go into great detail on it at the moment the focus will be on education and exposure for IAFA and its members.
GG: What advice would you have for someone thinking about playing American football in Ireland for the first time?
BC: I would say just get down to your local club and give it a go. If you’re thinking about it then you must have at least a small interest in it, so just do it. The American Football community are very welcoming to new players and all our coaches our certified by Coaching Ireland so you’ll be sure to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Be careful though, once you start playing it you’ll be hooked and never look back. It’s a great sport to be part of and you’re sure to meet a great bunch of people who will become friends for life.
GG: Where do you see the league in 5 years’ time?
BC: How long have you got? I would like to see growth and development across all areas of the association. I would like to have maintained a consistent and competitive league structure not just for our adult kitted league but also for youth football. I can see our national team the Irish Wolfhounds participating in International competitions and our full time officials participating in such tournaments. I can see a massive growth in flag football particularly within schools and this is currently being supported by the NFL UK, which we are very fortunate to have working with us. Our Director of Coaching, Emma Burrows has already commenced a five year plan to raise the standard of coaching in Ireland. This is currently on track and I would be very hopeful that it will result in a very clear path, for new and existing coaches to develop their skills. I would like to see IAFA’s first all-female kitted game of football within five years with the ultimate goal of an all-female league being set up soon after.
I could literally talk forever on what I would like to see for our future but finally I think it’s important that IAFA improves its reputation both nationally and internationally, with the aim of securing sponsorship and commercial opportunities that can be used to further develop the association.
In a little over a month, the 2019 Irish American football season will kick off and players up and down the country are busy preparing for what promises to be the best set of fixtures yet. And while knowing the playbook inside out is a critical part of a player’s success, being physically prepared for the inevitable toil is just as important. Anyone who has played the sport knows just how sore you can be on a Monday after hitting and getting hit repeatedly the day before. So what can you do to get your body ready for the upcoming season?
Strength and condition is a critical part of being an American football player. Unless you’re naturally strong enough, chances are you’re going to have to lift. Even lifting twice a week will give you an edge. The key exercises for football players are: bench press, squats, dead-lifts and cleans. Physical strength and explosiveness are essential qualities to succeed on the field. But it’s not all about pumping iron. In order to keep up with the fast paced, stop start nature of the game, you’re going to need to run. A lot. A mix of sprints and longer runs should give you the speed and endurance required to play.
Depending on what position you’re playing, you’re going to have to retain a certain weight and size. For example, anyone playing a high contact positon like Linebacker, Running Back or anywhere on the line will need to be heavier and bulkier than someone playing WR or DB. Getting enough protein in your diet can often be challenging. Instead of just having toast for breakfast, try to include some eggs or even chicken. For dinner, adding red meat or fish will make a significant difference to your muscle mass. And remember: If you’re trying to get lean by cutting carbs, you’re going to lose strength and size too!
Rest days are just as important, if not even more so, than working out. Rest is invaluable to your body’s recovery – allowing for muscle growth and retention. If you’ve had a particularly tough training session or game, the best thing you can do after is rest! Those aches and pains will only get worse if you do an intense workout the day after a game. If you absolutely have to exercise, a quick walk to get the blood flowing will do the trick.
It’s important to remember though that every player is different and will have their own fitness ideology. This article is only intended as a guide, for new players and for veterans looking to get a few tips on how to become a better competitor and athlete! We are by no means qualified experts!
Do you have a workout or meal plan that you swear by for football? Let us know in the comments!
Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us and the entire nation is getting in on the act. What was once a niche event on the Irish sporting calendar has grown to become a nationwide celebration of all things USA. As American Football continues to grow in popularity here, pubs up and down the country are stocking up on hot dogs as they prepare to feed fans until the wee hours of Monday morning. It’s a far cry from a few years ago when you’d be hard pushed to find even one place that would invest in a late licence in order to stay open to show it.
Whether this Is your first Super Bowl, or your tenth (god I’m old) it’s essential that you find the right spot to settle in and cheer on whoever is playing against Tom Brady. For the ultimate Super Bowl atmosphere and experience, nowhere beats The Woolshed. Dublin’s best sports bar transforms into NFL world with every screen in the place (that’s a lot) showing the game. 3 bars across two floors ensures that you’re never waiting too long for a drink. And if you’re feeling peckish during the game, you can literally get a bucket of wings delivered to your table. What more could you want?
If you don’t fancy the trek down Parnell Street then have no fear because the south side of the city also has plenty of options to watch the Super Bowl! An old favorite of mine is Sinnotts, beside St.Stephen’s Green. Sinnotts has a huge cinema style screen as well as several smaller screens so you’re guaranteed to have a good view from wherever you’re sitting. Although if you do want to be sitting I’d recommend getting in early as both The Woolshed and Sinnotts will be packed by 9pm at the latest. Grub wise, Sinnotts does some pretty savage platters, perfect for picking on throughout the night. The burgers are also decent. Wherever you end up, there’ll be no shortage of soakage options, ensuring that you can keep the pints up till the 4th quarter!
*If you do hit The Woolshed, make sure to keep an eye out for the West Dublin Rhinos American Football team!
Once you’ve decided where to watch the game and sorted yourself out with some wings – it’s time to play NFL jersey bingo! Ireland has a huge sleeper NFL fan base, and Super Bowl Sunday brings them all out of the woodwork. While it’s a given that there will be an unbearable amount of Patriots jerseys with ‘Brady’ or ‘Gronkowski’ on the back, you’re guaranteed to also see a few gems. Will you spot an ill-fated Browns Johnny Manziel jersey? Or perhaps an orange crush Denver broncos top. Those are pretty sweet.
Whatever the outcome of Super Bowl 53, the important thing is to have the craic. Sunday will literally see the forces of Good and Evil battling it out for a year of bragging rights, and the city of Dublin is bound to be buzzing.
Being a Backup QB in the NFL is a handy gig. You earn a shitload of money to sit on the sideline drinking Gatorade and having the craic. Every once in a while you might be called in to close out a game or hold a snap. But things are changing. Backup QB’s are fast becoming the saviors of NFL franchises. Nick Foles is the prime example of this tectonic shift. Foles cemented his place in NFL history last season, when he came off the bench to lead the Eagles to Superbowl glory, earning MVP honors for his trouble. Foles also gained the adulation of Philadelphia. Philly sports fans are notoriously tough to please, and by bestowing him with the title of “Big Dick Nick” they have made him one of theirs forever. The underdog QB nearly repeated his heroics this season but suffered an unfortunate stumble at the Divisional round hurdle.
Nick Foles isn’t the only backup QB to be unexpectedly thrust into action in recent times. 49ers 3rd stringer Nick Mullens went from zero to hero this year when he was forced to replace both Jimmy G and CJ Beathard. Mullens more than stepped up to the plate and in 8 games threw for 2,277 yards and 13 touchdowns. He formed a strong connection with Tight End George Kittle, which will certainly benefit them both when the roster is being set next Summer. Mullens’ real triumph however, came off the field, when his Twitter profile became verified. You know you’ve made it in life when that little blue tick appears next to your name. Now that’s validation.
While this trend of the number two signal caller riding in to save the day may seem relatively new, we must remember that the greatest QB of our generation was once a back up himself. Yes, as much as it pains me, I am in fact talking about Tom Brady. When he was drafted out of Michigan in 2000, no one thought that he would ever amount to much. But Mr. Irrelevant took his chance to usurp the incumbent New England Passer and never once relinquished his grip. Over the course of almost 20 years, Brady went from scrawny understudy to NFL golden boy. And love him or loathe him, you have to admit that he has done so much for the game of American Football, especially serving as an inspiration for young QB’s who want to one day lead a franchise.
September 2019 will almost certainly see Wentz and Garoppolo back at their respective helms, there will always be hope for the back up. Your day will come.
(Shout out to Matt Saracen, possibly the greatest back up turned starter ever)
And then there were twelve. The dust has settled on the regular season, and tonight 4 teams will do battle in the Wildcard Round. The top prize is on the line: a trip to the Superbowl.
It’s been a weird 4 months of football. Pass defense seemed to fall by the wayside as high octane offenses dueled to outscore each other. It was only down the stretch that teams remembered that they had secondary’s. The emergence of rookie gunslingers like Mahomes and Goff and the resurgence of the legendary Drew Brees were the main factors behind the apparent redundancy of defending against the pass.
But it wasn’t just defensive backs who became villains. Pass rushers, Clay Matthews in particular seemed to become persona non grata with the league. In the early part of the season, defenders who even breathed aggressive were penalized for roughing the passer. It became so farcical that Ndamukong Suh created his own PSA demonstration video on how to safely tackle the Quarterback.
Disastrous defense aside, there were a number of other notable events that marred the season.
Le’veon Bell’s holdout at the start of the season cast a shroud over the Steelers. Bell’s absence was a massive distraction for the team and is undoubtedly the reason they got off to such a rocky start. But Bell’s holdout also revealed the true nature of professional football, the side we don’t like to acknowledge. Money. The league is a business, and these men are assets. Bell has every right as an employee to demand more money, but because we like to ignore this facet of football, he was portrayed as the bad guy, greedy and gutless for holding out on his teammates and his fans.
You could write a whole thesis on the ins and outs of professional athletes and their rights vis a vis payment. All we’ll say for now is that by taking the above action, Bell has guaranteed two things. 1: He has played his last game for Pittsburgh and 2. Other Running Backs are going to follow in his lead.
The NFL has a checkered history of players committing physical assault. Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and more recently Reuben Foster have all been accused of violence against women. In some cases the league will pay lip-service and then sweep it under the carpet. But occasionally, they’ll make an example. 2018’s perpetrator was Kareem Hunt, the electric Chiefs Running Back. Within an hour of a video of him appearing to hit someone surfaced, his former time cut ties. There message was loud and clear: “We don’t want anything to do with him.” And you can’t blame them. In order to maintain some sort of a good reputation, the NFL has to be tougher on this issue. Zero tolerance. Zero excuses.
It has indeed been an up and down year in the NFL. I haven’t even enjoyed watching games as much as I used to. Hopefully the 2019 season will be better. As for the Post Season Finale in February: The Chiefs and the Rams will battle it out in Atlanta for a chance to lift the Lombardi. And ultimately, Patrick Mahomes will win his first world championship.
The festive football period is finally upon us. December is when The NFL is at its best. Teams that have been trailing make a sudden playoff push, games are played in the snow and sometimes even Santa makes an appearance! Read on to find out what we think are some of the essential aspects of Football in December.
Christmas day football.
The Christmas day game is always a must watch! On December 25th 2016 the Steelers got the best Christmas present of all – a last gasp win over the Ravens. Pittsburgh were down 27-24 with a minute to go in the 4th quarter. They then drove the field and on 2nd and goal with 14 seconds left in the game, delivered one of the most memorable plays in recent Steelers history. Big Ben stood in the pocket and delivered a strike to AB who was immediately hit at the 1 yard line before somehow extending the ball across the chalk for the winning score. This stunning play came as time expired and sealed the Christmas miracle win for the Steelers. Dubbed by fans as “The Stretch” it will go down in Steelers lore. They couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present than the Steelers beating the ravens on Christmas day.
Santa in the Stands
I can’t be the only one who was caught by surprise while playing Madden over Christmas, when suddenly St. Nick would appear on my screen decked out in team colours?! The games’ seasonal changes added some enjoyable realism to playing and brought you closer to actually being there. And while I haven’t played Madden in a couple of years, I’m sure Santa still makes an appearance every year to cheer on his side.
Let’s all admit it – watching a game being played in heavy snow is way more fun than watching any old ordinary game. It’s hard to run the ball and even harder to pass owing to poor visibility and a slippy football. So when a big play is made, it’s extra special. Nothing says December football like a Snowbowl. And what better way to celebrate a touchdown in a Snowbowl than making a snow angel or engaging in a friendly snowball fight with your team mates?
Santa’s little Cheerleaders.
This one needs no explanation at all…Santa baby 😉
Christmas is a special time of year in the NFL and with the season coming to its business end, teams have limited time to seal their post season fate. Who will be on the naughty list come playoff time? And who will get the best present of all, the Lombardi Trophy?
These are just some of the best things about Christmas football. What’s your favorite festive football tradition? Let us know in the comments!
“And there’s a magic in the sound of their name…Here come the Irish of Notre Dame…”
As these words rang out around Notre Dame Stadium and segued into “Shipping up to Boston”, a wave of chills ran through me. I was finally here. From the first time I watched Notre Dame play in their home stadium on TV, I had set my sights on making it to a game. And there was the band, there was the leprechaun, and there were the players. They were even wearing green to welcome their biggest Irish fan! (Not really, but still a cool coincidence) Justin Yoon sent the kickoff flying and Notre Dame stadium echoed with the roar of “GO! IRISH!” But how the hell did I end up here?
I had arrived on the South Bend campus earlier that day and caught my first glimpse of the Golden Dome glinting in the distance. As I wandered around the grounds of the university, jaw ajar in sheer awe of the place, the craziness of the past two days began to pay off. On Wednesday evening of last week, I got a message from Notre Dame Athletics on Facebook telling me I’d won two tickets to the game that weekend. I had previously entered their competitions and had claimed that if I ever won tickets I’d fly out for the game…and now they were calling my bluff. My hands were shaking so hard that I could barely type as I furiously searched for the cheapest possible flight. It did strike me that what I was about to do was insane. I also realised that if I didn’t go, I would always regret it. Life comes down to a few moments. This was one of them.
I was initially greeted in South Bend by sub zero temperatures and more than enough snow. Luckily I had been forewarned of the inclement weather and was well wrapped up… apart from my feet which were beginning to feel like blocks of ice. The solution? Head to the Irish bar! This is exactly what I did, and after asking a local for directions, I ended up getting a lift in his golf cart. Happy days! The patrons in the bar got a great kick out of the fact that I had traveled three and half thousand miles on less than forty eight hours notice to see Notre Dame play at home. I was later greeted by a great friend of mine, James O’Toole. I hadn’t seen James since the last time I went to game three years previously, and when I found out I’d won he was the first person I called. It was fantastic to catch up.
As evening fell we made our way back to the campus to collect the tickets, and I got to meet legendary Coach Knute Rockne(In statue form, anyway) There was a buzz in the air as tailgaters took their revelry from the the parking lot into the stadium. It was somehow even colder in there than it had been outside. But once the ball was kicked off, I forgot all about being cold. The Irish dominated all game. I had flown across the Atlantic to witness potential national champions at work, and they did not disappoint.
As I write this I am still having trouble accepting that it happened. It was like being in a dream. A dream that came true. And I will definitely be back.