Playing for the Jersey

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, September 04, 2012 No Comment(s)

CARRIGART, COUNTY DONEGAL, IRELAND – Many thought that the mysterious University of Notre Dame was located in a remote part of Indiana. However, just last weekend researchers found that the school is actually located in a section of Dublin, Ireland, known as Temple Bar. There were 35,000 Americans in Dublin last weekend, the vast majority of whom were from or associated with Notre Dame, and the vast majority of them were waking up to headaches after spending the pre-game celebration in a neighborhood that has a bar every 50 feet. In fairness, Navy fans were also seen: a guess is about five ND for every Navy person. It is said to be the largest group of Yanks to come over for a weekend event since World War II.

Notre Dame played Navy Saturday and, praised be to the saints, destroyed the Middies, 50-10. More important in this economy, it is estimated that this event generated 100 million euros for the Irish economy. Few of the fans came over for game day. Almost all turned it into an Ireland tour. Anthony Travel, a company that does travel for Notre Dame, brought 2,000 people when the Irish first played Navy here in 1996. This time they brought 10,000. As a result, people wearing Irish hats, shirts, jackets and Joe Montana’s No. 3 jersey have infested the entire country – the victors are everywhere, in Galway, in Cork, in Killarney, even here in dear old Donegal. We thought we had finally shaken them in Belfast, but today in the McNutt tweed shop we ran into Joe Dougherty, whose Philadelphia accent could be identified at 10 paces. At least by a fellow Yank. The native Irish can always spot an American accent, but most can’t tell Texas from Brooklyn.

The game, although not close, was a memorable spectacle. The entire brigade of Midshipmen marched in, as in the Army-Navy game ceremony, and the famous Notre Dame band, only at half strength because it only brought upperclassmen, put in a splendid halftime show. The local Irish, some of who were in the audience, were impressed. Yanks were vocally proud of their kinsmen on both sides.

An Irish cab driver pointed out that the Gaelic football finals were on the same weekend, but he knew something unusual was happening because he had been driving people wearing Notre Dame colors for several days. He said the Gaelic footballers were all amateurs; they had jobs and just played for local pride.

“They play for the jersey,” he said. He asked if the American lads got paid. We explained that they got scholarships, but they weren’t paid, depending on what dirty program they worked for, but they used the publicity to get professional contracts. But on the college level, most of them also played for the jersey.

“And isn’t that just fair,” he said.


We said surely it was indeed and took off, mostly by train, to show Mark McCormick, an ND alum, a bit of the country from which most of his ancestors left years back. The first at sea was Hugh McNeales in 1835. Where we write may be within walking distance of his birth place. That is if you are willing to walk a few days, which is what most did in that era. If you walk, you have time to figure out the road signs, which are both in English, a language familiar to many Americans, and the old Gaelic, which few in Ireland can speak. The reason for this, we learned, is that a labor union called Erin Lispach dun ballystuffing mischt giblets con sinaghe, 42, Aidan MacSuibhne, schante boyo (translation: Irish Sign Painters and Typesetters Union 42, Aidan Sweeney, president) insisted on keeping Gaelic signs alive because it gives twice as much work to the lads. Gaelic, like German, is about three times as long as English. Which is why the only kind thing the English ever did for the Irish was coax them, sometimes at the point of a bayonet, out of their language.

Most of the people we met from Notre Dame had not been to Ireland before. The game presented the perfect opportunity to fill that void and watch their team at the same time. The Irish are on to something. They have also declared 2013 the year of the gathering of the clans.They won’t have a football game as a draw, but maybe they can have a battle as of old. And enjoy the old tongue.

Garda O’Gallehobbair dice bruscar baile nu tacsaithe con coras iampair et lady gaga un gibberish Gaelic a dheanamh Nahcht Domino pizza.

Translation: Gallagher the cop says they don’t speak Gaelic at Notre Dame.

And that’s no blarney.

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