Notre Dame’s trip to Ireland to kick-off the 2012 season was such a success that college football will be returning to the Emerald Isle again in 2014 with Penn State and Central Florida squaring off while another trip from Notre Dame appears to be a very real possibility as well.
According to a report in the Irish website The Score, Ireland is looking to host games in 2016 and 2018 in addition to the 2014 contest in Croke Park that has been already announced between Penn State and Central Florida. The report mentions that other schools being floated around as possible participants in future games include Notre Dame, Alabama, and Boston College.
Croke Park was the site of Notre Dame’s initial trip to Ireland back in 1996 when the Irish set the NCAA record for longest winning streak against a single opponent by defeating Navy. This past season the Midshipmen and Fighting Irish squared off the brand new Avia Statdium in the season opener – a 50-10 Notre Dame win.
Some reports have suggested this past year’s game generated $130 MM US for the local economy although The Score reports that number was closer to $33 MM US. Either way, the game was a smashing success and has organizers already lining up future contests.
There was some concern on Notre Dame’s side that the trip to Ireland would have lasting impacts down the road in terms of jet leg in the following weeks and while the Irish were indeed a bit sluggish against Purdue the week after they beat Navy, they showed no ill-effects from the trip two weeks later with a 20-3 win in East Lansing.
Going back to Ireland makes a whole lot of sense for Notre Dame. First off, the trip was very well received by fans and if you ask anyone who went to the game they will tell you the trip was worth every penny. From a football standpoint, games in Ireland are a huge boost for recruiting since right now the only schools that can boast of such games are Notre Dame and Navy and now Penn State and Central Florida. Of those other schools, the only one Notre Dame should ever be competing with for a recruit is Penn State and the NCAA sanctions they are currently under still give the Irish the upper hand there.
The Notre Dame players also loved the trip last year – and honestly what college student wouldn’t love a free trip to Ireland to play a football game – and their reactions on Twitter showed it.
The one thing Notre Dame will need to caution here, however, is scheduling such a game in a manner that won’t hurt the Irish down the road. This year we saw the Irish escape with a win over Purdue following their Transatlantic trip. In future years though, Notre Dame has some tough early season match-ups like in 2015 and 2016 when the Irish will play a home and home with Texas the first week of September each year. Playing a game in Ireland in possibly late August and then traveling back to take on Texas is not a recipe for a national championship run.
Notre Dame does have a bye week after both early September games against Texas as of right now, but is a trip across the Atlantic Ocean the best thing for the players the week after a tough fought game like the Longhorns are sure to deliver on? Probably not.
In looking really far ahead, 2018 looks like the much more logical choice for a return to Ireland for the Fighting Irish. As of right now, Notre Dame has just a September 22nd game against Purdue officially on the schedule meaning the Irish could open the season in Ireland before classes kick into high gear and possibly even have a bye week following their trip to allow the players to catch up on their classwork and ward off any effects of jet lag.
Despite the logistical concerns that could stand in the way, the notion of playing in Ireland again should be very exciting for Notre Dame and its fans – especially those like myself who were unable to attend the game in Avia Stadium last fall.