The 2023 Aer Lingus Classic was treated like a national holiday in the city of Dublin, Ireland.
The infamous Dame Street in Dublin’s city center was renamed “Notre Dame Street” for the weekend as 40,000 Americans descended on the Emerald Isle for a highly anticipated matchup between No. 13 Notre Dame and Navy.
City officials pedestrianized College Green and “Notre Dame Street” for 24-hours – something only done for New Years Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, giving fans free range of the area. Dublin’s heart obviously belonged to Notre Dame, but its pubs and restaurants were open to all.
The Fighting Irish didn’t disappoint, defeating the Midshipmen by a margin wider than St. George’s Channel. But the 42-3 final score didn’t tell the whole story.
For Navy, the picture the outcome painted was one of despair and disappointment, littered with dropped passes and missed field goals. Navy head coach Brian Newberry outlined all the missteps in the post-game press conference.
“We couldn’t sustain some drives, missed a field goal there in the first half, missed on some shots,” explained the newly appointed head coach. “I thought our tackling was as bad as it’s been in a long time. We’ve obviously got to go back and get to work on that. You know we did some good things, and then we shoot ourselves in the foot with a missed assignment or a missed tackle, things like that.”
The rust didn’t come off, that’s for sure. But much like the city of Dublin, the Midshipmen’s hearts were in the right place.
“I thought our kids played hard, I never question that but we gotta go back to work when we get back and we gotta get better,” expressed Newberry. “And we will. This game won’t define our season. I don’t feel any different about our football team now than I did before the game, I really don’t.”
He’s right. This loss won’t define the Midshipmen’s season, just like it didn’t define the experience for Navy fans who travelled both near and far for this unforgettable adventure. The memory of the 169 total yards of offense or going 4-14 on third down will be replaced with the sounds of three U.S. Navy Ospreys flying over Aviva Stadium during the Star-Spangled Banner and the sight of Irish Naval Service officers walking alongside members of the United States Navy.
The USS Mesa Verde transport vessel arrived in Dublin on Friday carrying the V-22 Osprey aircraft. Each night, both American and Irish ships hosted events, inviting officers from both branches aboard.
Common ground and culture clash – that’s what the weekend was all about, both on and off the field.
“It was awesome to be able to go and play in an arena and place like this,” agreed Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai. “I’ve never been out of the country like that so being in this atmosphere was something really cool to be a part of.”
Newberry summed it up best in the final words of his opening statement in the post-game press conference, saying he was “disappointed but still proud of our football team.”
It’s true, Navy football has miles to go before they sleep. But Midshipmen fans shouldn’t sound the alarm just yet – first game, new head coach, 3,354 miles from home and the five-hour time difference should all be factored in. Newberry has plenty of time to right the ship and how he and his staff make adjustments will tell us everything we need to know about the new direction of the program.
“It’s certainly not what I hoped for my first game as the head coach, but I am really pleased with our staff – just like I don’t feel any different about our team right now, I don’t feel any different about our staff,” said the former defensive coordinator. “We’ve got really good coaches and I thought we had a good plan. But at the end of the day you gotta go out and execute it when you are playing a team like Notre Dame and you gotta be dang near perfect when you’re doing that.”
Navy will face FCS Northeast Conference member Wagner tomorrow on Saturday September 9th. The Midshipmen are hoping for a better result on their home turf.