An exhibition celebrating the connections between Ireland and American football giants Notre Dame and Navy.

This August sees old rivals The University of Notre Dame and The US Naval Academy face-off at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium for the 2023 Aer Lingus College Football Classic.

To mark this highly anticipated event, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum will host a temporary exhibition titled ‘Closer Than You Think’, which will explore the strong ties that exist between Ireland and Notre Dame, as well as Ireland and the US Navy.

‘Closer Than You Think’ shines a light on the Irish who helped establish these two institutions – and the Irish connections that endure to this day.

DATE: 8th August – 4th September 2023
TIME: 10am – 5pm
WHERE: EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum
COST: Included with ticket entry


Since its founding in the nineteenth century, Notre Dame has been a bastion of Irish-American life, mirroring the progress made by Irish men and women in the United States. Many of the university’s past presidents were of Irish descent, and many of its students were vocal supporters of Irish independence.The US Navy also has long-standing connections to Ireland, with countless Irish immigrants having served in its ranks. The man credited with founding the Navy was a Wexford native, John Barry, who was the first naval captain to be commissioned under George Washington.

“The language you use here, the ‘Fighting Irish’…what we actually mean mostly when we talk about it is an indomitable spirit, a commitment, never tentative, always fully committed, to life itself…that’s really the spirit of the Fighting Irish

Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, speaking at a Notre Dame commencement ceremony in 2006.


US naval records are likewise replete with Irish names, from as early as the War of Independence. Navy bases were established at several locations in Ireland during the twentieth century, but direct connections go back even further. In 1847, amid the devastation of the Great Famine, Congress passed a joint resolution allowing two naval vessels – the USS Jamestown and USS Macedonian – to carry humanitarian aid donated by the American people to the Irish. The USS Jamestown alone transported more than 8,000 barrels of food and supplies across the Atlantic.


The first Aer Lingus College Football Classic took place in 2016, and again in 2022, but the event dates back to 1988 when it was billed as the “Emerald Isle Classic”, held to mark Dublin’s millennium celebration.  This year’s game will take place on Saturday 26th August in the Aviva Stadium. This clash between Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Indiana) and Navy Midshipmen (Maryland) will mark the third time the pair have gone head-to-head in Dublin, with the game being broadcast live on NBC.

Tickets for the 2023 game have now fully sold out. A total of 40,354 international fans will travel to Ireland, with 39,176 fans coming directly from the United States, representing a new world record for the largest number of Americans to travel internationally for a single sporting event.

The #MuchMoreThanAGame initiative promises to be an action packed week, with U.S. parades, pep rallies and tailgating parties.

For more info check out https://collegefootballireland.com/


“Irish emigrants and their descendants, the Irish diaspora, have played, and continue to play, crucial roles in shaping and sustaining both the University of Notre Dame and the United States Navy, right back to their respective foundations. As a museum dedicated to collecting, preserving and disseminating the stories of the Irish people throughout the world, we are proud to share some of the most remarkable Irish ties to both Notre Dame and Navy, within this special exhibition, with our visitors.”

Nathan Mannion, Head of Exhibitions & Programmes, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum

Visit the exhibition at EPIC

This exhibition will be on display at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum from August until September 4th – general museum admission tickets required.