The Island Golf Club in north Dublin is preparing for a naval invasion, as U.S. football fans flood into Dublin.
Members at the club, where it costs about 115 euros ($144) a round, are giving up tee times this week to allow U.S. visitors in Ireland for the game between the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen enjoy some golf. The teams start their season at sold-out Aviva stadium in Dublin tomorrow in the Emerald Isle Classic, which the Tourism Ministry expects to bring about 35,000 Americans to the country.
“Staff have pushed out the boat to meet the extra needs of our American visitors,” said Henry Collier, 63, president of the golf club, which expects about 500 American visitors in the through Sunday. “After nine holes we’ve organized a special tent so they can have refreshments, including pints of Guinness.”
The Irish government, which received an international bailout in 2010, is spending about 600,000 euros to promote the game as part of a project to bring more visitors of Irish ancestry to the country. Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s government is focusing on tourism as one route out of the worst recession in the country’s modern history.
Trips to Ireland from North America fell by 4 percent in the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2008, when the Irish economy began to collapse in the wake of a real estate bust. Next year, the government is organizing a series of events, known collectively as the Gathering, in its biggest single biggest tourism initiative.
Late Summer Sun
So far, some American visitors have been pleasantly surprised by the city, as Dublin bathed in late summer sunshine. “No rain, very shocking, I was expecting rain,” Brian Kelly, Notre Dame coach, told reporters on the sidelines yesterday. “I had the rain gear out, but this is a beautiful sunny day in Ireland.”
All transatlantic flights by Aer Lingus Group Plc (AERL), the Dublin-based carrier, are fully booked this week, according to Declan Kearney, a company spokesman. The airline expects to bring more than 13,000 passengers to Ireland from the U.S. this week, including a chartered flight from Washington for the Navy team and their entourage.
“Dublin is full, there are people staying 50 miles away,” said Tim Fenn, Chief Executive of the Irish Hotels Federation. “What has been great about this particular event has been the fact that it has taken the people out into the regions.”
The game will be broadcast in the U.S. by CBS, and is being picked up by ESPN in Europe, according to Ireland’s tourism ministry.
The build-up to the game hasn’t been free from controversy. University of Notre Dame football radio analyst Allen Pinkett was suspended for at least the season opener after he said the team needs “criminals” to win.
Pinkett said during a radio interview this week that successful teams need a few bad citizens. He spoke after Notre Dame suspended two players, including leading rusher Cierre Wood, for two games for violating team rules.
Back at the Island Golf Club, which dates back to 1890, Collier said the course will be flying the U.S.’s Stars and Stripes flag as well as the Notre Dame flag this week.
“When Americans come out here and visit and play golf, they are absolutely overwhelmed with the beauty of the place, provided the weather is benign,” said Collier. “We all know with Irish weather it is hit and miss.”
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