John Carroll quarterback Jarrod Kilburn finished his dispatches from Ireland earlier this week. Here’s the last word after the Blue Streaks’ 40-3 rout of St. Norbert:
The past two days have been so much fun, even more so because we won! The celebration started Friday night and carried well into Saturday morning at the GIFT 2012 tailgate at 9:30 a.m. It was cool to have all the teams in the tournament together in one place at the same time and a member from each was honored by the GIFT 2012 committee and Notre Dame Alum Mike McCoy. Our representative was fifth-year senior captain Bob Schmitz – completely deserving of the award and very happy for him!
After the tailgate ended, we boarded the buses for Aviva Stadium to see the Emerald Isle Classic between Notre Dame and Navy at 2 p.m. Aviva was incredible – by far the most aesthetically pleasing stadium I’ve ever seen. The curvature of the stadium made it look so futuristic, and I don’t think there’s a bad seat in there. One of the end zones has a glass backing so that you can see suburban Dublin behind it. Really cool stuff – unlike any stadium in the U.S. I probably took twenty-five pictures of just the stadium because I loved it so much.
While the game was a blowout (50-10, Notre Dame), our seats made up for it – upper level, front row, 25-yard line. If I’m watching a game, I love being up high so that I can see everything develop pre-snap, so I was definitely happy.
Following the game, we walked about a half mile to Shelbourne Park at the Greyhound Race Track. I guess in Ireland instead of betting on horse races, they bet on dog races. Some of those dogs were so fast and just flew around the track. I found myself wondering how my dog Vader, who gallops around my yard like a horse, would do in a race here. The whole thing was interesting, but definitely a little bizarre. At around 8, we bused back to our hotels for some Dominos, a team meeting, and an early bed since our day Sunday would start early and be full of action.
Sunday started with a 9:30 a.m. mass at the Newman University Church with the team, our administration, alums, and parents. At 10:30, we all walked to brunch at the nearby National Concert Hall. Some of the alums there donated a substantial amount of money to fund our trip so it was great to be able to meet them and thank them for everything that they did for us. After brunch, we had a free hour so we all split up and walked around downtown Dublin to do some shopping for our families. It was pretty much the first time we were able to go off our own the whole trip, which was definitely nice.
At 1, we bused to Croke Park for the GAA Football Semi Finals between Maigh Eo and Ath Cliath, or Dublin. Gaelic football is like soccer on steroids, with some football elements sprinkled in. You can advance the ball by kicking it to teammates, but you can also scoop it with your hands and carry it like in football. Scoring is way different than anything I’d seen before – its three points if you kick or throw it in to a smaller soccer net and one point if you kick it through smaller uprights. Each half was thirty-five minutes with additional time added to the end of each for any injuries that took away from the flow of the game. From what we gathered in the pubs pre-game, Maigh Eo were heavy favorites since they “throttled” Dublin earlier in the season in league play, but from all indications it was going to be a pretty good game. The Irish couldn’t believe we had tickets as they were pretty hard to come by due to the scale of the game.
After some exploring of the surrounding areas and purchasing the colors of The Boys in Blue (Dublin), we finally found our way to our seats. The atmosphere was unlike anything I’d ever seen in my entire life. 81,500-plus, mostly in baby blue and navy, were jammed into their seats and losing their minds. Rooting for a team there isn’t like it is here – there are no fair-weather fans in this sport. If you’re from Maigh Eo, you bleed red and green and if you’re from Dublin, you bleed baby blue and navy. The only way I can put the atmosphere in a way for anyone to understand without being there is like if Michigan and Ohio State played in the national championship game in Chicago – two teams that can’t stand each other in a somewhat neutral site. At half the game was a blowout with Maigh Eo winning by seven, but in the second half Dublin came out flying and went on a roll before losing by two in stoppage time. It was unbelievable to be in the stands with the fans that live and die with their teams and feel their emotion. I certainly won’t forget it anytime soon and it may actually end up tainting my experiences at any other pro sporting event, since it won’t come close to matching that passion and emotion I felt here.
Continuing the trend of the day, after the game we were dropped off in front of Trinity College in downtown Dublin and given two hours to do whatever we wanted for dinner. This was fun, but a little exhausting toward the end after the excitement and festivities surrounding the game. When we returned to City West, we had a brief team meeting to go over the next day’s travel itinerary and then were set free for the night to pack. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I reluctantly packed — I had no desire to get back to the real world of tests and papers. The rest of the night was spent hanging out in various hotel rooms with the other guys on the team and laying low before our long day of travel the next day back to Cleveland.
As the trip finally concluded and we arrived home safely, there are so many people that need to be thanked. Obviously, the school and alums need to be thanked for allowing us to go on the trip by backing us financially. Every euro I spent was my own as anyone picked for the dress list had flights, meals, and hotels paid for, and for that I am truly thankful. The coaches need to be thanked for everything they did getting us prepared to play the game and for making sure that we were safe and accounted for everywhere we went. The entire country of Ireland and all of Irish need to be thanked for their hospitality and kindness. Everyone we met, from our tour guide Gerry to our bus driver Tony, to those at Trinity and Dublin College, bent over backwards to make sure that we were comfortable and informed. I don’t think we would have got quite as warm of a welcome had we played anyone else.
However, I think the biggest “thank you” of all should go to three people – Father Niehoff, Jane Evans, and Coach [Regis] Scafe. Father Niehoff not only allowed us to miss the first week of classes to travel an entire ocean away to play a football game, but he went with us and supported us the entire way. Not too many presidents at this level would do that. Jane Evans and Coach Scafe worked harder than most people involved in this trip in terms of maximizing our experiences on and off the field there and doing everything in their power to field a team that deserved to represent John Carroll on the world stage. These three cannot be thanked enough for their outstanding efforts.
While coming back to Carroll and getting back to class was somewhat of a letdown, there are some bright spots – nine of them actually, starting next week under the lights at Don Shula Stadium against cross-town rival Baldwin Wallace. Onward on!