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Notre Dame University and the Irish connection


Notre Dame University and the Irish connection

There is no denying the strong Irish roots of The University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Founder of the university, Fr Sorin travelled to New York from France with at least six Brothers of Irish and French heritage in 1842. Fr Sorin named the university in his native French tongue for Our Lady – direct translation of ‘Université de Notre Dame du Lac’ is ‘University of our Lady of the lake’, hence the name the University of Notre Dame.

The university started out as a variety of things, none of which were a college. Some of these were as a home to religious novitiates, prep and grade schools and a manual labor school. During the first few years, not many students applied to attend. Through the years they have gradually built a magnificent range of undergraduate study courses. The initial college was the College of Arts and Letters.

In 1879 the college and Fr Sorin faced the biggest challenge: The main building and the library burned to the ground.  These buildings had been home to the university. The students were sent home. Fr Sorin rallied the troops of 300 workers and together they worked every day of that summer. They completed the building that still stands to this day. It is easy to identify, just look for the Golden Dome.

The university has a proud history. None more so than their football history, which is long and colorful. They have had football teams as part of the curriculum since 1887 when the Michigan Wolverines introduced them to the game.

Follow Lee Valley Ireland on Pinterest Where did the tagline ‘The Fighting Irish’ originate? 

There are many theories as to where Notre Dame Fighting Irish came from, here are a few…

Theory 1: The first emigrants arriving in America were Irish and Catholic. This was offensive to the puritan residents of America.  The Irish emigrants faced oppression and some of them fought for the honor of the Irish emigrants. Hence the name ‘The Fighting Irish’.

Theory 2: Irish Freedom Fighter and former Irish president, Eamon de Valera, visited the university while exiled from Ireland in 1919. He was well received at the university. Hence the name ‘The Fighting Irish’.

Theory 3: At the very end of the 19th century, the Notre Dame college football team were playing against Northwestern, and losing. Some of the players had Irish names and during the game a teammate named them by name and challenged them to come out fighting. Notre Dame went on to win the game. A reporter at the game put two and two together and headlined his newspaper article reporting on the game as ‘The Fighting Irish’, hence the name.


The logo

I think this speaks for itself… Fighting_Irish.jpg

The Fighting Irish came home

In 1996 and in 2012 Notre Dame came to play in Dublin, Ireland. Both games were against the Navy. The tradition began back in 1988 when Boston College faced off against the Army. Since then there has been a surge of interest in American Football in Ireland. So much so that we now have our own league, the IAFL (Irish American Football League). Dublin is acclaimed as the European centre for American Football.

This year sees Georgia Tech face off against Boston College in Dublin on September 3rd 2016. An entire plan of festivities has been planned for the visiting teams and supporters. The welcome parade on Merrion Square kicks the weekend off, followed by Marching Band Classics in Malahide. An entire welcome village will be set up in Trinity College Dublin. The Yellow Jackets and the Eagles are both primed and ready to pounce on Saturday September 3rd in the Aviva stadium. 


The links between The Fighting Irish and Lee Valley Ireland are even more tangible. We are both delighted and proud to tell you that Notre Dame University Stores are now stocking our grandfather shirts and jackets. 


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  • (Denis Hurley)
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