A Book Review of Notre Dame’s Happy Returns: Dublin, the Experience, the Game


Notre Dame’s Happy Returns: Dublin, the Experience, the Game, is a look at the University of Notre Dame’s relationship with Ireland and the significance of the Notre Dame/Navy game at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on September 1, 2012. Authors Brain O Conchubhair, associate professor of Irish Language and Literature and fellow of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, and Susan Mullen Guibert, assistant director in Notre Dame’s Office of Public Relations, team up with senior university photographer, Matt Cashore to provide insight, explain historical significance, and paint both a written and photographic image of Dublin, the experience, and the game. O Conchubhair and Guibert begin by explaining the history between the University of Notre Dame, in its 125thyear of football, and the Naval Academy. Together they share bonds dating back to 1927 when they played their first football game against one another. The match-up continued every year since, forming the longest uninterrupted intersectional series in college football. The authors explained the role Notre Dame took during World War II when Navy selected them as its training center, sending approximately 12,000 officers to train at Notre Dame. The significance of the Naval relationship was stated best by Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, president from 1952-1987 when he said, “All I can say is without the Navy during the war, this institution would have gotten down to a few hundred students…Instead of that, we were almost twice our normal size during the war, and we were able to contribute something to the Navy.” The Authors O Conchubhair and Cashore change pace and dive back further and into the history of Dublin. They explore the city as a Viking settlement and trading post in the 840’s, a Norman stronghold, the jewel of Ascendancy Ireland, and the British Empire’s second city. Photographer Matt Cashore provides page after page of brilliant imagery of scenic views, notable landmarks, and the Georgian Architecture Dublin is most known for. After nearly two hundred story-telling photographs the authors describe the experience of the trip to Ireland this fall and the outline of the game itself. The financial impact of the game both for the short term and long term are lightly addressed but possibly the most important effect discussed.

Sep 1, 2012; Dublin, IRELAND; The color guard marches onto the field before the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Navy Midshipmen at Aviva Stadium. Notre Dame won 50-10. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Notre Dame’s link to Ireland is much more than just a mascot. The book states, “… (Notre Dame) was built in great part by the Irish – priests, brothers, and sisters, as well as benefactors and supporters. It is most fitting, therefore, to look back to Ireland with a spirit of helpful assistance…” Through the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies (with a presence in both Indiana and Ireland) and the Department of Irish Language and Literature (the only one of its kind in North America), Notre Dame continues its strong relationship to Ireland. This book is difficult to neatly classify since instead of telling a singular story or retelling a specific event, the book instead looks at three separate items. While all separate items are related to Notre Dame they are otherwise quite different. The aptly named book takes time looking at historical Dublin, modern day Dublin, the specific events that sounded the game, and the game itself. With a multifaceted story like this, the book reads more like a scrapbook than anything.  For those who were able to attend the September 1st game it reinforces a vivid memory that would most likely be quite appreciated. To fans unable to attend the September game, the book does an effective job of explaining and illustrating a broad portrait of the experience.  By itself, the book is a pictorial tour guide providing a simple education of the University of Notre Dame and it’s link to Ireland and the Naval Academy. This visually beautiful book available from the University of Notre Dame Press at http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P03030 is a must-have for most Notre Dame Fans whether or not they attended the game. For those uninterested in Notre Dame or Ireland (past or present) this book is simply just not for you. Clearly marketed for those linked to Notre Dame this book does a good job at what it is: A quick literary and pictorial essay on Norte Dame and how it relates to Dublin, the Experience, and the Game.