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    Irish Prepare For Challenge of Opening in Ireland
    August 29, 2012

    Brian Kelly
    Brian Kelly

    Notre Dame-Navy Gameweek Page

    The last time the Fighting Irish opened their football season away from Notre Dame Stadium was six years ago against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Back in 2006, none of the team's current members had committed to Notre Dame, let alone played their first game for the Irish. Saturday's game is the first time any of the players have opened the season on the road.

    And they're doing it in Ireland.

    The season's first game is taking place in Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland - over 3,500 miles and five time zones away from South Bend, Ind.

    Head Coach Brian Kelly knows how important preparation for the start of the season is under ordinary circumstances, but there is an extra layer to be dealt with this year. It's not every game that more than 100 football players fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

    "The first change will be tomorrow morning at 5 a.m.," Kelly said in a press conference on Tuesday. "We've really kept a similar schedule in terms of our preparation, but the adjustments will start to take place tomorrow morning."

    The adjustments, as Kelly calls them, involve getting the players out to practice at 6:15 in the morning rather than their usual evening practice. They are still expected to attend classes as usual and return to the athletic complex for weight training and a meeting at 2:30 before heading to the airport to start their trip to Ireland.

    "We want to get them up early," Kelly said. "We want to keep them moving throughout the entire day so they sleep on the flight. We'll get up Thursday and get into a routine relative to practice."

    The trip is a massive undertaking that has grown to involve the entire Notre Dame community. More than half of the players needed to get their first passport as they had never before left the country. Over 30,000 Notre Dame fans also are making the journey to Ireland - the largest number of American fans ever to travel abroad for a single event. President Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. will preside over a mass in the Dublin Castle on Sunday morning. The entire Notre Dame marching band - the oldest collegiate marching band - is also flying across the pond to perform in Aviva Stadium. Friday night's four-hour pep rally will be broadcast live on Irish national television - the first Notre Dame pep rally to be live broadcast since College Gameday televised the 2005 USC pep rally.



    It is truly an Irish affair.

    That said, this is still the first game of the Notre Dame football season, and that demands an unparalleled level of focus.

    Last week, Kelly announced sophomore Everett Golson as his starting quarterback. Monday, the team named its four captains: seniors Tyler Eifert, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Manti Te'o and Zack Martin. As the Irish head to Ireland, these players prepare to lead them.

    "You have to go out there and be who you are," stresses Lewis-Moore, whom Kelly reported crying after being named a captain. "Don't overdo anything. I'm going to keep being myself. I'm going to keep having energy to bring the team up. It's a blessing. It's an honor. I'm humbled by being a captain. But I'm going to keep being myself."

    The team will have Thursday and Friday to get acclimated - mentally and physically - to playing football in Ireland. Then, it's game time.

    While he confesses to being excited to check out the Irish scenery, Lewis-Moore - who has never been overseas - insists that the preparation for this game cannot differ too greatly from how the team prepares for any other game.

    "At the end of the day, we're playing a football game. If you treat this like any other game and prepare how you prepare for any game, you won't be caught up in the traveling."

    Kelly would be inclined to agree. Their preparation up until Wednesday morning remained consistent with how he runs the team for any other game for that exact reason. He now looks to his new leaders and especially Golson, whom he claims was chosen as a first-time starter because of how well he understands the nuances of the responsibility.

    "He will make mistakes," Kelly admits of Golson. "We know that. We will deal with that. It's the poor decisions that we have to eradicate."

    Acknowledging the possibility of early hiccups, Kelly has put more effort into strong communication with this year's team.

    "I think it all goes to spending more time with them. I've spent more time with the quarterbacks this season than any other time in the past five or six years. I've been in every single meeting. I felt like it was important that we had great communication, especially on the sideline. I don't believe that's going to be an issue. I believe we'll be able to communicate effectively."

    Lewis-Moore has the same mentality. He cites execution of assignments and simply playing "disciplined football" as the keys to a success story in Ireland.

    That's not to say that Lewis-Moore and his teammates are expecting anything less than Navy's trademark discipline. When asked if he was worried about playing a team that is certain to be the most accustomed to waking up early, Kelly jokes, "They won't be late for the game, I know that."

    Without a doubt, the Irish are not used to opening their season away from home, but they are every bit accustomed to the manner in which they have prepared for this game. With more than 30,000 Irish fans expected to fill Aviva Stadium, they'll feel right at home.

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