Rasmus Jorgensen | July 11, 2018
On a spring morning in 1968, as some 20 members of the Notre Dame Rugby Football Club prepared to depart for Ireland — the University’s first athletic trip to the country — they gathered at the Morris Inn for a goodbye breakfast and a blessing from Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, CSC.
“And gentlemen,” Mike Brennan ’69 recalls the school’s executive vice president and No. 1 athletic booster saying, “just remember that you are representing the University of Notre Dame and Our Lady. And if you guys screw up, do not bother coming back.”
The team returned with a 2-3 record, but the games against Irish college and regional teams were close and the opposition tough, “so we didn’t disgrace ourselves by any stretch,” says Tom Condon ’68.
Condon was one of a few student-athletes on the trip who later were grateful that Joyce did not get word of all of their off-the-field activities.
“The two wins were primarily because we were faster, more physical — and maybe they were more hungover,” Brennan says.
Thousands of people came out to watch the Fighting Irish and ask for autographs. Notre Dame’s nickname made the cheering ambiguous. Chants of “Come on Irish! Let’s go Irish!” from the Notre Dame sideline led to laughter and a feeling of home-field advantage all around.
“Now that’s sportsmanship,” one of the native-born Irishmen said. “They’re bloody rooting for us!”
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