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Thousands pack 02 as fighting Irish have a ball

They're known as the Fighting Irish and last night almost 10,000 fans were treated to a uniquely Irish pep rally for Notre Dame in the O2.

Miriam O'Callaghan presented the 90- minute concert which saw America pep and cheer meet Irish craic agus ceol.

It's hoped as many as 60 million American's tuned to watch the event, which was broadcast worldwide on RTE's YouTube channel.

Some of Ireland's top performers gave visitors a taste of the best music and dance Ireland has to offer.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed the 35,000 Americans who are in Dublin this weekend.

He told the crowd: "I understand that this is the biggest overseas mobilisation of US citizens to any sporting event.

"So relax, enjoy, explore and make the best of the next few days with us in Ireland.

"Be sure to make and take home some great memories and be sure that you make yourself at home in our country."

Pep rallies are a popular pre-game tradition in America.

Pep means excitement and the rallies aim to get both players and supporters riled up before a game. They usually involve marching bands, cheerleading squads and rousing speeches from coaches and captains.

The musical highlight's during last night's show included performances from Brian Kennedy, Damien Dempsey, Eimear Quinn and the High Kings. Notre Dame's 200- member marching band and folk choir gave a rousing performance and audiences were delighted with the amazing dance and gymnastic skills of the cheerleading squad.

However the Notre Dame players themselves did not attend. They were resting up in the Ritz in Powerscourt in preparation for today's match against the US Naval Academy.

Organisers of the Gathering: Notre Dame -- A Welcome Home said visitors for this weekend's American football extravaganza are expected to spend between €100m and €250m while in Ireland, giving the economy a welcome boost. Many are planning to stay in the country for up to two weeks, travelling around the country and tracing their Irish roots.

Today's game will be broadcast to as many as 110 million American households by CBS. Organisers hope it will encourage Irish Americans to participate in Gathering 2013 -- a Government initiative encouraging people to reconnect with their Irish heritage by organising their own family reunion here next year.

Welcoming the American College Football game to Dublin, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said: "We'll be using this weekend to highlight the unique bond that exists between Ireland and the US, and encouraging Americans watching at home to see Ireland at first hand in 2013."

hnews@herald.ie


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