The US Marines are in port and ready for action

Laura Butler

Up to 300 US marine and naval officers will be cheering on the Navy team -- but they'll also soak up the atmosphere of the big match at Croker too.

Petty Officer Lewis Windgrove (24), from West Virginia, said he was overwhelmed by the hospitality so far and can't wait to take in this weekend's games.

"Everyone has been really polite and courteous towards us. It seems that they really like that we're here."

Some troops got to enjoy the Dublin sights while "on liberty".

"We went along to Temple Bar ... the Guinness was amazing. I don't know if that's a cliche," he joked.

"I hear there's a Gaelic match on Sunday so we're hoping to go along to that as well. A lot of us really want to go. I hear it's a mix of soccer and football so we will definitely be supporting Dublin -- we might as well, we're here aren't we!"

But the boys won't get to hit the tiles too late as they're on "Cinderella curfew".

Petty Officer Thomas Boyce (21) said: "We have Cinderella liberty so we have to come back at midnight unfortunately. We are lower ranking so we're not allowed to stay out as late as some of the others -- unless we can get hold of some glass slippers!"

The Herald got an exclusive access and a revealing tour of the USS Fort McHenry naval warship. They've docked in Dublin Port for only three days and are due to head out on Monday, where they will continue on to Africa.

Executive Officer Eric Kellum, who is second in command, said that the entire crew is looking forward to watching Notre Dame take on the Naval Academy in tomorrow's Emerald Classic.

"We're really excited. We'll definitely be on the navy side. I'm a big fan of this competition. It's very near and dear to my heart and there's a lot of pride with both teams."

Those on board will be hosting a reception before today's game. There are 300 navy sailors and 200 marines on board, many with Irish ties.

Major Chris Curtain, Chief Weapons Officer of the Marine Corps, has ancestors from Kilorglin, Co Kerry, and although he won't get a chance to visit on this trip, he was delighted to be back on the Emerald Isle. He also celebrated his 15th wedding anniversary today and joked that he would definitely have to "give the wife a quick call".