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Ireland's Economy Gets a Lift From Notre Dame

This weekend, 35,000 Americans football fans descend on Dublin, Ireland. The reason? The Emerald Isle Classic, better known as the Notre Dame-Navy game.

A pub sign in Dublin advertising the Notre Dame vs. Navy college football game.
Mary Thompson for CNBC.com
A pub sign in Dublin advertising the Notre Dame vs. Navy college football game.

The game is not only the 86th time these two college football programs have faced off against each other, it is also a major economic event for Ireland's sluggish economy. (Read More:Europe's Economic Crisis - What You Need to Know.)

The Dublin Chamber of Commerce estimates the game will inject an additional 60 million euros into the Irish economy, a welcome boost to one struggling with a hefty debt load. The debt a legacy of Ireland's own real estate bubble and banking crisis.

The country's economic crisis doing little to the famed Irish sense of humor though, on a bus tour one guide pointing out the Irish central bank where they "look after all the money we don't have anymore." (Read More: Irish Business Hit as Loan Refusals Soar.)

The influx of Americans for the game is the single largest ever into Ireland, necessitating an additional 36 trans-atlantic flights into Dublin International Airport. There, blue and gold balloons (the colors of both teams), and smiling drivers (wearing pins promoting the game), greeted visitors as they disembarked on Thursday.

The game has also transformed the streets of Dublin.

Notre Dame Navy flags Dublin
Mary Thompson for CNBC.com
Notre Dame Navy flags Dublin

To one observer, the number of tourists wearing Notre Dame and Navy sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats and jackets seems about equal to the number of residents on their way to work.

Lines outside the exhibit for the "Book of Kells", the illuminated four gospels of the Bible, stretch around the walkways of Trinity College and the stops for the city's "Hop on, Hop Off" tours are jammed.

Whatever team wins (full disclosure I am a graduate of the University of Notre Dame) the game is a small victory for Ireland's economy. A victory the country hopes to build on next year when it launches "The Gathering", a tourist initiative aimed at bringing in more American tourists and importantly, their American dollars. (Read More: George Soros Takes 2% Stake in Manchester United.)

FYI, for those ND fans out there, tonight the pep rally will be carried on Google's YouTube. Not only will it feature ND's marching band, but a number of Irish bands as well. With heavy promotion by YouTube, its supposed to attract over 100 million viewers and hopefully for Ireland, more than a few potential visitors.

-By CNBC's Mary Thompson
@MThompsonCNBC

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