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Why Illinois’ trip to Ireland is a good (and bad) idea

Illinois is going to Ireland in 2021.

Notre Dame v Navy Photo by Barry Cronin/Getty Images

Illinois Football is going to Dublin in two years to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Aug.28, 2021.

The announcement was made Monday morning.

It’s too early to say “pack your bags, we’re goin’ on a trip!” because two years may seem like a long ways away. It is. At least for now, mark your calendars.

Here are some pros and cons of Illinois going to Dublin to play some gridiron football.

The team will travel to Ireland earlier in the week to take in the sights and sounds of Irish country and adjust to the time difference.

PRO: Wanna get away?

For the players especially, many of whom likely have never left the country, this could be the experience of a lifetime, and something they remember well beyond their years at the University of Illinois and playing football.

Traveling enhances life skills, too. Looking out for your teammates, being responsible and organized and following an itinerary are things outside of work that benefit people inside of work. Leaving your comfort zone with people you are close to solidifies relationships and confidence in your ability to handle situations once you return.

Ask head coach Brad Underwood and his Illinois players what they thought of their experience playing in Italy, and how it changed their life perspectives.

That same adventurous feeling also applies to coaches and staff of the program AND some Illinois fans as well. Never left the country or haven’t gone on a trip in a long time, and want to make a long weekend/week out of this? The weekend following this football game is Labor Day — a time many Americans have off from work. Schedule-wise, this is perhaps feasible?

Illinois Football’s first game outside of the United States could be your first game (or time!) outside of the United States.

Con: Losing a home game. Won’t you think of the students?

Since Illinois hosted Nebraska in 2019, and Illinois will travel to Lincoln in 2020, this 2021 version of Nebraska/Illinois is supposed to be an Illinois home game in Champaign, but it’s really not since it’s thousands of miles away.

Another con of this is — it’s highly unlikely students will be able to go to this. Cost. Time away from school shortly after the semester has begun... this won’t be anything like a home game other than the band being there.

Comforts of a home game include a home team’s routine and ability to get more rest instead of travel. A trip so far from home could limit Illinois abilities (mental and physical) come the actual game.

Here’s another man’s opinion on the matter. Is he wrong? Probably not.

Pro: Exposure

Exposure’s a good thing. Even in the last couple of hours since the game in Ireland was announced, national writers were writing and tweeting about Illinois Football. That does not happen often.

Illinois has lost 10 out of its last 68 Big Ten games. If people outside of Illinois aren’t talking about Illinois, there’s reason for that. Whether it’s just for a little bit, Illinois is back on the national stage. Hooray!

Con: It’s far and expensive

The obvious. A flight from O’Hare to the east coast (NYC, DC, Philadelphia, Boston, etc.) is about two hours. That’s not bad at all. When booked well enough ahead of time, those flights can be cheap.

The flight from those places to Dublin is another 6.5 hours. And likely very expensive.

Playing in Ireland or the UK is a lot closer to the United States mainland compared to playing in France or Italy for instance, but it’s still 3,750 miles. Flights can be expensive, and whole experience can weigh heavily on a budget.

Pro: For a European City, Ireland has many positives

Dublin, Ireland, is a great place.

Most Irish people speak English. Dublin itself is not a huge city and very walkable with a lot to do. Navigating the bus system is simple and inexpensive.

Compared to places like London, Paris, Rome and other ‘hubs’ in Europe, Dublin is very cheap — food, lodging, booking tours — those are all things that once there are pretty affordable compared to the rest of Europe and even compared to many places in the United States.

Cons: It’s still far and it’s still not Champaign

^^Yeah, that.

Pros: Aviva Stadium is nice. It knows how to host football games.

Notre Dame v Navy
Aviva Stadium is fancy, at least!

It opened in 2010. It’s modern and fancy. In 2012, Notre Dame played Navy there. In 2016, Georgia Tech played Boston College there. Notre Dame will be back in 2020 to play Navy there again.

It’s hosted and will continue to host gridiron football games. It’s capacity is 49,000 and serves as the home stadium for Ireland’s national football/soccer team and rugby teams.

Early Notice is Good: Time to Prepare

Let this sink in. Ask friends or relatives if this is something that they could or would be interested in. Then go from there.

As they say in Ireland: “Hope to see you laddies there!”