By Michal Dwojak, Loyola Academy Class of 2013
As many were preparing to travel and enjoy the Labor Day weekend, the Loyola Academy community was preparing to celebrate the holiday weekend in an unusual place: Dublin, Ireland. Over Labor Day weekend, approximately 400 Loyola football players, band members, cheerleaders, Ramblerettes, golfers, parents, alumni, fans and faculty members traveled to Ireland in the Loyola's largest ever reverse migration on August 29. After a quick lunch following the red-eye flight, everybody attended a huge pep rally and parade in honor of the weekend.
After the first day’s festivities—and a good night’s sleep—it was game time. The game that many had circled on their calendar for the past year had finally arrived. The game was definitely worth the hype. The Ramblers held on to a large lead at the beginning of the first half, but Dallas Jesuit Catholic was able to storm back. Dallas was able to take the lead and was knocking on another score, when the Ramblers were able to intercept the pass and then lead a drive for a touchdown. The game went right down to the wire, with Dallas Jesuit making a field goal in the last minute, giving them a one point lead over Loyola. The Ramblers were not able to score in response, giving the victory to Dallas Jesuit Catholic. Even though Loyola lost, they were able to give Ireland a taste of American football, one that many will not forget.
The rest of the weekend continued to be fun, leaving students with a collection of unforgettable memories. The five-day itinerary included a tour of Dublin, a visit to Trim Castle, an afternoon at Causey Farm, and an evening visit to the Greyhound Racing Stadium. Father McGrath led an inspirational Sunday Mass. School Principal Dr. Kathryn Baal also joined the Ramblers. The trip was part of the GIFT 2012 (Global Ireland Football Tournament) and extensively coordinated by Mr. Dennis Stonequist and his very organized group.
The Prep asked a few Ramblers to reflect on their experience in Ireland and the events and moments that they will never forget.
Georgia May ’13, Member of the Loyola Ramblerettes
Apart from some troubles in the airport, I could not imagine the Dublin trip going more perfectly than it did. I loved pretty much every single main event that we went to, from the parade, to the football games, to the farm. Even though the Loyola vs. Jesuit game did not turn out exactly as we had hoped, it was amazing being there with my poms team to cheer them on during the game and to welcome them back to the hotel afterwards. It was so nice to see that the football players did not let the outcome of the game affect their whole trip, because everyone had a blast the following day at the Notre Dame vs. Navy game. Although the games were so much fun, my favorite day of the trip was our last day there. Father McGrath gave an incredible inspiring homily at mass on Sunday morning. It made me reflect on just how fortunate I was to be in Ireland with so many of my friends and classmates. After the mass we went to the farm where we finally experienced some traditional Irish culture. We learned an old Irish sport, herded sheep, took a hay ride, did some Irish dancing, and ate a delicious meal while listening to live Irish music. It’s safe to say that there was not a single person there without a smile on their face. The lovely, charming people that showed us around the farm could not have been more hospitable. This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I will never forget it.
Danny Martin ’13, Member of the Loyola Band
For me, as one of the band students who went to Dublin, Ireland, on Labor Day Weekend, the voyage could be described as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But it was no easy task to get to the land of shamrocks and leprechauns, as band, poms, and cheer almost missed our connecting flight to Dublin. After landing and a quick Irish lunch of potato soup and lamb stew, we ran about half a mile to the parade through downtown Dublin, arriving just in time. Yet the parade set the tone for the rest of the trip. The people of Dublin came out from their homes to see the rambunctious Rambler fans line the streets. We stood in Trinity College with a mob of about 1,500 other excited football fans and blasted the Loyola fight song. Our small 10-man band seemed to pale in comparison to the 100-man band from California, but we still somehow managed to play above the din at Trinity, louder than their band.
Before the football game the next day, the band had a chance to go downtown Dublin to see some sights. We were met by tremendous Irish hospitality. Everyone we interacted with took interest in why we were there, where we were from, and not a snarky or harsh word was spoken between a Rambler and Irishman.
Later, at the game, a tangible intensity swept over Donnybrook Stadium and engulfed both teams as a fantastic football game ensued. Although the Ramblers lost, 30-29, this game was by far one of the best games I have ever seen. Even the Irish spectators, uneducated in the game of American football, appreciated the battle between Loyola and Dallas Jesuit. During this game, and I think I speak for all the students who were there, I felt like everything everyone did helped the Ramblers get closer to victory. We pumped up the crowd with our music and dance, and they left it all on the field. This feeling of unity traveled back to Chicago with us.
A day after a crushing Notre Dame victory against Navy in the Emerald Isle Classic, Father McGrath brought all of Rambler Nation together in a beautiful mass at St. John Priory in Dublin, where we were reminded of the opportunity we had been given and the importance of being grateful. One hour later we pulled onto the grounds of Causey Farms, where we learned about the importance of Irish bogs, danced an Irish jig, milked a cow, drank the milk, and attempted (poorly) to herd sheep. Finally we learned and played the brutal Irish sport of Hurling described as a cross between rugby and second degree manslaughter. What a day this was, to go out into the countryside and be immersed in the culture of the beautiful Emerald Isle. Again, the hospitality of the family at Causey struck me, working even on their normal day off. This nation accepts all and welcomes all with open arms, one major idea I took away from this journey.
The next morning, the planes began to leave, and sadly the Ramblers left Ireland. But the memories made, the friendships forged, the ringing of Sweet Home Chicago in everyone’s ears will remain with us and undoubtedly stand out in our memories. The Ramblers came and left their mark on Ireland, and in turn, Ireland left its mark on us.
Timmy Alhstrom ’13, Member of Loyola's Football Team
The trip to Ireland was a trip of a lifetime. Besides the outcome of the game, it was a great experience for all the players and coaches. It was a total bonding experience between the players; we became a true team at this point. We learned a lot from the game, and we were able to put up a great fight against a top ten high school in the state of Texas. Texas is known for its phenomenal high school football. Although we did not get the win, we did make a statement to the whole nation that the Ramblers from Loyola Academy can play against anyone. Just one or two more calls our way would have solidified our victory. Bottom line, we made a statement to the nation. The Notre Dame-Navy game was a blast as well. The whole Loyola community sat together in the stands and enjoyed the break from playing football to watching football. Sunday was our day off to go tour the country. While some stayed together to enjoy a nice day at the farm, others were able to go elsewhere with their families. As stated earlier, the trip was a trip of a lifetime, and the team will remember it for the rest of our lives.
Mr. Corey Ames – Fine Arts Teacher/Band Director
The trip to Ireland was an exciting one. The whole experience was one that is hard to top. The highlights of the trip for me included the Loyola football game, the visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, as well as our visit to Causey Farm.
My favorite event was the visit to Causey Farm. At one point the farmhands let a few pigs loose and said “first one to hold a pig wins a prize!” Many of Loyola’s students aimlessly started chasing down the pigs trying to catch them. Kevin Tran ’14 was the fastest at being successful with our group and held the pig for a whole minute. We also had the opportunity to learn the correct playing technique of bodhran, an ancient Irish Celtic drum that is played with a small stick held like a pencil.
The best part of the trip was during the game; our team was struggling and the band saw the need to get their spirits up. Drum Major Danny Martin and seniors Alex Wenzel and Bobby Murphy started rushing up and down the stands encouraging LA fans to stand up and cheer for the team. Soon after this testament of faith, Loyola had a turnover and scored two touchdowns within a few minutes of each other. This was the beginning of the Ramblers fighting all the way until the end. To see the spirit that only ten band students harnessed at the game was one of the most memorable moments in my teaching career.