by Frank Gullo

I had the opportunity to visit Ireland recently. Below are some of my impressions from the trip:

Green - It really is that green. No, really. Never in my life have I seen such boundless green grasslands and rolling hills. Of course, I'd always associated the color green with Ireland and Notre Dame and all things Irish, but a derived inference is one thing and seeing the reality was quite another.

Youth - Ireland has a very young population. I read on the flight over that half the country's population is under thirty, and you really notice that in the streets and retail shops. Certainly, Cork and the outlying towns all were teeming with adolescents and teenagers.

Betting - Ireland seems to have a large number of retail betting stores, or booking outlets. I assume the Irish bet on all manner of popular sports, just as we do in the US, but it was strange to see a betting outlet literally on every other block. I guess the Irish simply feed their populations' gambling addiction, unlike in the US where we pretend that the mammoth industry doesn't exist.

Ryder Cup - We visited Ireland during the Ryder Cup and, because Ireland was hosting the event, there was enormous national media attention and popular interest in the event. I also sensed a surge of Irish (and European Union) pride following Europe's defeat of the US in the event. This fuss, while understandable, was a little too much. After all, golf is arguably the purest solo sport, and the Ryder Cup, in contrast, plays like a poor man's media-crafted team event. Congrats to the Irish and Europe, though, but when I watch golf, it will be when it's a major tournament, and when Tiger's teeing off.

Economy - By all accounts, Ireland's economy is booming, and you could sense the optimism in the people when they talk about work, people moving back to Ireland, and their prospects for the future. I guess a bunch of pharmaceutical companies have invested heavily in the country, and many people are employed in the industry. I also learned that there's a big Apple location in Ireland. It still looked like a Windows country from the workstations and Internet Cafes I spotted though.

History - Ireland has many historical sites that vividly evoke the country's rich past. We did some of the tourist jaunts and made it up to Blarney Castle. And, yes, I did kiss the Blarney Stone!

Frank Gullo
September, 2006