This month in the US, all sporting eyes are fixed on college basketball and the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Tournament, or as every American calls it; March Madness. 68 teams play off in a seeded bracket style tournament with every game covered live on various channels. You can’t have a major sporting event without trying to find some tenuous Irish link to bandwagon on so balls.ie had a look for you. There are no Irish players involved so if you’re grasping at straws and looking for someone to root for, here are your ‘Irish’ options;
1) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Pretty obvious. You’ve all seen the logo and the mascot and the nickname is a pretty good indication too. Notre Dame’s football team played here last September and they push the links between the countries pretty hard.
2) Iona Gaels
We’ll let the Iona College website speak for itself here. What is a Gael?
A Gael is anyone of Irish-Gaelic ancestry, consistent with the Irish tradition of Iona.
There you go. Couldn’t be clearer. As a side note, whose mascot do you think would win a fight between Notre Dame's and Iona's?
3) St Mary’s Gaels
The St Mary’s Gaels website isn’t quite so clear about things.
The Gaels are an ethno-linguistic group which spread from Ireland to Scotland and the Isle of Man. Their language is of the Gaelic (Goidelic) family, a division of Insular Celtic languages. The word in English was adopted in 1810 from Scottish Gaelic Gaidheal (compare Irish Gaedhealg and Old Irish Goídeleg) to designate a Highlander (OED). Gael or Goídeleg was first used as a collective term to describe people from Ireland; it is thought to have come from Welsh Gwyddel (Old Welsh Goídel), originally "raider", now "Irish person". Many people who do not speak Gaelic consider themselves to be 'Gaels' in a broader sense because of their ancestry and heritage.
They do have a nice Celtic looking font and great looking cheerleaders though.
4) Miami Hurricanes
If you can’t have an Irish player, what about an Irish coach? Or at least, what about an Irish-American coach whose son has played and coached the Irish national team? Yep, we’re stretching here but Jim Larranaga is coach of the (highly fancied) Miami Hurricanes. Jim’s son Jay played for Ireland in the mid-2000s (while competing at the top level in Europe with the likes of Real Madrid) and coached the team upon retirement. He’s now an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics.
If you’re really stretching you might root for the Villanova Wildcats as many Irish track & field athletes have gone there in the past (including Sonia O’Sullivan) and their current T&F head coach is former World Indoor Champion Marcus O’Sullivan but you should have enough to root for in the Gaels x 2, the Irish and the Hurricanes.
If you can find any more Irish links to US College Basketball, please let us know...