Irish ready for unique opportunity to play in Yankee Stadium
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, November 16, 2018
If nothing else, when the No. 3 Irish take on the No. 12 Orange on Saturday, the game will provide a unique experience for all involved.
The matchup between Notre Dame (10-0) and Syracuse (8-2, 5-2 ACC) will be a high-stakes game for both squads in the renewal of Notre Dame’s signature Shamrock Series, in which it sets up a home base at a neutral site. This weekend, the Irish will head to the East Coast to play in the famed Yankee Stadium, donning navy and Yankee pinstripes on their Shamrock Series uniforms — which have received mixed reviews — to mark the importance of the game.
The Irish head into this year’s Shamrock Series with an undefeated record, both on the season and in past Shamrock Series games, at 8-0. However, Notre Dame has also never played a Shamrock Series game with so much riding on it. The closest comparison to this year’s faceoff with the Orange might have come during Notre Dame’s 2012 run to the national championship game, but that year’s Shamrock Series game was played earlier in the season, as the win over Miami (FL) put the Irish at 5-0 and handed the unranked Hurricanes their second loss on the season. The 2012 Irish then sat at No. 10 in the country, before the institution of the College Football Playoff.
However, this year paints a very different picture for Notre Dame, who sits third in the country with everything to lose, including its ticket to the Playoff, with this game.
Irish sophomore offensive lineman Robert Hainsey said the most important aspect of this game is ensuring the Irish do not get distracted by all the different externalities going on throughout the week and weekend, but he said the team’s preparation has been intentional and the same throughout the entire week.
“I think the only thing that’s different is the uniforms. Apart from that, it’s a game for us and we know the importance and everything that rides on it. We’re preparing as hard as we ever do and we’re going into the game thinking we’ve got to do our best and dominate our opponent to the best of our ability with our technique,” Hainsey said. “I wouldn’t say too much is different about it this time given what we’re wearing this time and all that. A lot of the outside stuff — but as far as internally, it’s a game and we’re preparing as hard as we can for it.”
Irish senior safety Nick Coleman has participated in multiple Shamrock Series games before and said one of them proved to provide him one of his favorite locations ever: another baseball stadium.
“My most favorite venue I’ve played in thus far has been in [Fenway Park] and I think baseball stadiums are cool to play in. So, I’m hype. And this is my first time going to the city,” Coleman said. “They’re both pretty iconic [stadiums, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium]. I’d definitely like to play … in the Cubs’ stadium one day.”
Notre Dame played Boston College at Fenway Park in 2015, coming away with a 19-16 win, but the Irish are no strangers to Yankee Stadium either. Notre Dame has played 26 games in the Bronx, including the 2010 Shamrock Series against Army, which was also the first college football game played in the newly built Yankee Stadium. The Irish have a 17-6-3 record at Yankee Stadium, dating back to 1925.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly, a Red Sox fan, joked Tuesday that he’s not worried about the baseball aspect of the Stadium, as one of his teams has already taken care of business there.
“We beat them at Yankee Stadium, you know? It has nothing to do with the football game though. We’ve already got that trophy. That’s put away,” Kelly said. “Great respect for the Yankees and the tradition. That’s why both these programs mirror each other so well. Great tradition, championships, that’s why we’re excited about being at Yankee Stadium.”
With a year off from the Shamrock Series in 2017, this will be the first time for such an event for much of Kelly’s squad, including junior safety Alohi Gilman. Gilman said the special environment and buildup to the game gets the team excited, but it’s also simply excited just to play some football.
“It’s definitely unique. It’s my first Shamrock Series game to play, so I think just the team’s just excited to play, in general,” Gilman said. “It’s going to be a different environment, a different experience than a regular away game — well this is home for us, but just trying to take in every opportunity, every experience that we get there and the team’s excited to play. It’s a little bit different, fun approach to it.”
One unique aspect about playing the game in New York, in particular, is the strong contingent of fans and alumni who will be at the game — the subway alumni, as they’re called.
“Oh, it’s real. When we talk about subway alums, your first thought is New York City, New Jersey. But it’s everywhere, obviously,” Kelly said. “Those that love Notre Dame and have never been here. I do one event out there a year, and one is in Staten Island, a huge alumni club in Staten Island. And I remember doing it a few years back approximately, and we were doing a poll, raise your hand, how many Notre Dame graduates are in the room? There were 250, maybe 300. And when I think there were a half dozen Notre Dame grads in the room, it just goes to show the support for the University and for the values of Notre Dame. Especially in places like Staten Island, New York City, Jersey City and all the areas that have been staunch supporters, but also pretty good football in that area as well. So it helps us in recruiting too.”
For Coleman, one of the most exciting things about the game is the fact that Notre Dame gets to come in and set up camp in a place where, theoretically, its opponent should have the upper hand. He thinks that should anger the Orange and get the Irish even more amped up for the game.
“I would say there’s a lot more distraction, in my opinion, that comes with these games. And what’s the same is, it’s still football. There’s still 100 yards on the field and you’ve still got to come out and play,” Coleman said. “I know, if I was an opposing team, I would be kind of disrespected, because we usually go to the team’s kind of home area and we set up a home field. You know, what is that? So, that hypes me up being a player on our side because I know they feel kind of disrespected.”