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2022-23 leprechauns talk journeys to leading Notre Dame fans

The Fighting Irish welcome four new leprechauns for the 2022-2023 year. Seniors Jake House and Jamison Cook, junior Ryan Coury and sophomore Colin Mahoney were selected. All four will be entering the role for the first time. The new Leprechauns reflected on their paths to the green suit and their hopes for the year.  

Ryan Coury

Coury did not think he would one day be the Fighting Irish mascot.

Coury grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, “bleeding gold and blue,” he said. His parents both attended Notre Dame, and he remembers singing along to the fight song with his dad every Saturday.

During his sophomore year, Coury worked for Fighting Irish media as a cameraman. He loved capturing the students’ excitement at games, and he was inspired by the role that past leprechauns have played in bringing energy to the crowd.

“I realized, man, it’s a lot easier to hype up a crowd without a camera on your shoulder,” Coury said. 

After hearing about the tryouts from friends on the cheer team, Coury decided to apply “kind of on a whim,” he said.

“In my mind, being a leprechaun was always a dream, but never something that I thought was a possible reality,” Coury said. “But the moment I realized it was on the table, I went for it.”

All four leprechauns volunteer at other events to engage the Notre Dame fanbase. His favorite part of the job, though, is being a part of a team and working with the other leprechauns.

“We are not only leprechauns ourselves, we are part of the cheer team,” Coury said. “Having those people behind you and with you at everything — it’s electric.”

Coury is a finance major with a real estate minor, and he plans to pursue sports business or real estate after graduation. On campus, Coury is the vice president of Dillon Hall and works as a tour guide for the admissions office. 

“At the core of what we do as leprechauns, we are ambassadors for the University. We are representing what [Notre Dame] stands for,” Coury said. “That’s something huge for me.” 

Jamison Cook

Unlike Coury, Cook did not grow up in a Notre Dame family, but that does not diminish his passion for Fighting Irish sports. 

Cook wanted to be a leprechaun to showcase his love for Notre Dame athletics. 

“You don’t have to be a lifelong fan to do something like this,” Cook said. “I wanted to share how much I have come to love Notre Dame on my own.”

Cook tried out for the leprechaun position three times before making the team his senior year. The tryout process involves a written application, a video application and in-person events and interviews.

“I think it’s pretty rigorous,” Cook said.

Eight to ten applicants are selected to participate in the in-person events. Over the course of three days, Cook and his fellow leprechauns led a mock pep rally, conducted a mock media interview and worked as the leprechaun at the Blue and Gold spring game. They were also interviewed by a panel of judges from the athletics department.

“If I’m completely honest, I don’t think I would have wanted to be a mascot if I was at a different school where you had to wear a big head or a mask,” Cook said.

He said he enjoys the creativity of being a “mouthpiece” for the university rather than a faceless mascot.

“I think that that’s something that the four of us really take very seriously but also have a lot of fun with,” Cook said. “We’re kind of the impersonation of what the Fighting Irish is.”

Cook is studying marketing and journalism, and he is originally from Eerie, Pennsylvania. Cook is currently recruiting for a career in brand management.

“I think [being the leprechaun] kind of gives me a unique perspective, especially for the field that I’m going into conveniently,” Cook said. “I’m very much living the Notre Dame brand and trying to bring it to life for people.”

Colin Mahoney

Mahoney believes the power of the leprechaun extends far beyond excitement at games.

“I think the leprechaun certainly has a presence on campus and has the resources and capabilities to be a force for good,” he said.

Mahoney hails from a family of farmers in Omaha, Nebraska. He was not originally committed to Notre Dame, but he switched his deposit at 11:45 p.m. the night of the deadline, partly because of the opportunity to be a leprechaun.

“I think very early on, I bought into the mission of the University,” Mahoney said. “Ultimately, I want to be a servant for others, and I think that’s what led me to Notre Dame.”

His favorite part of the job is when he gets to see a “tangible result.” Mahoney recently visited St. Adalbert Elementary School in South Bend to interact with young Irish fans. He was handing out high fives before the kids decided to hug him instead.

“That certainly felt good, because I left feeling like I had made those kids’ days better and hopefully gave them a memory that will last them a lifetime,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney lives in Duncan Hall and is majoring in finance and Spanish. He plans to pursue investment banking after graduation. 

Jake House

“The leprechaun is so special because you’re not in a mask, you get to see people face to face … and let them know that they are welcome … showing that Notre Dame is a place for everyone,” senior Jake House said. 

A romance languages and literature major originally from White Lake, Michigan, House said that he “grew up a fan of other colleges, and [Notre Dame] just wasn’t on my radar.”

“I applied to Notre Dame a few days before the application was due, because a friend mentioned it. I never really thought of it as a place for me, but I came for a visit and that first sight of the Golden Dome, you know, just walking around campus … you just get this different feel like, ‘Oh, this isn’t just a place to go to school, this is a family,’” House said.

House recalled a story from his freshman year which put him on the path to becoming the iconic Irish fighter.

“I transferred here from Holy Cross as a Gateway student, and I was a little lost one day and Leprechaun Conal [Fagan, class of 2021] came up to me and helped point me in the right direction, asked if I was doing okay and everything,” he said.

House continued, “I just felt so special because the Leprechaun talked to me and helped me out, and the chance to give that to other people, to make other people feel that way … I think it’s a gift, it’s really indescribable.”

A resident of Dunne Hall, House spoke on his previous high school experience that helped him grow into a student leader.

“I was class president in high school so I was always trying to get people to go out to events and be excited, but I was never a cheerleader or a mascot, it wasn’t my official title,” House said.

House then spoke on the community surrounding the University, saying, “Notre Dame isn’t just the students who go here, Notre Dame is the outreach to the South Bend community, it’s the alumni of course and just fans all over the place.”

House continued, “Notre Dame can sometimes feel like a bubble, it isn’t just the kids on campus bound by SR 933, Angela, Twyckenham and Douglas, it’s also Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross. The Notre Dame Leprechaun to me is about welcoming people,” House said. 

To conclude the conversation, in true Fighting Irish fashion, House had one final statement: “Go Irish!” 

Contact Meghan Lange at mlange03@saintmarys.edu.

Contact Katie Muchnick at kmuchnic@nd.edu.

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From the Archives: Forgotten fidos of the Fighting Irish

From the Archives previously explored the origins of the “Fighting Irish” nickname. Today, this name is represented by, and synonymous with, the leprechaun. Whether it be the iconic fighting leprechaun logo or the student mascot leaping around at football games, leprechauns have come to embody the Notre Dame spirit.

However, from the 1930s through the 1960s, Notre Dame’s mascot was not a leprechaun, but a dog. A succession of Irish Terriers with names like “Shaun Rhue” and “Clashmore Mike” rallied Notre Dame fans over these four decades, heroically representing the university and its athletic teams. In this edition of From the Archives, we forget the unfortunate events of the past weekend and instead remember the more positive past of these peppy pooches.

Shaun Rhue: trailblazing terrier

Dec. 9, 1932 | Oct. 23, 1932 | Nick Lamberto | Researched by Spencer Kelly

In 1932, Notre Dame football filled a crucial yet previously-open roster spot.

That fall, Shaun Rhue, fittingly an Irish Terrier breed, became the new mascot for the Fighting Irish football team.

“Our mascot comes from the best of stock, with reams and reams of affidavits attesting his lineage, and naturally is quite proud of blue blood,” proclaimed Scholastic Magazine.

After a quiet puppyhood in Ohio with owner Charlie Otis, Rhue arrived on the Notre Dame sidelines for their matchup against Navy on Nov. 14, 1932, played in his hometown of Cleveland.

The Irish won 12-0 against the Midshipmen and again the next week against Army, 21-0. It seemed that the newest and furriest member of the squad provided the spark for these two victories.

“His presence on the bench lent color to the scene and fire to the Irish attack,” Scholastic asserted. “He has Irish blood, and the Irish fight. And already he has love of the Irish team.”

However, Shaun Rhue’s career came to an abrupt end after the end of the 1932 season. As Nick Lamberto reported in 1936, Rhue “disappeared” in the spring of 1933, never to return.

Lamberto reflected on the terse tenure of Rhue. “Shaun was a likable dog in many ways, but also had a few bad traits. He, like many students, enjoyed nothing better than a little vacation in the form of a week-end…his latest ‘week-end’ extending from the spring of 1933 until now. His mental alertness was also of the questionable [sic] quality as he was often known to stand nonchalantly in the path of oncoming cars, only escaping injury and death because of the driver’s quick action with the brakes.”

While Rhue’s time with the team was short, he was still a trailblazing terrier who set the stage for future Irish mascots. Whether it be the cadre of Clashmore Mikes or the living leprechauns that leap around today, all owe a little something to Shaun Rhue.

A portrait of Clashmore Mike. Observer archives, Jan. 22, 1987.

“Facing mules, goats and panthers”: the history of Clashmore Mike

Oct. 23, 1974 | Dan Reagan | Researched by Christina Cefalu

The tales of Clashmore Mike, the chain of Irish Terriers that served as the Notre Dame mascot before the introduction of the leprechaun, have been immortalized in writing, on screen and through the very architecture of campus. Though the likeness of Clashmore Mike stands proudly over South Quad, almost leaping out from Alumni Hall, this treasure of Notre Dame is too often forgotten. The Observer’s Dan Reagan recounted the glamorous history of the furry performer in 1973, almost 10 years after his retirement.

Mike appeared before the crowds of Notre Dame fans in color-coordinated, blue and gold outfits created by the Spalding Brothers. The terrier is remembered for his gameday antics, challenging opposing teams’ mascots, reportedly chasing the Navy Goat, Army Mule and Pitt Panther around the field. Though Clashmore was at first sheepish when he encountered the Pitt Panther, their meeting ended with Mike victoriously chasing the cat into the stands in true Notre Dame spirit. 

The dog was also known for his “frequent vacations” from campus, and his darting off brought national attention to both Notre Dame and the hero Clashmore himself. Though his free spirit often troubled the Notre Dame staff who went to great lengths to ensure his recovery, Mike won the hearts of the football team. In 1944, there was serious consideration given to Clashmore’s retirement from the traveling squad. However, when faced with a number of furious football players, coach Ed McKeever reversed his decision. 

Clashmore Mike became a crucial member of the team. In an unauthorized biography by B.J. Williams, it is said that head coach Frank Leahy trained Clashmore to nab the football when Notre Dame had run out of timeouts to halt the game. And in 1956, Notre Dame finished their season with two wins and eight losses, a tragedy that Mike commemorated by walking over to a sign reading “1956, Notre Dame’s 68th Football Season,” and relieving himself on it.

1964 team captain Jim Carroll and head coach Ara Parseghian with their terrier teammate. Observer archives, Oct. 23, 1974.

The dog was first introduced to the Notre Dame family in the early 1930s as a gift to Knute Rockne and was then cared for by a student manager. In 1932, after Rockne’s passing, another Irish Terrier appeared, Shaun Rue, in response to Navy’s goat mascot. The tradition continued when Clashmore Mike II was gifted to Head Coach Hugh Devore, followed by Shannonview Mike.

There are no remaining chronological records of the dogs after Shannonview, but it is known that at least two more terrier mascots followed him: Clashmore Mike III, and Shannonview Rudy. Beyond a picture from 1964, there are no further records to explain the disappearance of the Clashmore legacy. Though the memory of Clashmore Mike has faded, his role in leading Notre Dame football and warming the hearts of students and fans everywhere is nothing short of legendary.

Calls for the return of Clashmore Mike 

Jan. 22, 1987 | Noreen O’Connor | Jan. 30, 1987 | Marge Andre | Researched by Lilyann Gardner 

Memories of Clashmore Mike can be found in photos, on football banners and even on the east wall of Alumni Hall, but the beloved Irish Terrier has not acted as Notre Dame’s mascot since the 1960s. 

No one knows why Clashmore Mike was phased out in favor of the leprechaun, but Marge Andre, an active member of the Irish Terrier Club of Chicago, believed that 1986 was the time to revitalize the old mascot tradition. 

“She has more than 3500 [sic] signatures from 48 states, the District of Columbia and eight countries as well as endorsements from such prominent people as ex­-mayor of Chicago, Jane Byrne; actor, Burgess Meredith; sports columnist, Bill Gleason; ND full back ‘60, 61, 62, Mike Lind and donor of the first Irish Terrier, Queenie Otis-Hanna, just to name a few,” features writer Noreen O’Connor wrote.

Andre hoped that her petition to bring back Clashmore Mike would revitalize Notre Dame’s football zeal by having the dog work alongside the leprechaun. 

A cartoon depicting Clashmore Mike and the leprechaun, who some hoped would team up to form a formidable mascot duo. Observer archives, Jan. 22, 1987.

The two were intended to make a formidable team as they were said to have shared the same Irish spirit. However, the decision to reinstate the terrier was rejected by the athletic department in December 1986 in favor of keeping the leprechaun as the sole mascot. 

A week after The Observer announced the decision in late January 1987, Andre wrote a letter to the editor expressing that she would continue to work on bringing Clashmore Mike back to Notre Dame. She even went on to state that the losing hex on Notre Dame football would remain until the Irish Terrier was back on the field. 

“Laugh if you will, but when the current student body is old and gray, they will realize there was not a football championship in their lifetime,” Andre wrote.

Andre’s comments proved comically incorrect as Notre Dame won a national championship shortly after in 1988. But there is still much love for the legacy of Clashmore Mike and all the faithful fidos of the Fighting Irish.

Contact Spencer Kelly at skelly25@nd.edu

Christina Cefalu at ccefalu@nd.edu

Lilyann Gardner at lgardne2@nd.edu