The uniforms don't say Notre Dame, but they are green and filled with Irishmen.
Since 1988, the Loyola College soccer team has included a pair of scrappers from Dublin and a big kid from New Jersey who probably has roots on the Emerald Isle. With an O'Malley, an O'Hara and a Geraghty also on the roster, these Greyhounds don't honor St. Patrick just one day a year.
Loyola (10-8-1) continued its three-year dominance of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Association yesterday with a 4-0 rout of La Salle (11-5-1), and the Irish made the difference. Tom Donahue, who's from Middletown, N.J., registered his first collegiate hat trick and assisted Mark Hopper, one of the Dubliners, on the Greyhounds' first goal.
"Tom's a good Irishman," Hopper said. "He even talks like me."
That's a stretch. Hopper and Sean Nolan came to Loyola from Dublin in 1988, after Greyhounds coach Bill Sento made a recruiting trip there to see them play for the Belvedere Youth Club. The city's economic plight was lionized in a recent motion picture, "The Commitments," and Hopper said it's an accurate depiction of the rough-and-tumble life there.
"Actually, the South side of Dublin is quite nice," Hopper said. "The only problem is, I'm from the North side."
Hopper said his acclimation to the United States was made easier by the fact he and Nolan came here together. Nolan is a regular on the MAAC all-academic teams, and both accounting majors are on schedule to get degrees next spring.
A starter at midfield since midway through his freshman season, Hopper figures to earn MAAC all-star honors for the third straight year. His career totals of 29 goals and 19 assists make him the 11th-leading scorer in Loyola history, while Nolan (26, 12) is No. 14.
They're Nos. 2 and 3 in scoring this year behind Donahue, who in his first two seasons earned his keep at sweeper. The Greyhounds needed
more scoring even before Sento suspended Rob Elliott last month, and Donahue is enjoying his move up to attacking midfielder. Yesterday's hat trick, his first "since I was 9 and playing for my father," gave him 14 goals and two assists. His career totals entering this season were six and eight, respectively.
Donahue, Hopper, Nolan and three other seniors will close out their Loyola careers this weekend, when Curley
Field will be the site of the MAAC tournament. Fairfield and La Salle meet in Saturday's semifinals at noon, and Loyola plays at Siena at 2 p.m. On Sunday, the consolation game is at 11 a.m., the championship is at 1 p.m.
Sento can gain his 150th Loyola victory against Siena, a team the Greyhounds pounded 6-0 in the regular season. They are 25-0 against MAAC competition since entering the loop in 1988.