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Irish Increase Bonding and Fitness With O’Leary Cup on The Line

Jan 17, 2013, 2:28 PM EDT

©2012 John Strohsacker / Laxphotos.com ©2012 John Strohsacker / Laxphotos.com

Student blogger Rich Hidy (’16) wrote the following column towards the end of the fall 2012 semester.

While in the midst of an offseason that will seemingly fly by before practice begins in January, the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team participates in the O’Leary Cup, an annual competition featuring different types of fitness besides lacrosse.

The O’Leary Cup is named after the late Rich O’Leary, who helped develop the trophy as part of his duties as the Director of Intramurals and Club Sports at Notre Dame. O’Leary also was the first Irish men’s lacrosse coach.

The Cup includes a variety of sports that sound more like First Year of Studies gym courses with the ultimate goals of exercise and enjoyment. The team challenges one another in events such as handball, flag football, soccer, and ironman competitions that include running on the outskirts of campus.

The players see this competition as a stress reliever in an offseason of intense preparation for the arduous road ahead. The O’Leary Cup also serves as a way to increase team camaraderie and build some memories.

“This allows us to get the chance to compete in a number of different sports in the offseason that some guys played in high school,” senior midfielder Steve Murphy said. “We have a lot of competition and team bonding through that.”

Senior defenseman Tyler Andersen believes the O’Leary Cup is an ideal way to stay fit for the sport of lacrosse.

“It’s a good way to get in shape and workout without doing your classic gassers. Coach (Kevin Corrigan) is helping us with our fitness while still having fun,” Andersen said.

The O’Leary Cup has transformed over its formative years to an intense, yet friendly, rivalry between players who will go into battle for each other come spring. Murphy, a three-time monogram recipient from Shirley, N.Y., has especially noticed a change in the Cup since he first arrived at Notre Dame.

“This has really started to take form over the past two years. People have really gotten into it and picking teams has become a big part of it,” Murphy said.

Andersen thinks all the various activities are valuable and has a difficult time picking a favorite. That illustrates the effectiveness the Cup has in bringing an exhilarating edge to organized team events during a time in the lacrosse seasonal cycle when the spring campaign is still months away.

“We play soccer, which was fun. Everyone always loves the flag football. It’s really tough for me to pick a single favorite,” Andersen said.

The Cup’s reception by the players has become increasingly more serious. The Irish are playing for an elite college program for a reason; each one of them has a drive to be the best in athletics. The O’Leary Cup allows players to focus this competitive fire on something besides their native sport.

“At first we were joking around about it, but once people start sweating, it gets pretty heated,” Murphy said. “There have been some minor arguments. The competition level gets extremely high. (Junior defenseman) Steve O’Hara caught a knee to the face and had to get stiches after a handball competition.”

Andersen, a two-time monogram recipient on Notre Dame’s stout defensive unit, stressed that although the O’Leary Cup is a break from normal skill building, the Irish still have their upcoming lacrosse games in the back of their minds.

“We still lift and get our cardio in but this is a nice way to play some different sports that we played in the past. Coach (Corrigan) is big on not getting burnt out on lacrosse. When preseason practices start, we will be hungry for it and ready to go,” Andersen, a native of Wayne, Pa., said.

Come spring, the spirited rivalries of the O’Leary Cup will be in the past as the Fighting Irish unite to pursue a national championship.

“It’s good to mix it up with getting a break from lacrosse until the spring starts when we go at it every day,” Murphy said. “We can have a good time with our buddies by doing this.”

Having fun might be the perfect formula in preparing this team for the trials that await them on the field.

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