These two really put the Irish in the Fighting Irish.
The Notre Dame basketball squad’s season came to a disappointing end this week. The team made a strong run in the much-hyped NCAA basketball tournament. But they finally lost to the top-ranked University of North Carolina Tar Heels Sunday night 88-74.
Still, the future is very bright for Notre Dame basketball, which is led by two Irish Americans, one from New Jersey, the other from New York.
Matt Ryan and Matt Farrell are expected to play together for another two years to come. That means this dynamic Irish duo might finally get Notre Dame to the promised land of the Final Four.
Farrell has now played two seasons for the Fighting Irish, and played a key role in Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament run. Earlier in the season, Farrell spent a good chunk of time coming off the bench for the Fighting Irish.
But once the bright lights of the NCAA tournament were switched on, coach Mike Brey called on Farrell to play a key role as a starter. And Farrell delivered. He started all three of Notre Dame’s victories in the tournament.
Farrell’s seven first half point against Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen round went a long way towards getting the Irish offense running, after it seemed to be sputtering.
Farrell was born in New Brunswick New Jersey and attended Point Pleasant Beach High School, where he played for the varsity squad all four years.
His teams won two consecutive New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) state championships (2013 and 2014). When Farrell graduated, he was the second leading scorer in the school’s history, and had amassed the most assists (542) at the school ever.
Farrell has said Notre Dame’s tournament success was particularly sweet because it came not far from where he grew up. Notre Dame played its first tournament game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
"It was awesome when we found out (we were coming to Brooklyn)," Farrell told The Asbury Park Press.
"We have a bunch of guys from the East Coast. Everyone was excited. We get six tickets, and right away people were swinging for other tickets. A lot of family and friends are coming down, so it's a fun time. It’s awesome that support people want to come out. It's good to be home."
Then there’s Ryan, a White Plains native who was one of the most sought-after high school basketball players last year. He was such a star his senior year at Iona Prep High School he was named “Mr. New York Basketball” in 2015.
That year Ryan averaged 20 points a game to go along with eight rebounds, leading his team (called the Gaels, by the way) to its first-ever Class AA Archdiocesan championship. He ended up scoring over 1,000 points in high school.
And though he’s only in his first year at Notre Dame, Ryan is already wowing his teammates.
“Every time Matt Ryan shoots, I think it is going in,” fellow freshman Rex Pflueger told the New York Daily News this week.
The paper added: “Ryan and Pflueger are part of a four-freshmen class that continues to contribute at key times. Ryan’s three capped an Irish rally as Notre Dame tied Michigan in the second half after trailing by 12 points.”
His player on Notre Dame’s web site touts Ryan as “a true pure and skilled shooter who could become one of the special scorers in the history of the program” who “will flourish in Mike Brey's system at Notre Dame given his shooting ability.”
Last year the Fighting Irish also suffered a bitter loss after a long run in the NCAA tournament. The team made it all the way to the so-called Elite Eight round. They faced off against the number one team in their bracket, The University of Kentucky, losing by just two points, 68-66.
But with Farrell and Ryan expected back next year, the promised land may just be that much closer.