If the young hurlers of Salesian College Pallaskenry were looking for a role model ahead of what has proven to be their busiest season in some time they didn’t have too far to look.
Training their senior hurling side are Brian Chambers and Clare hurler and All-Ireland winner Colin Ryan, a teacher at the school. Both Chambers and Ryan have been putting the side through its paces ahead of Saturday’s clash with St Enda’s College Galway in the Michael Cusack Cup (Senior Hurling ‘C’) semi-final at Gort.
It’s been a hectic time for the school and it’s senior teams – 11 of the hurling side was involved in the senior footballers defeat to Our Lady’s Belmullet in the Masita Rice Cup semi-final last Saturday. And Pat Winders, one of the GAA stalwarts at the school, says that while it was disappointing to lose, there is plenty to look forward to. Winders also recognised what an influence Colin Ryan was on the youngsters.
“Colin and Brian have done a great job and the lads have a serious role model on their doorstep,” Winders said. “Colin is such a good influence on the lads. He is good with the lads and he brought the Liam MacCarthy Cup into the school in October which was great to see.”
“We don’t know much about St Enda’s but we have a good, strong side and the likes of Killian Gavin and Ross Griffin will be a big shove on. We have three lads on the Limerick minors so that is a help too.”
With those three training hard with the county team, 11 of the side playing both codes for the school, and almost all of the squad doing the pre-Leaving Cert exams, Winders admits that it has been difficult to co-ordinate training.
“We have very little done to be honest and we had very little altogether done in football but that’s the nature of things at this level – the lads are very busy.”
So too has the school’s GAA teams in general. In recent times they have won a Munster U16 C championship and just last year they were beaten by Kilmacthomas in the U18 C final.
They draw from three clubs- Kildimo/Pallaskenry, Patrickswell and Mungret and with 600 boys and girls in the school it looks like they will have no problem maintaining their recent successes.
“It’s a good sporting school,” Winters notes. “And GAA is huge here. In general, Limerick underage hurling is thriving and we would like to think we are doing our bit to help things along.”
The curtain raiser to that game is the Dr Eamonn O’Sullivan Cup semi final (Senior Football ‘C’) between Leitrim’s Ballinamore Community School who face Cork’s Coláiste Ghobnatan, Baile Bhúirne.
The Leitrim side have a staggering 11 players on the county minor panel and Kevin Nolan, one of the teachers there, admits it has been very hard to streamline training.
“For the week before the Connacht final we got all of those players back from the Leitrim minors but we only did two sessions which were really light. By the time the final came around the boys were so hungry. You have to look out for tiredness in lads; they are training to such a high intensity that burnout would have to be a factor if we ran them into the ground for our competitions.”
It’s been a brilliant period for the school who only recently moved in to new premises as well as winning four games to seal the Connacht title recently.
“The two developments together may help us down the line in attracting more students to the school – or at least help them in making a decision where to go,” Nolan added.
They only have 290 students currently, but that number could grow. They are being supplied by six local GAA clubs and a win on Saturday would be massive for the school – and county in general.
The other O’Sullivan Cup semi-final between Louth’s Ardee Community School (Louth) and Monaghan’s Our Lady’s Secondary School Castleblaney takes place at Inniskeen – also on Saturday.
But perhaps the biggest games on this weekend’s Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools calendar are the Masita Croke Cup quarter-finals (Senior Hurling ‘A’) between Presentation College Athenry(Galway) and Scoil na Trinóide Naofa, Doon (Limerick) in St.Joseph’s Doora-Barefield (Gurteen, Ennis) and St Brigid’s, Loughrea(Galway) and the famed St Kieran’s College (Kilkenny) which is at Birr.
Loughrea went down to Athenry after a serious battle and Eanna Burke and his teammates will be well up for this game.
The clash between Doon and Athenry, meanwhile, is also interesting. Doon were comprehensively beaten by Ardscoil Ris (2-13 to 0-4) in the Harty Cup final and had no answer to the 2010 and 2011 champions in a one-sided second half. They depended heavily on their free-taker Colin Ryan but in front of a crowd of 3,514 they couldn’t contain their rivals. They will be all out to make up for that second half no-show this weekend.
STAT OF THE WEEK – 83
While Doon disappointed in the Harty Cup final there was still some celebration in reaching that stage of the competition for the first time in 83 years after they beat Rochestown College to make the final for the first time since 1931.
NUMBER OF THE WEEK – €8 million
Ballinamore CS may have had to wait 46 years for their new school but an estimated €8 million state-of-the-art building was unveiled and officially opened just two weeks ago. Their new school features science labs, computer rooms, gym, sports hall, language rooms, engineering rooms, construction rooms, demonstration rooms with theatre seating, drama, religion and meditation rooms. And of course the four acre site also includes a training football pitch!