GAA commitment pays off for St Catherine's College
CIARA Donnelly's boss likes a good meal.
At least, that's the feeling you get from Ciara's account of the principal of St Catherine's College in Armagh's reaction to their recent coup in the Irish News School, Club & Volunteer awards.
“Any award that comes along is good for the school as a whole, but it's good to see that the girls are being recognised for their effort,” says Donnelly, a teacher at the school and one of the guiding lights behind their recent success in Gaelic games.
“We took five students to the [awards] ceremony and we weren't really expecting a three-course meal.
“It was a lovely day out and to be out with their principal and everything, it makes it something else to aim for.
“The principal herself, she's now like ‘right, what can we do to be in with a shout for the bigger awards next year', so it's been a big thing in the same school.”
It's hard to tell if the line of thought is, the more prestigious the award, the more extravagant the meal, but you can always hope.
The success of St Catherine's on the pitch this year, however, has been no joke.
“We're a camogie and footballing school and that's it this year,” adds Ciara of the commitment which helped them to land the School Contribution award, along with St Dominic's in Belfast.
“We've won three Ulster titles, which hasn't happened all at once in a long time.
“We won a junior Ulster title, a senior Ulster title – both in football – and a senior camogie title as well, so that has really promoted Gaelic games within the school.
“Even for the younger girls to see that happening and to see the girls paraded around the school to show how proud we are of them representing the school, hopefully will drive the younger teams on.
“Hopefully, they stay dedicated and compete for their school for the rest of their school careers.”
The School Contribution category is a new initiative in the Irish News' annual awards, with students nominating their own schools if they've been suitably inspired by the set up. At St Catherine's, it was Ciara Donnelly's younger sister Leanne who submitted the entry.
“It's been great to be recognised for what we do for our students,” says Ciara.
“The teachers that take the teams put in a lot of effort and time and work. The fact that Leanne felt strongly enough to apply for the award on behalf of her school is a great thing in itself.
“For the pupils to have experienced the day out, it was really good for them.”
The award which the Donnelly clann helped to win now takes pride of place in the school staff room, acting as a motivator for greater feats in the years to come.
“We've got the trophies we won this year along with the plaque up in the staff room and, for other teachers who aren't involved in the GAA, it's showing that it is worthwhile,” Donnelly the elder says.
“There's no extra pay for staying behind taking the camogie teams in the evenings and giving up your weekends, but it is worth it for the experience that the girls get.”
The three-course meals play their part as well, though.