St Mary's pupils suitably inspired by Antrim hurlers
A FEW movers and shakers of Antrim hurling returned to their old school – St Mary’s CBS Glen Road – yesterday afternoon to parade some of the most coveted pieces of silverware in the GAA, including the Liam MacCarthy and Joe McDonagh Cups.
A couple of hundred St Mary’s pupils sat in the school’s lecture theatre and listened to the inspiring stories of current Antrim hurlers Gerard Walsh, Conor Johnston, Aaron Bradley, Michael Bradley, Stephen Rooney, Daniel McKernan, Gerard Walsh and Limerick hurling trainer Cairbre Ó Cairealláin, also a past pupil.
Hosted by former Antrim footballer and St Mary’s teacher Paddy Cunningham, the young pupils and next generation of hurlers listened to how Stephen Rooney came to the small-ball game relatively late, and now finds himself as resident corner-back on the county team.
Afterwards, Rooney said: “I remember I was in this school and a couple of people came in to speak with us. I remember they spoke about enjoying school and I got a lot out of it. It wasn’t too long ago I was sitting here getting some advice, so it’s good to maybe give some back.”
The St Paul’s man played a lot of rugby in his youth before turning his hand to hurling because so many of his St Mary’s school friends played.
“Especially if it’s a skills sport, it’s not easy,” Rooney said. “It’s not like football or rugby – hurling is such a skilled work, so you kind of had to go to the wall and catch up.”
Cunningham joked during yesterday's Q&A session that Rooney’s hurling in first year never set the world alight, really in a bid to encourage the young listeners that hard work and dedication will pay off in the long run.
“Obviously the lads who are here today went to the school and are from the area and it’s something the boys can relate to,” Cunningham said.
“They are all role models; they’ve all been developed in the school. They mightn’t have been the best hurlers in their year group, but they consistently worked hard inside and outside of the classroom and it is testament to the lads themselves how well they’ve progressed. It shows what our lads can do and what they can aspire to be – nothing’s beyond them.
“Cairbre has obviously excelled over the last couple of years in a professional capacity with the Limerick hurlers and all the other lads have excelled as hurlers and are key players in that Antrim team. It just goes to show nothing’s impossible and if you work hard in school and work hard on the training field they can achieve and hopefully they can push on and develop themselves as individuals, for their clubs, school and Antrim in the future.”
Meanwhile, one of Rooney’s objectives when he returns to the inter-county scene with Antrim next season is simple: to win a starting berth in Darren Gleeson’s team.
“There are 35 guys all wanting a spot in the team,” he said, “so it’s getting in the team first of all. And from an overall point of view we want to win more matches and we want to win a Liam MacCarthy match as that would be progression.”
2023 Leinster SHC round robin: Round One: Antrim v Dublin; Round Two: Wexford v Antrim; Round Three: Antrim v Kilkenny; Round Four: Galway v Antrim; Round Five: Westmeath v Antrim. Dates to be confirmed