FOUR talented hurlers from Thomastown National School are celebrating victory in the county Tipperary primary schools skills competition 2012, an initiative sponsored by Stakelum’s Hardware in Thurles.
Tony Byron (Galtee Rovers), Niall Heffernan (Golden-Kilfeacle), Shane Farrell (Knockavilla Kickhams) and their teammate Andy showcased their talents in the county final, held in Thurles on Tuesday, May 29.
In the process, the boys won a laptop computer for their school, worth over €1,000, which was the glittering prize on offer from the competition sponsors.
And the boys did it the hard way, seeing off some top class opposition on their way to an historic win in the hurling skills event.
Thomastown NS were crowned county champions ahead of Carrig National School Nenagh, who finished in second place, with Mullinahone NS in third and Scoil Ailbhe, Thurles, in fourth.
Niall Heffernan and Shane Farrell are both sixth class pupils at Thomastown NS, while Tony Byron and Andy are in fifth class at the school where Mr. Brian Cahill is the proud principal.
Ms. Siobhan Condon, well-known in Tipperary ladies football circles, teaches the four boys at Thomastown NS.
She said that winning the West final on May 25 was a huge achievement in itself for the four boys but going on to claim the county title surpassed all expectations.
Siobhan told ‘The Nationalist’: “It’s brilliant – starting out we didn’t really know what to expect but when they won the West, they were delighted. “And when they came back on the Tuesday and said that they won the county, everybody was over the moon. It’s a great achievement for the school. It’s a small school and you’re going up against bigger schools like Thurles and Nenagh.
“To come out and win like they did was just fantastic for everybody. It’s a great boost for the school but also their own clubs. They’re representing Golden, Galtee Rovers and Kickhams. It’s fantastic to see that the work they’re doing at underage is paying off. We’re delighted with them. They’re a great bunch of boys. They work very hard themselves and at home they’re training themselves. It all pays off and it shows that if you put in the work, you’ll get the rewards.”
West Tipperary Games Development Administrator Kevin Halley (Rockwell Rovers) also hailed the work done by Cappawhite’s Seanie O’Neill, who coaches aspiring young stars at local schools in the division. And Golden-based Mitchell Heffernan is also deserving of special praise as he took the four boys to the county final, with schoolteachers naturally unable to be present due to work commitments.
Halley explained: “We decided this year that we were going to focus on skills and skill development in the schools. Dinny Maher and the other Games Development Administrators came up with this initiative and we got a sponsor in Stakelum’s Hardware, Thurles.
“Each of the divisions ran their own finals and out of that, we had three winners from West Tipperary going forward to the county final – Thomastown, Ballagh and Donaskeigh.
“The county final took place at Dr. Morris Park, Thurles, and we focused very much on team-based skills. Teams of four were awarded points for striking on the run. Starting on the 45m line, the participants ran maybe 10 or 15 metres before striking the run, with a teammate positioned behind the goal and getting the ball back out as quickly as possible. “Teams had three minutes to get as many scores as they could. Then we had solo running through slalom poles and the control that goes with that.
“Teams were also tested on the sideline cut – and Thomastown proved really proficient at that and it really stood to them. They got the highest score in the sideline cut, with shots taken from dead centre of goal on the 20m line, and ten metres from dead centre either side.
“The pupils were also marked on striking on the run off both left and right – again it was points based, with time scenarios involved.”
Halley thanked transition year students from St Ailbe’s in Tipperary town for their assistance as markers at the event, while GAA intern Derry Peters (Aherlow) also helped out.
“When there is so much at stake, it is important to have it done right,” Halley explained.
What makes Thomastown’s achievement even more remarkable is the fact that the competition was an open competition, irrespective of primary school size or pupil numbers.
Halley said: “We concluded, at a meeting, that you could have very proficient players in a small or big school. It’s a unique programme that we have here in Tipperary, one of a number of initiatives to try and stay ahead of the game.”
Thomastown’s victory is a timely boost to the school ahead of the Cumann na mBunscol hurling and camogie finals, to be held at Semple Stadium on this coming Thursday and Friday, June 7/8.
Thomastown NS will contest the Roinn F hurling final against Lissenhall on Thursday.