What a year it has been for St Joseph’s and camogie. Two Munster Titles, Two all-Ireland titles, a Munster “B” league title, a First Year Munster “B” Title and still to come, a First Year “A” final and Junior “A” final both to be played next week. Our girls appear to be unstoppable this year!! Many people have to be thanked in relation to this year’s success. Firstly, all the coaches involved in putting this year’s plan into action. Hours of training after school, programs made out for training over the holidays, meeting up for sessions over the holidays and the endless organization of pitches, matches, referees, gear, the list goes on and on. To the staff of St Joseph’s, this year’s success would not have been possible without their support, covering classes for the coaches, turning up at the games to help out and supporting the girls in their quest for a medal. To Feakle and Tulla GAA for the use of their pitches and other facilities on the road to the final. John Nihil, who was a great support to the school, the coaches and the girls throughout the year despite it being such a difficult one for him personally. To the parents, thank you for your help and support all year with turning up to matches, preparing food, dropping and collecting to training and after games. This would not have been possible without your support. A special word of thanks to our sponsors, Mr John Lenihan of Lenmac Services, Seabreeze Seafoods Limerick and the Board of Management at St Joseph’s whose generosity in encouraging sport in young people is greatly appreciated. And finally, to the girls. One can only admire the determination and motivation you showed this year. From the start you all put 100% into this campaign. You are an incredible and inspiring bunch of young women. We will really miss the Leaving Cert girls next year but we are very excited about the up and coming talent in the younger years and look forward to the road ahead.
Article Eoin Brennan, The Clare People
You know that old quip from supporters of perennial title winners like Kilkenny (hurling), Kerry (football) and even Wexford (camogie) that goes along the lines of ‘there are so many provincial and All-Ireland medals floating around that there’s a good chance you could get one as change in the local shop”? Yes, I know it’s an overused gag that has been floated around quite often in recent years but it also could genuinely apply to St Joseph’s Tulla as well after an unprecedented start to 2013.
In all, the school has amassed three Munster and two All-Ireland crowns so far this year, a remarkable achievement to surpass anything that the aforementioned counties could accomplish. All because those five titles were garnered in only a nine week period and at two separate levels with their senior and junior squads both claiming Munster and All-Ireland Colleges D crowns while the flagship side completed the haul last Wednesday by adding a Munster Intermediate League title to their already bulging trophy cabinet.
So where did this unquenchable thirst from success emanate from? Principal Margaret O’Brien takes up the story. “It’s just fantastic. There is such a great atmosphere around the place at the moment following the girls’ great success and we are absolutely thrilled to have done so well this year. “It’s the commitment of teachers after hours really. They practice two evenings a week for boys and two evenings for the girls as well as challenge matches. And they even kept that regime up over the Christmas holidays so they are really committed and really doing their best, and while the girls won five major trophies, the boys had a great run as well in the Munster B competition to reach the final.
“The other students as well see their success, see what it has taken and that it is possible for students in their classes to achieve this if they are prepared to put in the effort. And in fairness as well, as a school we are very lucky that clubs in the surrounding areas have very good underage structures in place to nurture the players as well in the club competitions outside of school time.
“In terms of success of the teams though, one common thread is Donna Fitzgerald. She has really taken on camogie this year along with her other colleagues like Rita Forrestal, Catherine Tobin and Declan Spellman who have all been instrumental in the successes.” PE and Geography teacher Donna Fitzgerald has presided over both winning panels but while the school have rose to such heightened levels of prominence in the last nine weeks, she is quick to point out that the initial seeds were sown two years previously when a number of new teachers put a renewed effort into promoting and developing the code in the school. “Everyone has put in such a massive effort. I suppose we started this campaign two years ago so its great to get the rewards after the effort you have put in because sometimes it doesn’t always come to pass.
“You could have a game where you blow it in the first round of the competition but to see the effort the girls have put in and to see them get the rewards for it has created a massive buzz around the school, around the clubs where we have great support as well as the parents who have made this a community effort.” “A former teacher Mary Lenihan was a great driving force for camogie in the school for over 20 years but after her retirement two years ago, Declan [Spellman] and I took over, Catherine [Tobin] and Rita [Forrestal] got involved with the juniors and first years so it was just fresh faces really.
We adopted the same outlook as Mary had and we soon saw the skill we had available to us so we made a big push to build on the strengths that they had and we’ve done it this year thankfully.” After taking on such a responsibility, the next step for Donna and Co. was to mould them into a formidable collective unit. “About halfway through last year, we realised that the girls had the skills and all they needed to do was to come together as a team.
We weren’t coming in to teach these girls massive skills, we came in with the focus of building on their fitness and building a team. Because in reality we have about six different club teams here and all those girls play with their respective clubs and very much identify with their individual parishes. So we were trying to knock that out of them and focus our energy into making them a united ‘St Joseph’s’. “It’s something that we actually thought would take about three years so we are actually ahead of what we initially thought. And that was the difference for us in a lot of games, the team spirit.
We came up against some extremely skillful schools but I think the team factor that our girls had, made them pull together and work for each other and that was the ultimate difference I felt in a lot of games.” With seven girls part of both panels, momentum was also a crucial factor in St Joseph’s triumphs according to senior mentor Declan Spellman. “The overlap in panels and the fact that the games were coming thick and fast and that they were gaining huge experience was important.
And when you have second and third years playing senior competitions and winning, and in some cases winning comfortably, that breeds confidence. The juniors were bringing that to the mix, there was definitely a good vibe going around the school about camogie and there’s also no doubt that the senior success was feeding into the juniors and that overlap did help greatly.” So with such a healthy mix of confidence and success across two separate age groups, Spellman feels that this is only the start of the school’s future potential as they prepare to move up the grades. “That’s the fascinating thing and the thing that keeps us interested. We are losing almost the entire back line from the senior squad who are all leaving cert students this year. That is a huge chunk to lose but we know now that we have good juniors, good second and third years, our first years are also very good and we know from the national schools, that we are going to have good first years next year so that will all feed into it, there’s no doubt about that. “We will be going up into C next year and we are looking forward to it. It will only bring us on if anything. I mean we played a C school in the Munster Intermediate League final this week and as the result showed, we were well able to match them and beat them.
So the future is definitely bright.” As Donna Fitzgerald aptly surmised ‘It’s only a starting point but it’s a great starting point.”
Article by Eoin Brennan, The Clare People