Mitchelstown CBS hope to end stellar year on a high
By John Harrington
It’s always a good sign of a school if a former pupil returns to it as a teacher.
At the photo-call for the Masita Post Primary Schools All-Ireland Football and Hurling Finals, it was notable that many of the team mentors were former pupils themselves.
Most likely a combination of happy memories and a grá for Gaelic games as well as professional ambition drew them back to their old Alma Mater
Mitchelstown CBS teacher, Jason Walsh, was one of them, and there’s a nice circularity to his story.
He played on the Mitchelstown CBS team that won a Corn Risteard Ui Mhathuna Munster Senior Hurling ‘C’ title in 2004, and has now coached them to the first title in the grade since then 19 years later.
He’s not the only connection to that 2004 success. Willie Duggan was the manager back then and is also manager of this year’s team.
“Willie is leaving a real legacy,” says Walsh. “He’s done so much for the school, hurling-wise.
“There wasn't even a hurling team until Willie set it up. I'd say it was back in the 1990s when he set up hurling in the school on his own and he's been driving it ever since, fair play to him.
“There were days in my time hurling in the school when he'd be going to matches on his own with no help. He was the only teacher doing hurling and football at the time in the school. It's a testament to him that he's still doing it and still loves it.
“Being a former pupil and player and now being a teacher in the school and coaching the teams, of course it means a lot to me. It's great to see the school doing well and around the community everyone is talking about it.
“You're going to club matches at the weekend and fellas are asking you about it and talking to you about it so it's great. It's a real rural community so it's very tight-knit, and even though it's three different counties they really do have a love for the school, the clubs that are feeding into it. It's exciting.”
It’s been a year of high achievement for Mitchelstown CBS who draw their pupils from Cork, Tipperary, and Limerick.
Not only have they reached an All-Ireland Hurling Final, they were also unfortunate to lose the Munster Senior ‘B’ football final to Abbey CBS.
They’ve had a hectic fixture schedule, but Walsh is happy they’re coming into Saturday’s All-Ireland Final against St. Mary’s Magherafelt in good shape, both physically and mentally.
“We're going well to be fair,” he says. “It's hard to get through playing Munster football and Munster hurling and getting to two finals and keep all the boys injury free but they are. They're all in good nick and fit and ready for action.
“There's a huge crossover between our football and hurling teams. You'd be talking 12 of the starters would be playing for both teams.
“It's been an exciting year for us. Sometimes it can work to your advantage when you're playing week in and week out but it can also take it's toll on the body but thankfully our lads have done very well, we're happy out with them.
“I actually think that losing the Munster football final might stand to them too. It's tough to lose a Munster Final and I think they were a little bit nervous the last day at the start of the All-Ireland Hurling semi-final, they didn't want to lose again, and the fear of losing can sometimes inhibit you.
“But, no, they seem to be mentally strong after losing the football. They're mad to get down training again and push on again for the final.
“It would be great to get over the line and win it, especially as we've lost a good few finals in the last few years between football and hurling so it would be nice to bring some silverware to the school again.
“We won the Senior 'C' football a few years back as well in 2016 so it would be nice to go on now and also win a Senior 'C' hurling title.”
Saturday, March 18
Masita GAA Post Primary Schools Michael Cusack Cup (Senior Hurling ‘C’) Final
Mitchelstown CBS v St. Mary’s Magherafelt, GAA Centre of Excellence, Abbottstown, 2pm.