Some 24 second level schools were again, for the umpteenth time, the recipients of sports equipment grants with a value in excess of €10,000 at a dinner in the Springhill Court Hotel on Friday, hosted by Kilkenny County Board.
This long-held practice was a delightful affair, where the schools from a wide range of second level educational establishments are given assistance to help the promotion of Gaelic games. Kilkenny, as we have often stated in these columns, is the only County Board, to the best of our knowledge, that makes such a valuable and much appreciated gesture.
And the jesture is not confined to Kilkenny schools. In fact, wherever it is thought that a Kilkenny youngster, be it boy or girl, is involved in cmogie or hurling, you can bet that the Kilkenny County Board, will know about it, and will be generous with equipment within certain limits.
We all know about the exploits of St Kieran’s College, the CBS in Callan and Kilkenny, Castlecomer CS, Scoil Mhuire in Johnstown and the rest around the county. They get assistance, but schools like Abbey Community College in Ferrybank, Good Council in New Ross, the CBS in the same town and the players in New Ross Vocational School, Presentation School in Bagnalstown, Borris VEC, Carrick-on-Suir and St Fergal’s in Rathdowney have all been assisted over the years.
Schools are like clubs
Hurleys and sliothair are presented to the value stated, but the sponsorship, or assistance, amounts to at least double the price of the equipment handed out.
“It doesn’t stop at equipment,” said County chairman, Paul Kinsella. “We have sponsored this equipment over the years to the tune of €200,000. Additionally, over the same period, in excess of a further €200,000 has been made available in Capital Grants to schools who have been involved in development programmes.”
We spoke to Brian Ryan, one of two county coaches (the other is James Maher from Freshford).
“Schools are just another form of a club really. Clubs finish a season in late Autumn if they are lucky, and come a new dawn comes a new ambition, with the eternal drive to win this year. Schools are no different. A new year starts in September, and there is the hope that success might just come through the gate,” he said.
Hurling is very attractive at the moment, Brian?
“You look at the present climate, the razz matazz surrounding the present Kilkenny team and its mentors. Sure how could you not want to be a part of that. And teachers knows, and the County Board make them feel that they are a part of the greater hurling vista by association.
“There is a magnetism about the present set-up, and the players and management of the county team are never slow about acknowledging the importance the school is in the development of the players and the development of the members of the management team either. How often do you hear Brian Cody on about the importance of the little school team?
Part of great movement
“How often do you hear a player, when interviewed on TV or radio, saying how important it was to his development as a player when he played with such and such a school, under the stewardship of such a teacher? So it is not surprising to find that our teachers find consolation, and much pride in such public statements. They feel they are part of a greater movement,” he said.
Pat Henderson is one of the Leinster co-ordinators of colleges hurling.
“The important thing is the acknowledging of the contribution made by second level schools in and around Kilkenny to the whole GAA effort,” said the former Kilkenny team manager. “It is not just as Martin Fogarty said about looking after the elite teams, or the thousand players that it takes to make one inter-county player.
“It is about the value of the remaining 999 players who go back to their clubs to play a very important role, having come under the influence of those great gentlemen.”
Some might suggest that Kilkenny are playing a clever game, that they are playing a protecting role with events like this. They are safeguarding their future, in so far as they can?
“I don’t see anything wrong with that. I would take pride in that approach. I feel that by acknowledging what we have, by protecting what we have, and I suppose preserving what we have, it is vitally important in the on-going success of what we are about in Kilkenny.