Sean Byrne

Crehana NS Principal Killian O’Reilly presents GAA President Christy Cooney with a portrait from the epic 2004 Munster Hurling Final to mark his visit to the school. “I will be delighted to hang this in my office in Croke Park,” he told Crehana’s pupils. | Photo: Sean Byrne

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Teachers are playing an invaluable role in fostering a love of Gaelic games among the nation’s youth: that’s the view of grateful GAA President Christy Cooney.

Speaking during a visit to Crehana National School on Thursday last, Mr Cooney, who recently succeeded Nickey Brennan in Croke Park, thanked primary school teachers for their contribution to the Association.

“I know at the moment that there are enormous pressures on the education system, which makes a visit like this, to a school so committed to our games, all the more significant,” he said.

“Sometimes, at national level, we don’t always fully recognise the significance of the role which schools and their teachers play in encouraging boys and girls to become involved in our games.

“But today gives me an opportunity to say thank you to the teachers here in Crehana for your excellent contribution, a contribution that’s been replicated in schools right across the country.”

Mr Cooney (on his first Presidential visit to a primary school outside of Cork) complimented Crehana NS Principal Killian O’Reilly and his staff for encouraging a love of Gaelic games among their pupils.

“We don’t want pressure on children from an early age when it comes to playing our games,” he added, sounding a cautionary note.

“The early years of activity in our games are meant to be all about enjoying the game in a less pressurised situation.

“They will encounter more than enough pressure in their lives when it comes to exams along with all that will come in adult life, so it’s important that teachers, parents and all involved in the Association remember that.”

Addressing the pupils, Christy Cooney said he hoped they would always take pride in their school, their club and their parish and take their love of the GAA with them upon whatever path they take in life.

“When I was small, I can remember sometimes giving out about my teachers, but looking back, I can tell you now that they were always there for me and always acting in my best interests – and I know that’s the same for all of you here in Crehana.”

The school ran a ‘Colours Day’ to mark both Mr Cooney’s visit and the 125th anniversary of the GAA, with the building awash with the pupils’ hurling, camogie and football-inspired artwork.

In the school assembly hall, the predominant colours were white and blue, with the pupils sporting their county colours for the day.

A splash of blue and gold, black and amber, Limerick green and even the red of Mr Cooney’s native Cork were also proudly on display.

The maroon and white of Saint Molleran’s GAA Club was also prominent, with club secretary John Maher among those who addressed the gathering.

Killian O’Reilly, who is also Chairman of Cumann na mBunscoil Port Láirge, thanked his staff for the time and energy they invest in Gaelic games during the course of their weekly work. “The extra work that teachers take is a real demonstration of their dedication and that teachers remain willingly committed to it through this challenging time, underlines their commitment to our pupils,” he said, addressing Mr Cooney. “We as teachers can only do so much. But we take great pride in our contribution, as do all schools in County Waterford which are involved in supporting and promoting Gaelic games.”

He added: “We have received tremendous help and support from Saint Molleran’s and I am confident that, given the work we’re doing at schools’ level, combined with the strides being made at club level, that the club will reap a rich reward in the years that lie ahead.” Among last Thursday’s attendants were Superintendent Gerry Lynch of Tramore Garda Station, Lismore’s Dave Bennett, Shamrocks’ Eoin Murphy, Mícheal Martin (a teacher based in Croke Park) and Margaret Cunningham, National Chair of Cumann na mBunscoil.

Also present were Eoin Breathnach, the GAA’s Games Promotion Manager for Waterford Schools, GAA County Secretary Timmy O’Keeffe and Antoinette and Walter Dunphy, descendants of Maurice Davin along with members of St Molleran’s GAA Club.

In a function which included both oral and musical presentations by Crehana pupils, Christy Cooney recognised their hard work by granting them a night off homework. They hope he’ll call again soon!