Rising rugby stars to sit Leaving Cert exams in New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand may seem as far removed as possible from the Leaving Certificate exam hall this week.
But the 18,000-kilometre distance, a 24-hour flight away, is not stopping two rising rugby stars from sitting their exams while also togging out for their country.
Lansdowne and Leinster's Conor McKeon and Young Munster's Diarmaid Dee are lining out for Ireland's opener, against France, in the Under-20s World Cup at the QBE stadium in Auckland today.
It is the start of a three-week tour and as if that's not enough, they will both also sit a subject in the Leaving Certificate, after special arrangements were made with the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
Team manager Hendrik Kruger is doubling up as exam superintendent when the two players take their exams in a room specially reserved in team hotel Rydges Auckland.
They did their Leaving Certificate last year, but Diarmaid, a former pupil of Crescent Comprehensive, Limerick, is repeating English, while Conor, a former pupil of Gonzaga, south Dublin, is doing maths.
Despite an 11-hour time difference, the two players will sit their exam at the same moment as 58,000 candidates at home.
For Diarmaid, it means sitting down at 8.30pm on Wednesday for English Paper One with a finishing time of 11.20pm. Students in Ireland will sit the second paper on Thursday afternoon, but for Diarmaid it will be an 11pm start with a 2.20am finish.
Conor will burn the midnight oil on Friday night for his first maths exam, running from 11pm to 1.30am. Conor will sit the second maths papers next Monday night, 8.30pm to 11pm.
Once the two players knew they had a place on the squad, a lot of planning went into making the special arrangements including contact with the hotel about making a suitable room available.
Soon after the team arrived in Auckland, Mr Kruger inspected the "exam centre" and did a "dry run", when the SEC emailed sample papers out. Shortly before each of the exams that the players are sitting are due to start, the SEC will email the papers to the manager, whose attention to detail includes organising a second printer as a back-up.
Mr Kruger said the two players were relaxed and "have a great attitude to the challenges ahead".