Thursday 22 August 2019

'I watched Love Island every night to switch off' - meet the five students with the top Leaving Cert grades

Bill Fitzgerald with his 8 H1s (Credit: Michael Doyle)
Bill Fitzgerald with his 8 H1s (Credit: Michael Doyle)
Michael O'Grady from Mallow with his 8 H1s

Evie Kearney, Niamh Lynch and Aoife Walsh

AN INCREDIBLE five students nationwide managed to achieve 8 H1 grades in this year's Leaving Certificate as almost 59,000 collected results this morning.

Michael O'Grady from Christian Brothers College in Cork scored 90pc or above in all eight subjects at higher level.

The 19-year-old said he was "absolutely ecstatic" when he opened the envelope at his school this morning.

"I was shocked when I found out," he told

"I didn’t think I’d do poorly but I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I did at all."

Michael O'Grady.jpg
Michael O'Grady from Mallow with his 8 H1s

Michael, who is from Mallow, now hopes to get a place studying Medicine at University College Cork when CAO offers are released this Thursday.

Seven students from Christian Brothers College in Cork received at least 625 points.
L-R: Joseph Hourihane, John Sweeney, Peadar Hennessy, Michael O’Grady, Fergal Riordan, Sean Creagh, Darragh Murphy
Seven students from Christian Brothers College in Cork received at least 625 points. L-R: Joseph Hourihane, John Sweeney, Peadar Hennessy, Michael O’Grady, Fergal Riordan, Sean Creagh, Darragh Murphy

The teenager said his family are over the moon with his top marks and he will spend the day with them before heading out on the town with his friends for results night celebrations in Cork city.

"My mam’s been on the phone the whole morning to the extended family, everyone knows at this stage" he said.

Michael advised that leaving time for his hobbies was crucial in helping him "keep the sanity" during the exams.

"I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard studier or anything but I kind of kept on top of my work the whole time," he said.

"Definitely from March when the orals were on to the exams - it was definitely a hard slog. Throughout the six years I just paid attention in class and did my work.

"I always left time for extracurriculars and stuff as well, like I used to swim a lot and I do music outside school.

"I put time aside for that to keep the sanity," he added.

Seven pupils at Christian Brothers College in Cork achieved over 625 points this morning, marking another successful year for the private school that also produced one of last year's top students.

Principal David Lordan said Michael O'Grady is the fourth CBC pupil in the past eleven years to earn the top result in the country.

"We are thrilled to be celebrating the wonderful achievements of our students in CBC this morning," he said.

"We would like to congratulate all our students, thank our talented teaching staff for all their work and wish the very best of luck to the class of 2019 as they go on to third level next month."

Lisdowney girl Ellen O’Carroll was another of the top scoring students. Ellen is a student at Presentation College, an all-girls’ school in Kilkenny city.

Lisdowney girl Ellen O’Carroll was another of the top scoring students. Ellen is a student at Presentation College, an all-girls’ school in Kilkenny city.

Ellen’s principal, Shane Hallahan, said the school was “thrilled” with Ellen’s results.

“Ellen was a fabulous student and worked very very hard. But the thing I really liked about her was she took part in everything. Up through the years, she took part in different things in sport with the volleyball team and the soccer team, “ said Mr Hallahan.

“We knew she was an exceptional student but she was also willing to try new things and she was very actively involved in Transition Year as well so overall she was a fantastic student.”

The principal continued: “I suppose [we’re] thrilled in general with the results. We had a number of girls with over 600 points. But it’s great for Ellen cause she really did put the work into it.”

“She was surprised herself - we weren’t - she felt that she had done one question in Irish incorrectly, but it obviously didn’t come against her.”

“[She’s] very very understated in herself and her capabilities, she’d be a shy enough girl but she’s a great character and a great representative for the school.”

Speaking to KCLR radio this morning, Ellen said: “I’m a bit shocked still, wasn’t really expecting it at all.”

“My mam started crying on the phone when I rang her!”

Ellen, who wants to do Science in UCD, said her “great love” was maths so hopes to focus on that during her degree.

Last year, the school also had a student who scored 8 H1’s but unfortunately Edwina Aylward had to wait until a mistaken H2 in accounting was recorrected to celebrate.

Meanwhile, Galway student MacDara Allison was another who managed to get maximum grades, and said the extra half hour studying each night paid off.

MacDara Allison.jpg
MacDara Allison,

MacDara from Coláiste na Coiribe in Galway, said he is "delighted" to have scored 90 pc or above in all eight subjects, despite finding English and History "tricky".

The 18-year-old said: "I'm delighted. To be honest, it's mostly about consistency. So from fifth year, I just kinda made sure I understood everything and from the start of sixth year I just did like a half hour study every night and kept it going the entire way along with homework. I did a bit extra towards the end then.

"I did English, Irish, Maths, French, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and History. I thought English was tricky enough and so was History actually. I had to do the most work for them I'd say."

He added: "My mom is a bit shocked, but my dad is very happy, he's delighted."

MacDara hopes to go on to do theoretical physics in Trinity College Dublin.

To celebrate, MacDara said he's "just going for a swim now with my friends, relax for a bit and then go out."

For 18-year-old Fiachra O’Farrell, seeing the top grades was an “absolutely amazing feeling”.

For 18-year-old Fiachra OFarrell, seeing the top grades was an absolutely amazing feeling.

“I still can’t really believe it. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said the Gonzaga College student.

Fiachra, from Ranelagh, also picked up a H1 in Physics - despite only starting the subject halfway through sixth year after realising it was a requirement for his preferred course.

For Fiachra, who will now go on to study Theoretical Physics in Trinity College, said the key to success for him was consistency. “I couldn’t really tell you what the secret is. Like I probably studied the same amount in fifth year as in sixth year - that’s not

to say that I did an absurd amount of study in fifth year, I just kept it consistent.”

Fiachra also says he kept up playing music but had to “tone it down a bit” during the Leaving Cert year. But he’ll not have to tone down tonight’s celebrations which will take him out on the town with his friends.

Gonzaga previously had a top scoring student in 2016, when Andrew Clearly achieved 8 A1s in the old marking system.

A Tipperary student who achieved 8 H1s in his Leaving Certificate has said one secret to his success was watching Love Island every night to unwind.

Bill FItzgerald.JPG
Bill Fitzgerald with his 8 H1s (Credit: Michael Doyle)

Bill Fitzgerald, who attended Rockwell College in Cashel, is one of just five students nationwide who managed to earn the highest marks possible in the exams.

The 18-year-old said that being prepared for the exams meant that he didn't have to cram the books the night before.

"Since first year I’ve always been a hard worker," he said.

"I was prepared for the exams, I didn’t need to do too much the night before. In reality actually, I was watching Love Island with my sister at around twenty past nine each night, even in the midst of the exams, and that was a great way of turning off," he said.

"It makes for a bit of mindless viewing and it was great to go in to the exams nowhere near too stressed out but still prepared."

Bill said that while he was expecting to get around 500 points, his top marks were "utterly out of the blue."

"For me, eight H1s was just out of the question, I didn’t think I’d get it," he said.

He managed to score at least 90pc in eight subjects and now hopes to study engineering at University College Dublin.

The Clonmel teenager said that maths was his favourite subject and he even took on Applied Maths for the exams.

"My favourite subject would have to be maths. I’d a great teacher - Mr Flynn just made it very very enjoyable.

"I absolutely loved it. By no means was I the strongest in the class, I worked very hard at it," he added.

Bill said that while most of his classmates are going out to celebrate, he and his friends will be keeping it low-key with pizza and a movie "just in case some people aren't too happy" with the results they received.

Rockwell College Principal Audrey O'Byrne said the school is "thrilled" with the achievement.

"It comes as a result of consistent work, good study habits and – most importantly - a steady study/life balance throughout his secondary school years," she said.

"The structured environment of Rockwell College is a real support to pupils in achieving their potential. We are incredible proud today of Bill and all our pupils."

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