Thursday 14 December 2017

Castletroy Challenging the old order

Tony Ward profiles a recently-founded Limerick school that is shaking up the rugby establishment

The Castletroy team in a huddle before last year's Munster Schools Senior Cup semi-final. Castletroy lost out to Rockwell at Clanwilliam 12-10 after a last-minute dropgoal.
The Castletroy team in a huddle before last year's Munster Schools Senior Cup semi-final. Castletroy lost out to Rockwell at Clanwilliam 12-10 after a last-minute dropgoal.

Castletroy College was established in 2000 to meet the demand of the rising population on the University (Dublin Road) side of Limerick City. As someone who spent the happiest days of his life studying and living in the area - not to mention a bit of rugby and soccer thrown in - it is a place I know well.

With over a thousand pupils, the 10-year-old college is already Limerick's largest secondary school. That is a pretty healthy starting point but weight of numbers alone doesn't make it happen. The success of the school across the academic and sporting spectrum in such a short period of time is interest-driven.

Martin Wallace (former coach to St Enda's) is a principal who believes in the intrinsic values that extra-curricular activities add to the community and he has the conviction to support his beliefs. The school has just opened three playing fields and intends to add outside changing rooms by June.

Investment

It will amount to an investment of €800,000, self-generated through many fundraising activities -- as well as the support of parents and the local community.

However the most pertinent piece of the puzzle that has taken this new non-fee-paying community college to such extraordinary early heights is the central role played by the volunteer teacher/coaches, who give their extra-curricular services gratis.

Castletroy is home to five members of Ireland's High Performance swimming team, including European silver medalist Grainne Murphy.

All-Ireland titles have already been won in soccer and basketball, with several Munster 'B' titles in hurling and Gaelic football.

The Limerick college first gained national recognition with both the senior girls basketball and senior girls soccer claiming All-Ireland titles -- the soccer side recording a ground-breaking three-in-a-row.

However, it is rugby that has already proven one of the school's great successes, culminating in the truly remarkable feat of that history-making Junior and Senior Cup double in 2008.

As recently as December 17 the U-15s added the McCarthy Cup, one of the big four titles in Munster schools rugby.

The game began in the school when Martin Burke and Declan English (Senior finalist with St Enda's in 1987 and '88) began training in the assembly hall (as there was no playing field) soon after the school opened in September 2000.

The classification then was 'D' (associate) School. Three years later that team represented the school in the Junior competition for the first time. They also won the Mungret Cup ('B' School trophy) before losing 9-5 in the quarter-final of the 'A' competition to powerful CBC.

As the school grew, new coaches came on board, including James Collins, John Keehan, Tom Prendergast, Eamonn Mulcahy, David Loughrey, Shane Egan, Stewart Brothwich, John Staunton, David Cross, Pat Dundon, Mike Storey and Richie Feeney.

With the commitment of these coaches, and the technical assistance of the Munster Branch, the new kids on the block passed quickly through the ranks and by 2005 had achieved 'A' School status.

The first full ('A') inter-provincial cap was won by Ronan O'Mahony (son of former Garryowen league-winning captain Gerry and brother of Barry). Ronan went on to win his first Ireland Schools cap in early 2007 and that first international jersey holds pride of place in the school.

This was followed by Diarmuid McCarthy (son of former Young Munster cup-winning wing Derek) being capped by Munster and Ireland in 2007 and James Rael (son of former Crescent out-half Jamesy) in 2009.

2007 also saw the school's Junior team reach the final for the first time before losing 11-3 to a very strong PBC side.

The following season, both Senior and Junior Cups were annexed by the hard-working, ultra-progressive new school.

The 2007/08 season was capped off with Castletroy College, not surprisingly, named School of the Year at the annual Munster Rugby Awards. This year's Senior squad is a well organised, hugely determined group, one well capable of beating anyone on their day.

The progress made at this go-ahead school has been remarkable. The attitude is healthy, the structure right.

This developing giant is here to stay.

Eamonn Mulcahy will be sadly missed

Castletroy has suffered a major blow with the recent tragic loss of Eamonn Mulcahy (32), teacher of maths and PE, soccer coach to the All-Ireland three-in-a-row team and Junior Cup coach to the winning 2008 side.

Eamonn was one of those unsung heroes who gave of his time selflessly for the betterment of his students.

Following his short but brave battle with cancer, Eamonn passed away on December 20.

His loss to rugby is huge, his loss to the whole school community immeasurable.

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