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Skibbereen School League hailed a ‘massive success’

April 2nd, 2024 10:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

The next generation of talented local footballers took part in the school league.

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IT was a festival of football at O’Donovan Rossa Park as the next generation took centre stage in the three finals of the Skibbereen School League.

Eighty-eight boys from the local primary schools put on a show that was watched by a huge crowd from the local area and has also seen the rebirth of this great local competition.

The red team enjoyed their moment in the spotlight on finals' night.


The red team enjoyed their moment in the spotlight on finals' night.


The blue team got to show their skills under lights at Rossa Park.


Eighty-eight local kids took part in the popular school league.


The green team had lots of fun on the final night of the league.


The yellow team turned on the style in the school league final.


The school league was a very important fixture in the past for the young boys of Skibbereen. Started by the great Dermot O’Donovan, previous principal of St Patrick’s Boys’ National School and continued by his successor Fachtna Hamilton, the school league fell away in recent years. However, in January 2019, then O’Donovan Rossa Underage Chairperson James Fitzgerald and Paudie Crowley, Carbery GAA Games Development Officer, approached current principal Alan Foley with a view to resurrecting the tournament. A big part of James’ plan was that the other schools in Skibbereen would be invited to take part also. That year, four teams of ten players each from fifth and sixth classes took part in a four week league including four boys from Abbeystrewry NS.

The following year, numbers grew to 56 players (49 from St Patrick’s and seven from Abbeystrewry). However, two weeks into the league, Covid hit. The boys, initially delighted to have a few days off from school, were devastated with the slow realisation that the school league would not get completed that year. In fact, it was 2022 before the school league could return.

Since then, the school league has grown from strength to strength. Now including boys from fourth class as well, the numbers have increased so much that the four-team league has had to be changed to a six-team league this year.

Played directly after school each Wednesday for three weeks in the Riverside Complex, it culminated in the finals night in O'Donovan Rossa Park under lights on the fourth week in front of huge local support. This was then followed by the presentation of medals and trophies in the newly renovated O’Donovan Rossa pavilion. The medals were presented this year by local player Frank Hurley, who was a Cork minor last year and coincidentally was the captain of the winning schools’ league team back in 2019.

‘It has been a massive success since its return,’ said Alan Foley, principal of St Patrick’s Boys’ NS.

‘James Fitz and Liam Hurley have everything organised from start to finish. Damien Long’s bus picks us up each week and drops us to the GAA pitch. The pitches are all set up with a referee for each match. The parents come over to watch and take the boys home from there. There is such a huge buzz from week one.

‘My favourite part of the whole tournament is that it is run by the boys themselves. We pick the captains and vice captains at the start and they run it from there. They pick the teams and positions, organise their tactics, rotate substitutions and look after the younger players on their teams. It is a fantastic opportunity to build leadership.’

Liam Hurley, current O’Donovan Rossa Underage Chairperson, is equally as enthusiastic. He said: ‘To see what James and Alan have put together is just amazing. They have put together a winning formula that is so easy to run now but took a lot of hard work and organisation at the start.

‘We have always had a strong link with the boys’ school but it’s great now to have players from the Gaelscoil and Abbeystrewery involved in such big numbers now. It’s a very inclusive tournament where boys of all abilities are welcome.

‘We are so grateful to our sponsors Damien Long, Ger Carey and Owen Leonard. We were very proud to have Frank Hurley here to present the medals to the boys this week – he is such a role model for the boys and a fantastic clubman.’

For the first time, the girls’ club organised a school league for the local girls last year which was also a great success. It looks like school leagues are on the up and up in Skibbereen.

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