BY GER McCARTHY
TRAFRASK National School were crowned All-Ireland SPAR FAI Primary School 5s national champions at the Aviva Stadium last week.
The rural Beara school made it back to Dublin for the second time in as many years having qualified through a rigorous regional, county and provincial qualification series.
2019 Munster champions Trafrask were drawn in an All-Ireland final group containing SN Colmcille (Donegal), Ardkeeran NS (Sligo) and Clonlisk NS (Offaly) with each school playing one another once at the Aviva Stadium. The team with the most points at the end of those round-robin encounters would be crowned All-Ireland champions.
Returning to the Aviva Stadium for a second consecutive year, Trafrask NS were determined to go one better having finished runners-up 12 months before. They missed out by a single point the previous year so motivation was not issue for a young team determined to bring home the trophy.
First up was a clash with Colmcille NS which Trafrask successfully negotiated and emerged with a 2-0 victory. The Adrigole school’s next outing was against Ardkeeran NS from Sligo. A cracking game was twice level (1-1 and 2-2) before Trafrask conjured up a late winner to make it maximum points from their two group outings.
Those results set up a final group meeting with Clonlisk NS from Offaly. Nothing but a win would suffice for the Leinster side but it was Trafrask who enjoyed the better start and raced into a 3-0 interval lead. Requiring only a point to become All-Ireland champions, the West Cork side went into defensive mode which allowed their opponents back into the game.
Clonlisk underlined their quality by scoring three times without reply to tie the score and set up a grandstand finish. Each side hit the crossbar during a nerve-wracking closing period but Trafrask NS held on for a 3-3 draw. That outcome was enough to top the group and claim the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s All-Ireland trophy (Section A is for schools with under 30 boys in fourth, fifth and sixth classes).
‘We are absolutely delighted as it is a terrific achievement for such a small school,’ commented Trafrask NS coach Aidan Cremin.
‘Trafrask are actually the smallest school (43 pupils) in our particular section. So to be travelling home as All-Ireland champions is fantastic for the players, parents, teachers and the school itself. The support from the entire parish, not just this week, but all the way through the lads’ campaign has been tremendous so the boys are delighted.
‘We travelled up to Dublin the night before and the actual finals day itself is so well organised by the FAI. All the teams are walked out onto the Aviva Stadium pitch with a band playing. Each team has their picture taken and Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy was there to wish all the teams luck.’
An opportunity to line up as a team and walk out of the tunnel on to the Aviva Stadium playing pitch whilst the UEFA Champions League anthem plays in the background is the stuff schoolboys soccer dreams are made of.
The Trafrask National School (Adrigole) squad includes Tom O’Connor (captain), Jack Crowley, Liam Crowley, Mark Downing, Donagh O’Sullivan, Kevin O’Sullivan, Cillian O’Sullivan, Austin Harrington and Daniel Mason.