Our Lady's school Principal Patricia Higgins pictured with team captain Paddy Cadell.
Our Lady’s Principal Patricia Higgins has hailed the performance of the Templemore players this season - having seen off Thurles CBS, Nenagh CBS, St Colman’s College and CBS Kilkenny in a thrilling campaign the Our Lady’s lads are this week preparing to face St Kieran’s College Kilkenny in next Saturday’s Masita All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Senior A Hurling Championship (Croke Cup) final at Semple Stadium, Thurles.
“We have been trying to win the Harty Cup for many years and we have come very close at times, but this year was our year, definitely. The players’ sheer determination on the pitch as well as their commitment and dedication is something we can all be very proud of,” Patricia Higgins, a native of Tuam who was appointed principal of the school in 2004, told the Tipperary Star this week.
When Our Lady’s Templemore beat St Colman’s College (2-22 to 1-6) in the Dr Harty Cup final at Páirc na nGael, Limerick a 39-year wait to win back the coveted trophy came to an end. Our Lady’s then followed that result up with an All-Ireland colleges semi-final win over CBS Kilkenny (0-24 to 2-15). Indeed, Principal Patricia Higgins has enjoyed the journey immensely and her admiration for the players is obvious.
“It has been absolutely fantastic,” Patricia Higgins explained.
“Even for people who have no knowledge of hurling the spirit of the game, the speed of the game and the dedication of the team members is extraordinary. They train all through the year from the beginning of September and when the rest of us are enjoying our Christmas holidays they are out on the pitch training and preparing for the Harty Cup,” Patricia Higgins added.
“The standard of senior hurling at A (level) is unbelievable and we are competing against huge schools and all-boys schools where they have, maybe, six or seven hundred boys. We have just 580 pupils in total between boys and girls. So, we definitely punch above our weight because of the commitment that the mentors, both Noel Fogarty and Tom Byrnes, give and also the players themselves.
“It is something extraordinary. I think we are the only mixed school that has won the Harty Cup. Traditionally it has been won by the big boys’ schools,” Patricia Higgins added.
School Principal Higgins, of course, reserves special praise for Noel Fogarty and Tom Byrnes, the joint-managers of the Our Lady’s Templemore senior hurling team who are this week preparing to face St Kieran’s in the Croke Cup final.
“They give endless hours of time, energy and expertise to the team. They never give up and there is no stone left unturned,” Patricia Higgins explained.
“The preparations begin the minute they come back in September and they never take their eye off the ball until the last whistle blows. And, that is evident on the pitch - they puck every sliothar with the lads and the lads have huge respect for them. Whatever they ask of the lads they are happy to deliver. I think that’s a real good sign of the two mentors - they give it their all.”
It is no secret, of course, that Loughmore-Castleiney’s Pat McGrath has exacted an influence on the set-up while Patricia Higgins has complimented the work of physiotherapist Claire Hassett with the playing group. The school principal also reserved praise for Our Lady’s teachers Theresa Brennan, Joe Gallagher and Rory Purcell who have supported the work of Noel Fogarty and Tom Byrnes during the season, especially on match day. And, Patricia Higgins wished to point out that without the support of the entire teaching staff it would not be possible to support such an extensive extracurricular programme in the school.
“The glory is with the team and their coaches, but everybody in the school is supportive of the extracurricular programme and if they were not it could not work,” Patricia Higgins explained before adding that she wished to dedicate this year’s success to the players who missed out on Harty Cup honour in previous campaigns.
“The glory is there for this year’s team and it is wonderful, but we also remember the teams who came close in the past. We had some fantastic hurlers who didn’t go off with a Harty Cup medal, but they would have made a great contribution to hurling at Our Lady’s,” Patricia Higgins said.
“In a way I am sorry for those fellas who did a good job and just did not make it over the line. So, the Harty Cup that has been won this year has been won for those lads as well because they would have been equally dedicated, but just didn’t have the little bit of luck.”
Our Lady’s Templemore - the Dr Harty Cup champions. Photo: Eamonn McGee
Principal Patricia Higgins has been a powerful advocate of hurling and, indeed, a whole series of extracurricular activities at Our Lady’s Templemore. Patricia Higgins realizes that once a healthy balance is struck between school work and extracurricular interests that combination can work to develop the student and prepare them for life beyond the leaving certificate.
“It is very important, absolutely, and also at a time when mental illness, depression and anxiety are on the increase,” Patricia Higgins explained.
“It’s very important that students have outlets outside of their academic work, whether it is music or sport or hurling or whatever they want to do. And, we are really lucky in our school that we have such a commitment from our huge team of teachers who give generously of their time to promote the extracurricular programme,” Ms Higgins added.
“So, whether it is our musical, our students competing in a bake-off competition or students competing in the cross country we have a very wide range of extracurricular activities. And, that definitely helps students in their preparation for life and also in terms of maintaining good mental health and a positive attitude to life.
“We would be very supportive and I would be personally supportive of the extracurricular programme in the school because I think it is very good preparation for life. And, a lot of students who are participating in extracurricular activities, whether it is music or sport, also manage to get very good results in their leaving cert. They are able to balance their academic work with their participation in extracurricular activities,” Patricia Higgins added.
Principal Higgins, the school as a whole and everyone associated with the Our Lady’s Templemore team has also been overwhelmed by the support shown during the campaign by the local community.
“We have received phenomenal support from the community and I am really grateful for that,” Principal Patricia Higgins explained.
“Even at the homecoming (for the Harty Cup) we had a huge number of people who turned out to welcome home the team. It was wonderful - the sponsorship that we get and the support that we get on an on-going basis have made it possible for us to continue our extracurricular programme.
“The support we get from the community is remarkable. We get a lot of support in terms of sponsorship. Good luck messages flooded in before the Harty Cup and messages of congratulations after it. It’s wonderful, for me as a school principal, to see that we have the whole community behind us. And, I think that stood to the boys when they had to go out and compete against really good teams,” Patricia Higgins added.
Saturday, March 25th
Masita All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Senior A
Hurling Championship (Croke Cup) Final
Our Lady's Templemore v St Kieran's College
in Semple Stadium, Thurles @ 4pm
*This game will be preceded by the All-Ireland B colleges
hurling final between St John the Baptist, Hospital
and St Mary's CGBS Belfast (throw-in 2pm).