St Joseph’s Secondary School, Tulla, Co. Clare students strike gold on the double!

St Joseph's Secondary School, Tulla, Co. Clare students have recently achieved both Munster and All-Ireland Junior and Senior Camogie Double success!!

Eoin Brennan from the The Clare People newspaper visited the CEIST School located in east Clare recently to sample some of the celebratory atmosphere and the following is his article with photos generously shared with CEIST.

YOU know that old quip from supporters of
perennial title winners like Kilkenny (hurling), Kerry (football) and even Wexford (camogie) that goes along the lines of ‘there are so many provincial and All-Ireland medals floating around that there’s a good chance you could get one as change in the local shop”?

Yes, I know it’s an overused gag that has been floated around quite often in recent years but it also could genuinely apply to St Joseph’s Tulla as well after an unprecedented start to 2013.

In all, the school has amassed three Munster and two All-Ireland crowns so far this year, a remarkable achievement to surpass anything that the aforementioned counties could accomplish.

All because those five titles were garnered in only a nine week period and at two separate levels with their senior and junior squads both claiming Munster and All-Ireland Colleges D crowns while the flagship side completed the haul last Wednesday by adding a Munster Intermediate League title to their already bulging trophy cabinet.

Pictured above are Deirdre Cotter, Edel McNamara, Samantha O’Connor, Niamh Mulqueen. Aoife Tuohy, Regan Conway & Joanne O’Gorman who were on both Senior & Junior All Ireland panels

So where did this unquenchable thirst from success emanate from? Principal Margaret O’Brien takes up the story.

“It’s just fantastic. There is such a great atmosphere around the place at the moment following the girls’ great success and we are absolutely thrilled to have done so well this year.

“It’s the commitment of teachers after hours really. They practice two evenings a week for boys and two evenings for the girls as well as challenge matches. And they even kept that regime up over the Christmas holidays so they are really committed and really doing their best, and while the girls won five major trophies, the boys had a great run as well in the Munster Bcompetition to reach the final.

“The other students as well see their success, see what it has taken and that it is possible for students in their classes to achieve this if they are prepared to put in the effort.

And in fairness as well, as a school we are very lucky that clubs in the surrounding areas have very good underage structures in place to nurture the players as well in the club competitions outside of school time.

“In terms of success of the teams though, one common thread is Donna Fitzgerald. She has really taken on camogie this year along with her other colleagues like Rita Forrestal, Catherine Tobin and Declan Spellman who have all been instrumental in the successes.”

PE and Geography teacher Donna Fitzgerald has presided over both winning panels but while the school have rose to such heightened levels of prominence in the last nine weeks, she is quick to point out that the initial seeds were sown two years previously when a number of new teachers put a renewed effort into promoting and developing the code in the school.

“Everyone has put in such a massive effort. I suppose we started this campaign two years ago so its great to get the rewards after the effort you have put in because sometimes it doesn’t always come to pass. 

“You could have a game where you blow it in the first round of the competition but to see the effort the girls have put in and to see them get the rewards for it has created a massive buzz around the school, around the clubs where we have great support as well as the parents who have made this a community effort.”

“A former teacher Mary Lenihan was a great driving force for camogie in the school for over 20 years but after her retirement two years ago, Declan [Spellman] and I took over, Catherine [Tobin] and Rita [Forrestal] got involved with the juniors and first years so it was just fresh faces really.

Pictured above are Rita Forrestal, Cathetine Tobin, Margaret O’Brien, Donna Fitzgerald & Declan Spellman with
players from Junior & Senior panels.

We adopted the same outlook as Mary had and we soon saw the skill we had available to us so we made a big push to build on the strengths that they had and we’ve done it this year thankfully.”

After taking on such a responsibility, the next step for Donna and Co. was to mould them into a formidable collective unit. “About halfway through last year, we realised that the girls had the skills and all they needed
to do was to come together as a team.

We weren’t coming in to teach these girls massive skills, we came in with the focus of building on their fitness and building a team.

Because in reality we have about six different club teams here and all those girls play with their respective clubs and very much identify with their individual parishes.

So we were trying to knock that out of them and focus our energy into making them a united ‘St Joseph’s’.

“It’s something that we actually thought would take about three years so we are actually ahead of what we initially thought. And that was the difference for us in a lot of games, the team spirit.

We came up against some extremely skillful schools but I think the team factor that our girls had, made them pull together and work for each other and that was the ultimate difference I felt in a lot of games.”

With seven girls part of both panels, momentum was also a crucial factor in St Joseph’s triumphs according to senior mentor Declan Spellman.

“The overlap in panels and the fact that the games were coming thick and fast and that they were gaining huge experience was important.

And when you have second and third years playing senior competitions and winning, and in some cases winning comfortably, that breeds confidence. The juniors were bringing that to the mix, there was definitely a good vibe going around the school about camogie and there’s also no doubt that the senior success was feeding into the juniors and that overlap did help greatly.”

So with such a healthy mix of confidence and success across two separate age groups, Spellman feels that this is only the start of the school’s future potential as they prepare to move up the grades.

“That’s the fascinating thing and the thing that keeps us interested. We are losing almost the entire back line from the senior squad who are all leaving cert students this year.

That is a huge chunk to lose but we know now that we have good juniors, good second and third years, our first years are also very good and we know from the national schools, that we are going to have good first years next year so that will all feed into it, there’s no doubt about that.

“We will be going up into C next year and we are looking forward to it. It will only bring us on if anything. I mean we played a C school in the Munster Intermediate League final this week and as the result showed, we were well
able to match them and beat them.

So the future is definitely bright.” As Donna Fitzgerald aptly surmised ‘It’s only a starting point but it’s a great starting point.”

Team Photos


Above left: Players of the Game - Kate O’Gorman - Senior & Niamh Mulqueen Junior; Above Right: Panellists with Declan Spellman.


Pictured above St Joseph’s School Principal Margaret O’Brien with players from both Senior & Junior panels;

St Joseph’s Tulla inspiration: players from both panels sit in front of a mural of the Clare All-Ireland winning hurling side of 1995.