Wednesday, June 26, 2019

By Charlie Keegan

FIFTY FIVE past pupils of St Mary’s Academy, Carlow from the 1968-69 Leaving Certificate classes came together collectively for the first time in half a century on Saturday night in the Seven Oaks Hotel for a reunion dinner full of nostalgia, talk of long-past school days and to reflect on an outstanding back-to-back football success from that era.

The CBS past pupils came from many parts of Ireland, while one past pupil, John Mealey from Gurteen, Castlecomer travelled from Montana, USA for the occasion.

The reunion started with a wine reception, as former classmates became reacquainted after such a long time, with the changes in body shapes, hair colour and quantity, allied to the general aging process, making spontaneous identification difficult for some.

Following a group photograph there followed a splendid dinner with speeches and presentations, the night topped off with a couple of hours of chat and jollity.

At the heart of the reunion was the achievement of the Carlow CBS Academy football teams of 1968 and 1969, which claimed successive Clonard Cup victories as Leinster SF ‘B’ champions. These teams were, by a distance, the best teams ever produced by the Railway Road school.

Former pupils and footballers with Carlow CBS who gathered for their 50-year reunion at the Seven Oaks Hotel on Saturday Photos: michaelorourkephotography.ie

CBS defeated St Vincent’s, Glasnevin in the 1968 decider by a comprehensive 2-16 to 1-7 and followed up with a 3-8 to 2-6 win over Drogheda CBS in 1969. Both captains Tom Meally from Moneenroe, and Tommy Garvan, who went on to play for St Joseph’s in Laois and with the O’Moore County at senior county level, were present at Saturday’s function.

Martin Nolan from Carlow, left full-back on the breakthrough team of 1968, was a very capable MC on the night. Martin is director of compliance and professional standards with Relate Software in Dublin.

The Grim Reaper has been at work in the intervening 51 years and in all 21 students from both classes have gone to their eternal reward, including three team members – Kieran Hughes from Moneenroe, Paddy Meenan of Arles and Michael O’Neill, Park, Carlow.

The 21 deceased were remembered by a roll-call of their names by Brian Lyons from the class of 1968. A minute’s silence was observed to their memories.

There were presentations to two former CBS teachers, Jim Field who came from Fermoy and former assistant school manager Jack Ryan.

Jim was coach to the team and considered a man ahead of his time for the coaching methods he employed in bringing the two teams to the top in Leinster. He told the gathering he had no doubt that, had there been an All-Ireland championship at the time, both CBS teams would have claimed those national titles.

Stating that he would cherish the presentation of Waterford Glass being made to him, Jim concluded with the appropriate comment to his audience:

“Gentlemen, you were a class act.”

He was recipient of Waterford Glass sponsored by Michael Garvan, branch manager of EBS, Tullow Street and a team member from 1968, and presented by Tom Meally from Moneenroe, centre back and captain of that team.

Michael also presented a commemorative pen to everyone present.

Joe Tully, travel agent in Carlow, and from the class of 1969 sponsored the Dublin Glass piece presented to Jack Ryan.

Jack, a native of Shankill, county Dublin, spoke of the great joy he had derived from his teaching days in CBS, having arrived in Carlow in 1957. He spoke of the tremendous support he had received down the years from the people of Carlow and Graiguecullen.

Dave Barron, past pupil and former assistant principal at St Mary’s, was guest speaker, deputising for school principal Ann Ahern.

Dave, in a reference to the proposed campus development at CBS, said the Department of Education and Science has approved a multi-million euro building project which will hugely enhance the quality of the school’s infrastructure and, consequently, the learner experience in the classroom.

The project includes the replacement of all prefabs with seven classrooms. A purpose-built technology room will be provided, as well as a home economics room and another science lab to add to the current cohort of three.

“We will also have two purpose-built autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) classes and all ancillary facilities.”

Dave informed the reunion that the CBS gym will be demolished and a new gym built, most likely in a different position on the site. The reason for this is that it would be more than 70% of the rebuild cost to refurbish the current gym and bring it up to the required standard.

There will also be a large canteen and indoor recreation areas for students.

Two properties have been purchased to the rear of the campus with entrances on Old Dublin Road, with a view to having a pitch there for recreation and training. While a definitive site plan is awaited from the Department in relation to the new build, a temporary car park is in use there and a new entrance provided.

Dave said CBS has teams competing in Gaelic football, hurling, soccer, rugby and basketball while school teams have been reaching All-Ireland stage in English and Irish debating and public speaking.

He concluded by saying there are 520 students attending CBS, with a teaching staff of 45.

There was a celebratory cake for the reunion, the cake being cut by Michael Boran from Castlecomer, the most senior past pupil present, with assistance from John Savage from Castledermot, left half forward on the 1968 team.

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