THE fourth class pupils at St Josephâ€™s boys national school in Rathkeale are All-Ireland winners, having taken the top prize in a National Dairy Council schools competition. They beat off competition from almost 130 other schools, and a great many entries from older pupils, to claim the title, and bring home treasure â€“ a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablet for each boy in the class.
They were also treated to an action-packed day at Causey Farm in Co Meath, where â€œjumping into the bogâ€ was the best bit, according to Micheal Brennan from Ballingrane.
â€œWe were delighted when they said we were the winners, We all roared and when I came home my mother said I was hoarse,â€ Micheal explained. Irish middleweight boxing champion and Irish team captain at the 2012 Olympics, Darren Oâ€™Neill, was at the prize-giving ceremony and described the boys as the â€œcream at the topâ€ which delighted them hugely.
The Moo Crew competition was aimed at third to sixth class children in a bid to make them more aware of the need for calcium in their daily diet. A recent National Childrenâ€™s Food Survey showed that over one-third of girls (37%) and more than a quarter of boys, aged five to 12, have inadequate intake of calcium in their diet.
Having worked hard at their project, however, the fourth class boys of St Josephâ€™s are now pretty much expert.
As Dan Sheridan, Rathkeale put it so succinctly: â€œWe need calcium for our bones. Without it your bones get weak.â€
Their slogan, he said, was make your bones strong and your teeth white while Patrick Johnson, Rathkeale, explained that ten-year-olds need five portions of milk or cheese or yoghurt a day.
As part of their winning project, the boys worked hard to get that message across in a variety of ways: through posters and a banner around the school, through an all-school survey and, most tellingy, through their outreach day where they decamped to the local Eurospar.
â€œThere were two groups of us, one at the front door and one at the back,â€ Eoghan Doherty, Newcastle West explained. â€œWe had cartons of milk and yoghurt and cubes of cheese and we gave people samples. Most people liked the cheese.â€
The boys also composed and recorded their own song for the competition, a lively, rap version which they were happy to sing at the prize-giving â€“ and for this reporter.
â€œThere was a lot of work involved,â€ class teacher Mary Wallace acknowledged. It was the first year of the competition and winning was not in their minds at all, she revealed, particularly because many of the finalists were fifth and six class children. But she was thrilled with the outcome, for the boys and for the school. â€œIt is good for the children to work as a team,â€ she said, adding that it was also an opportunity to bring out otherwise hidden talents in children.
And the best bit of all? The new Samsung tablet of course, said Johneen Tierney, Rathkeale. It was, he revealed, great for games.