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18/09/2021

Limerick's hurling nursery - 15 past pupils of one school make All-Ireland final panel

Limerick's hurling nursery

Talent pool: Kevin Downes, Shane Dowling, Peter Casey, William O'Donoghue, David Dempsey and Michael Casey at the Ardscoil Rís Past Pupils Union dinner back in 2019 | PICTURE: Dave Gaynor

MANY of us develop good habits for life during our school days.

And this Limerick side are no different, with many enjoying early success on the pitch at Ardscoil Rís.

From gym sessions at the crack of dawn to training after school paving the way for numerous Harty Cups.

All of this leading to a staggering 15 of the panel set to take part in the All-Ireland final attended the North Circular Road school.

The past pupils set to be involved on Sunday will be captain Declan Hannon, Cian Lynch, David Dempsey, Mike and Peter Casey, Aaron and Jason Gillane, William O'Donoghue Jerome and Conor Boylan, Adrian Breen and Barry Hennessy, Ronan Connolly, Cathal O'Neill and Colin Coughlan. All of these stars are coached by another former pupil, Paul Kinnerk.

Current principal Tom Prendergast recalls a decision taken by the school more than a decade ago to put a renewed focus on hurling.

“Much of it goes back to the late Liam Kennedy, who was a father figure for hurling in the school. Then, we are blessed with having so many dedicated and very involved coaches that are on our teaching staff. They've shown tremendous dedication” he explained.

Even as teenagers, a huge level of commitment is expected from the school's Harty Cup team, he said, adding: “As the years go by, the level of commitment required increases year-on-year. It's not just coaching and matches during term time, you're talking weekends, you're talking holiday periods, you're talking about training programmes, diets and gym sessions at 7am. For many students, it works in the sense that it puts structure on their week and time,” the principal added.

Witnessing so many of the school alumni involved in the biggest hurling match of the year leaves Mr Prendergast feeling “immensely proud”.

“It gives the school community such a lift, that they can identify with these people. With Declan Hannon, if Limerick win on Sunday, it means he will have led them to three All-Irelands. From him down to all the other players - the wizardry of Cian Lynch, the sharp-shooting skills of Aaron Gillane and workrate of William O'Donoghue and Peter Casey. It's a huge sense of pride” he added.

The lads never forget where they are come from, with many former students coming back into the school to share their tips with the next generation of hurling talent.

“The boys do retain a huge grá for the school. During the course of Covid-19, with the Harty Cup, our boys continued to train. Even with our first years, Cian Lynch, Aaron, Will and some of the other boys met with them. They were having training sessions which were Covid compliant and individual drills. They are willing to give their time back to the school, and they've fond memories of it,” added Mr Prendergast.

Here's hoping more fond memories are made on Sunday, and the Ard Scoil Ris contingent of the Limerick panel can return to the school again - but this  time with the Liam MacCarthy cup in hand!

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