ONE of the most positive aspects of the move back from online learning to in-class teaching has been the return of second-level sport.
Covid has made it extremely challenging across all codes to train and fulfil fixtures but teachers kept the show on the road in the run-up to Christmas and will do the same in the months ahead.
The Cork GAA schedule is on hold until February, though this doesn't impact on the Corn Uí Mhuirí and the Harty Cup, and other prestigious hurling and football competitions run by the Munster PPS.
Where possible schools and organisers are forging on, with the Schools Cup basketball finals on the horizon in Tallaght and the Munster Senior Schools Cup final, which hasn't been completed in full since 2019, pencilled into its usual March slot.
In city school Coláiste Daibhéid, principal Tadhg Ó Laighin has seen first hand the boost having a programme of activity provides for pupils and staff. There's a real grá for sport evident and the ethos is to provide as many matches and sporting options as possible for the student body, no matter what their ability is.
"Sport in school, and how important it is for the functioning of a vibrant school community, is often overlooked. As is the voluntary time spent by the dedicated teachers. Having the hum of sporting activity back is the cornerstone of the physical and mental well-being of the students.
"The sound of a returning team, the cheers when a winning team enters the classroom, the post-match analysis over sandwiches at lunchtime, the gear bags and hockey sticks and parents dropping in ‘the boots she forgot’.
"All these things that we take for granted became so obvious during the lockdown when they were cancelled. Now they are back, and back with force.
"Our sports outlook is ‘sport for all’. We believe as a school that our focus should be on participation first and winning second.
In the first term of the school year, they saw pupils wear the school colours in camogie, hurling, football, soccer, hockey and basketball competitions, from first to sixth year.
"When you consider that we are a relatively small school, that is an amazing feat and testament to the importance that our parents, students and teachers place on sport.
"This has a knock-on effect in the classroom as students who value school sport, value school and value education. We're looking forward to the track and field, and cross country. We will also have representation at the Munster Schools Swimming Meet."
A proud Nemo Rangers club man himself, past pupils Sam Ryan and Alan O'Connor will be hoping to help St Finbarr's secure a first Munster title since 1985 when they head to Semple Stadium to face Austin Stacks. TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire is another past pupil. And wears his Barrs colours with pride too.
"The return of school sport also is important for that ‘one good adult’ relationship between students and teachers. Even the banter between students and teachers after a club match is great.
Seaimpíní Chorcaí 2018 agus an corn Andy Scannell linn um thráthnóna. Míle buíochas d’ár iar scoláirí Sam Riain, Alan O Conchur agus Donnchadh O Laoghaire don cuairt. An chéad cuairt d’alán ag céiliúradh na peileadóirí seo! @Donnchadhol @CorkGAAChair @officialgaa @the_Barrs pic.twitter.com/SDhQaWq5lC— Coláiste Daibhéid (@CDaibheid) December 7, 2018
"I can guarantee you that I was regularly reminded by the Barrs players, the Monday after their county football win, that it was good that there was at least one good city football club!"
Sam Ryan has featured at inter-county level for Cork, as has Katelyn Hickey, the Blackrock native who picked up a senior county medal with Seandún in 2021. Leaving Cert Fiachra O'Driscoll hurled for Glen Rovers in their Premier 1 U17 and U18 successes last winter.
"Sam along with Katelyn Hickey would be our two latest representatives at Cork senior level. When you consider the GAA clubs that our students come from Na Piarsaigh, Glen Rovers, Erin's Own, St Finbarr's, Mayfield, Brian Dillons, Nemo Rangers, Douglas, Ballyphehane, among many others, we are expecting many more to wear the Rebel jersey."