It has been a long and very challenging two years for all of us in the school community but we finally got the opportunity to play some sports again at school! This is a (not so short) tribute to our brilliant Boys Football Team who performed so well in all their matches in the Cumann na mBunscol competition. We played 5 matches since January and won 4 of them. We beat St. Peter's, Gaelscoil na Camóige, St. Joseph's of Clondalkin, St. Joseph's of Ballymun and we only came up short against an outstanding young group of players from Gaelscoil Clondalkin. In any other year in the Cumann na mBunscol competition, finishing second in the group would have been enough to earn us a spot in the Cup quarter-final but unfortunately this year it has been decided that only the top team in the group can go through to a semi-final. We have also been a bit unlucky that we ended up playing in a higher division than we ordinarily would have been playing in but the fact that we won all our matches except one only speaks to how talented this group of players are. Ever since we started training way back in September (back when we were still keeping the classes separate from each other due to the covid restrictions), their attitude has been exceptional. They have always been very respectful and eager to learn and improve and should be nothing but proud of how they performed on the football pitch in all their matches. The win against a very strong St. Joseph's team (Clondalkin) was a particularly gutsy and memorable display. They also put up a fantastic fight against the brilliant Gaelscoil Clondalkin team. Indeed, we were winning that match at half time but by the end, the class of the Gaelscoil team finally told but we are so proud of how our boys never gave up until the final whistle. They really are one of the best groups of players that I have worked with since I have been in the school and given the effort that they have all put in since the start of the year, I feel that it is only right that I give each of the players a special mention in this tribute!
Harry ended up being our goalkeeper for the latter part of the campaign after Elias unluckily got injured early on in the match against St. Joseph's. Even though Harry is a very skilled outfield player, he also possesses all the qualities necessary to be a great goalkeeper - he has a cool head, safe hands, precise kicking and most of all, he has no fear of putting his body in the way of a ferocious shot. We also appreciate that Harry had no complaints about moving into goals even though we suspect that he would have preferred to have been playing outfield where he also excels but this just goes to show how much of a team player Harry is. I've no doubt that Harry will be a very big asset to the Round Towers Club for many years to come.
At full back, Antonio was an absolute rock! Given that Antonio only played his first ever GAA match 6 weeks ago, it is pretty incredible how he was able to perform at such a high level against strong opponents who were much more experienced than he is. However, he is strong, has explosive athleticism and above all has a great pair of hands. And being the great competitor that he is, he never had concentration lapses which made it incredibly difficult for the opposing teams to get through on goal.
Divine is also a great young, determined player and we are very excited about how he can continue to improve for next year's team. He attacks the ball with no fear and has great natural speed. It's always a great sight to see Divine race out of defense on one of his solo runs. He also seemed to have quite an adoring fan club when the sixth classes came out to support the boys in their final match which was nice to see!
Regarding Max, even though he is primarily a soccer player (and a brilliant one at that), Gaelic Football comes naturally to him too. He is as tough as they come and charges towards balls that most would veer away from for fear of getting hurt. Unfortunately, he got injured later on in the campaign and was sorely missed against Gaelscoil Clondalkin but make no mistake, he will be massively important to our team next year!
Jayden was also one of our most reliable defenders. Like Max, soccer is the sport that Jayden excels at but he approached the Gaelic Football season with a really positive attitude. His tackling was immense and no opposing forward was ever able to beat him for speed in any race for the ball. Indeed, we believe that Jayden will be a vital member of our athletics team in the coming summer months.
Sean Whelan has been quite simply outstanding! He was the ultimate warrior for us in defense and was easily one of the best players on the pitch against Gaelscoil Clondalkin which is no mean feat! He has no fear of any opponent and is always looking to improve his game. He is now kicking with both feet and his high catching this year has been particularly noteworthy. I've no doubt that he will be a fantastic player (in both hurling and Gaelic Football) for Round Towers for many years to come!
Sean Culhane is about as steely and determined a competitor that you are ever going to see. He has lightning speed and was a thorn in the side of many an opposing team's attack as time and time again he made crucial blocks and interceptions. He is basically the last player I would want to see coming to mark me if I was a forward on the opposing team. Sean is another player who we believe will achieve great things in the sport if he continues to feel passionate about it.
Dylan has also been a revelation this year. He has all the attributes required to excel at this sport : athleticism, fighting spirit and plenty of skill to boot. He has also been a potent attacking threat from defense as his vision and distribution (accurate kick-passing especially) into the forwards has been so important for us. I'm delighted that he is also playing for Towers now and he will be a big player for our team next year. I hope that his work ethic at training is something that our younger players will learn from.
Zach is another ferocious competitor who just loves nothing more than testing himself against the best players. His desire to win is second to none and he always leaves everything out there on the pitch which is all you can ask for. He plays with a fire in his belly but he also has plenty of natural skill and was one of our best ball carriers this year, regularly producing eye-catching solo runs out of defense. There is no limit to Zach's potential in this sport in my opinion and I'm really looking forward to seeing his potential midfield partnership with Dylan on next year's team.
In midfield, I don't think any of the other lads would disagree when I say that Charlie is our most complete player! He is a class act with a great mastery of every skill in the book but above all what was most impressive about Charlie this year was his leadership. He worked his socks off in every match and combined really well with Sean Harford in midfield. The fact that he was there in the full forward line to latch onto a rebound from Jonathon's shot to score the winning goal against Joey's in the last 5 minutes gives you an idea of how hard he worked in every match. I predict that Charlie is going to go on to play at a very high level in this sport for many years to come.
And what can we say about our captain, Sean Harford? From the very first training session, he has set the perfect example of how one should behave when trying to improve at a sport. Sean's main sport is soccer but the fact that he came out on top against midfielders from other schools who would have been much more experienced than he is just speaks to exactly how talented he is. He clocked up many great scores but perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of watching Sean play was seeing him pluck those high balls out of the sky! I really, really hope that Sean goes on to play more GAA in the future but if not, I have no doubt that he will go on to be an exceptional soccer player and I thank him for his leadership as he was always so encouraging to the players around him.
Jamie is another player that was so important to us all throughout the campaign. He was very much a focal point for us in attack and was one of our top scorers this year. You just can't give Jamie space because he will punish you - he is deadly accurate! And though he has a lethal left foot, what makes him so difficult to mark is that he can easily switch over to his right foot and stick it over with that one. It has been really enjoyable to see Jamie grow in confidence as a footballer and I hope that he continues to do great things in the sport (and hurling) for Towers for many years to come.
Leon is the youngest player on the starting team and what an exciting talent he is! Even though he is the youngest, he is without doubt one of our most skillful. He is a real fighter and competed brilliantly and fearlessly against much older and bigger players. His decision-making and vision is also what sets him apart - he can spot passes that most people can't! Leon plays both Gaa and soccer and is destined for greatness in both sports in my opinion. We are very lucky that he will be representing our school for the next two years.
As for Luke, what can you say - he is just a gifted athlete. He can seemingly run forever without there ever being any sign of the tank becoming close to empty. I imagine he is a nightmare to mark because he is so fast, elusive and skillful. Like his brother Zach, it seems that the bigger the challenge, the more Luke relishes it and when he is in full flow , he is a joy to watch. Luke is also a brilliant soccer player and incredible long distance runner so whatever sport he chooses to focus on in the future, he is going to excel at it - that's for sure.
Kyle is the quintessential corner forward! Crafty, so reliable in possession and so good at pouncing when goal opportunities arise. Like Jamie, he can score with either foot which is what makes him such a handful to mark. His positive attitude is also so infectious and he is really well-respected by all his teammates both on and off the field. I also understand that he is a great goalkeeper in hurling so it seems to me that Round Towers have a future dual star on their hands! And one thing that we will never forget is the Wonder Goal that Kyle scored a few years ago in the Cup Semi-final that helped us get to Croke Park - it's still very much fresh in the memory!
I've been really delighted to see how much Jonathon has improved as a footballer. His dedication at training has been second to none. Jonathon doesn't play GAA for a club but he worked his way into the team through hard work and sheer desire. When we needed him to stand up and be counted in the Top of the table clash vs Gaelscoil Clondalkin, he wasn't found wanting as he made some fantastic blocks and turnovers. Jonathon is naturally sporty and has also been one of our best Cross Country runners from a few years back so it's been a big pity that he hasn't had a chance to compete in those competitions the last few years but I can't speak highly enough about how Jonathon has applied himself this year.
Elias was our goalkeeper at the start of the season and he was really unlucky to get injured which ruled him out of the last few games. However, he is a player that we have high hopes for next year. He is very strong, has a really safe pair of hands and a powerful kick and he could be a potential competitor for us in the shot putt in the next year or two.
Milosz is another boy who missed a lot of the season due to injury but he has plenty of talent and I really believe that if we had another year with him, he would have blossomed into a very formidable player. He is pacey and can score from any angle. He produced a fine performance in the last game of the season. He is also one of the most positive boys that I've ever had the pleasure of coaching!
Calum is one of our younger players but he is certainly one for the future. Calum mostly plays soccer (and he is really good!) but I think that he has plenty of talent for Gaelic Football too. He is comfortable on the ball and rarely gives away possession. And if you give him a chance in front of goals, he will surely take it! I'm really proud of the way Calum applied himself every time he took to the pitch and hopefully, he will continue to improve for next year.
Luke McCormack is another one of our best prospects from Fourth Class. He's a real battler but very intelligent player who rarely makes the wrong decision. Luke has been playing for Towers for a while now and it shows because his skill level is very high. He also has an uncanny ability to make brave last ditch blocks. We are very happy to have a player of Luke's quality with us for the next two years.
Eoin is the youngest player on the whole squad ( he is still Under-10)! However, he is also most definitely a player for the future. Even though he is so young, he is actually one of our best catchers and he can drive the ball a fair distance when he wants to. I also hope that Eoin has enjoyed the experience of training with the older boys and learning from their example and I've no doubt that he will become that leader when he reaches sixth class himself.
Last but most certainly not least, Lee was a late addition to the squad but we've seen enough. This guy is going to be good - very good! He is another one of our soccer stars but he has showed enough glimpses of brilliance in the few GAA matches that he has taken part in that we can't help but be very excited about how good he can become with a good bit more training under his belt next year. He is also going to be a key member of our athletics team in the next two years.
So as I come to a close, I just want to take this opportunity to thank all the parents and grandparents for your support and patience throughout the year. I understand that it disrupts family schedules when there is so much training after school hours so I appreciate that you were all willing to accommodate us. We didn't make it to Croker this time but it was not from the want of trying! Indeed, we have had teams with outstanding players in the past but this is probably the best all round team I've seen and under other circumstances, maybe we could have tasted glory at Croke Park (Damn you, Gaelscoil Clondalkin!!). However, the main reason we do this training is to instill a love for sport in the children so that they will feel inspired to play for many years to come as sport can be a really healthy outlet for boys and girls, especially as they move into their teenage years and on towards early adulthood. I will certainly be keeping an eye out to see how the sixth class boys and girls are getting on with their respective clubs once they leave the school. It is certainly really heartening to see that so many of them are already playing for the local club! We also have plenty of talent in the younger classes so I hope a lot more of the younger boys and girls will feel inspired to join Round Towers or whatever the closest club is to them. I also want to thank Mr. Scott for all his help this year. He introduced some drills into the training sessions that were a lot more sophisticated than the ones I had been doing and I think the boys really enjoyed them. And finally, the girls' team is still in their competition but I just want to thank the boys who have stayed to watch their matches and support them. Some of them have also helped to bring in the goals back into the school grounds and I really appreciate that. Anyway, it's not the end and we expect there to be more sport after Easter but in the meantime, the boys can take a well deserved rest!