Coláiste Mhuire is celebrating 75 years in existence this September but the festivities are on hold for now as the school’s Junior and Leaving Certificate students sit their State exams. Last week, reporter Dan Dooner was back in the Principal’s office for an end-of-term chat with Emma O’Malley…
Hi Ms O’Malley…how is everyone feeling ahead of the Junior and Leaving Cert exams?
There was a bit of nervousness waiting for them to start, and we have typical exam weather of course; it’s been absolutely beautiful!
We have two very good years, our Junior Cert year and our Leaving Cert and LCA. They’ve been excellent this year so we’ve no doubt they’ll get on great.
How many students attend Coláiste Mhuire?
We have nearly 300 students in the school now so we are growing – and have been growing.
This is a great school with great students and we’re very lucky as a school in a rural community. We are thankful for our parents and for our local community for that.
Our students are very easy to deal with and we’ve zero discipline problems which is something I’m always thankful for.
How many staff do you have working here?
We’ve just over 30 staff members between teachers, SNAs and ancillary staff as well. They are lovely, lovely staff and great to work with.
You were a bit of a baller with St Brendan’s Ladies by all accounts! How important is sport in your students’ lives?
I retired from St Brendan’s around 2018 having played for a long time (laughs).
The local clubs feed into the school and I suppose we feed back into the clubs. It’s brilliant, and because the school is right on the border of Galway and Roscommon there is that bit of local rivalry too.
In football you have St Brendan’s and St Aidan’s and St Ciaran’s, and in the hurling you have Four Roads and Ballygar and Athleague and Tremane. There’s always that bit of banter!
We’ve had some great successes this year. Our junior hurling team won the Connacht final and our junior girls were in a Connacht final so that was a brilliant experience.
What’s the best thing about working in Coláiste Mhuire, Ballygar?
The best thing is the students really. It’s seeing them going from first years – as 12-year-olds – to leaving and then meeting them a few years afterwards and seeing them happy and successful in life. It’s just brilliant. It’s an absolute privilege really.
The school has a big anniversary this year. Tell us a bit about that…
This is a great year for us as we’re 75 years old. Our school was started in 1948 by the local community and we’re still held in trust by that local community so our community owns this school and that’s unique among secondary schools in Ireland.
How will you celebrate the anniversary?
We’re having a big celebration this year. On the Friday night of Ballygar Carnival, August 4th, we’re having a big dinner dance. We’re inviting everyone to come and celebrate with us.
Then, on September 8th, the 75th anniversary of the school opening, we’re going to have a big Mass and a tea party. We’re also going to launch a book as well celebrating the 75 years.
What’s the feeling 75 years on from the very first day of school at Coláiste Mhuire?
We’ve recently been sharing photographs of old classes and sports teams online and we’ve had past pupils visiting us and getting in touch too. The feeling we get from that is the real sense of pride everyone has in this school.
Also, having a local school in this area gave people opportunities they may not have had and that comes across in the feedback we have received. It’s something I feel as well: pride in the school, and that has been brilliant.