Eilis February Blog

Friday April 12th 2013

Dia daoibh, February has been an extremely busy month but I have enjoyed every single last minute of it. We have visited Amsterdam, went on a day visit to a secondary school in Turnhout, had two international dinners and moved to Leuven but most importantly I have met great people and made good friends stemming from all round the world who share the same common interest and love for education whether it be primary or secondary.

Having moved to the student accommodation in Leuven I am in the constant company of the entire international class which is great fun. Our class work is based on group work and for each task you have a different group which is chosen at random and very often is graded on the presentation and short written piece. The topics are energetic and related to current affairs and we do our utmost to make them as creative and enjoyable as possible. In the student accommodation we each have our own separate room with just the basic bed, table, cupboard and sink. Toilets and kitchens are communal. I wouldn’t rate the accommodation too highly in terms of comfort and style, but it does the job!

I am also fortunate in the fact I am within travelling distance of the GAA club in Brussels. Founded by the MEP Seán Kelly some ten years ago the club has grown ó neart go neart ever since and fields teams in Hurling, Football, Camogie and Ladies Football. It is very heartening to see and witness different nationalities trying out our native sport. There is a strong Irish community based in Brussels due to the European Union Headquarters being located here making trainings feel as if you are back home in Ireland. I was amazed that there were activities organised over the two weeks for Seachtain na Gaeilge as well. Concerts, table quizzes and cultural nights were held for those native speakers which to me again shows how very proud we are as a race of our identity and heritage. On the subject of Irish, it was with great delight I returned to Ireland over the St Patrick’s weekend for a whirlwind visit home. The reason being that the legend himself, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was coming to the area to act as guest speaker at the suitably named ‘Emerald Ball’ celebrating the revival and success of the Gaeilge in the An Carn area as past twenty years. This man was exactly what I expected him to be and more, having been used to listening to him as a commentator on the Sunday Game his voice is as in captivating in real life. For his age the man is incredible and he even travelled the whole way by himself. Standing poker straight no aches or signs of deterioration insight he shared information and stories with everyone he met stopping to ask questions and happy to have photographs taken. With such a wealth of information in his brain I can only but be jealous of his life’s experiences as he dabbles between the Irish and English language in order to include the entire bilingual audience. Micheál also made the short trip to my club Robert Emmets Slaughtneil a place where he had visited in 1993 after Derry won the All-Ireland for the first time. The young Gaels were there in their numbers to greet him and ask for autographs and it was then that it struck me, a man that never held any significant position within the GAA administration nor been deeply involved as a standout player himself has had such an influential impact on the GAA community. That evening he spoke passionately and proudly of his involvement with the Irish language and how he was honoured to be present in such a youthful and inspiring audience at the Emerald Ball. He reiterated the words of Mary McAleese when she came to visit An Carn last year, ‘A collideiscope of activity’. He explained that it was indeed Gaeilge that gifted him what became his all-time favourite hobby, commentating on GAA matches which would eventually lead to his voice to be one of the most recognisable in all of Ireland. Micheál described his interview and trial with RTÉ and how he had never watched a full hurling game or even understood the rules but the selectors could sense the passion and love in his voice that day. I am sure you would all agree that the day he got the job with RTÉ was a brilliant day, one you wouldn’t change for the world! Luckily I recorded his speech on my phone so I can replay it as often as I like and it still is as interesting as it was as when it was recorded.

Some other great news this month was St. Patricks College Maghera winning the McRory Cup against St. Pauls at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. A brilliant achievement by the players and management especially as the school celebrate our 50th anniversary. They will now go on to represent Ulster in the Hogan which makes me a very proud past pupil.

That’s all for now folks, next stop Paris!!