Allianz Cumann na mBunscol, Primary Schools Ulster ‘A’ Football Championship. The Nicholas Baxter Memorial Trophy.
Bunscoil Phobal Feirste completed a remarkable feat when they lifted the Allianz Cumann na mBunscol Ulster football title, for the first time in the school’s and in Antrim GAA history last Thursday at the Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt. The Belfast Gaels from Gaeltacht Bhóthar Seoighe lifted the Nicholas Baxter Memorial Cup after an enthralling day of top quality Gaelic football between the champions of each county in Ulster. Bunscoil Phobal Feirste earned the right to represent Antrim by firstly winning the Belfast Championship defeating St John the Baptist before Christmas and this was followed by the Antrim County title in the new year with victory over St Joseph’s Crumlin in the final, retaining the 2 football titles they won last year. The School however had never won the Ulster title in its near 50-year existence. In fact, no school from Antrim ever had, until now!
The prestigious Nicholas Baxter trophy was up for grabs as primary schools from right across the province of Ulster sent their county champions into battle in an effort to capture the coveted title of Ulster ‘A’ Football Champions. The winning of this coveted Ulster Championship trophy has been dominated, particularly in the last 20 years, by teams from Derry and Tyrone. Bunscoil Phobal Feirste as Antrim representatives, were in some serious company in the form of Armagh Champions Tannaghmore, Monaghan Champions Scotstown, Derry Champions Foreglen, Fermanagh Champions Irivinestown, Tyrone Champions Trillick, Donegal Champions, Ballyshannon, Cavan Champions Kingscourt and Down Champions Burren.
An amazing day of Gaelic Football lay ahead as Bunscoil Phobal Feirste aimed to progress further in this year’s Ulster Championship having crashed out at the quarter final stage last year.
League section games and victories against Armagh, Monaghan, Fermanagh and Down set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash against defending champions Tyrone, who were represented this year by Trillick Primary School. Bunscoil Phobal Feirste’s league section momentum was in no sign of letting up as they dethroned the Ulster Champions Tyrone by 4 points and marched into their first ever Ulster Football Final where they would face local school and raging hot favourites Foreglen, the Derry champions, who themselves had defeated Donegal in their semi-final.
A partisan crowd and an electric atmosphere in the cauldron of the Meadowbank arena welcomed both teams out onto the pitch as all of the fantastic Forglen Primary School community made the short trip to see their school aim for glory. A ding-dong battle ensued right from the throw-in as both teams exchanged score after score and were level at half time. The same pattern followed in the second half and it was looking like both teams would not be separated right up to the end until up stepped joint Captain, Pádraig Ó Muirigh who scored an outrageous side-line free with the outside of his foot to send the Bunscoil support into delirium. As the final whistle went it took a few seconds for the Bunscoil Phobal Feirste team and their coach, former Down Gaelic Football player, Gearóid Mac Seáin to realise the enormity of what they had just achieved- An Ulster Championship ‘A’ Football title. Speaking after the game, their coach Gearóid said;
“Tá traidisiúin iontach sa scoil againn maidir lenár gcluichí naisiúnta. Ní chuireann muid béim ar thrófaithe, cuireann muid béim ar an teanga, ar ár gcultúr agus ar eispéaras foghlama agus turas scoile na bpáistí agus iad faoinár gcúram. Is bónas é nuair a bhíonn laethanta stairiúla agus cuimhní cinn mar seo againn mar scoil phobal”.
“The School is steeped in the Gaelic Games tradition. Our national games are treasured by us. We place no emphasis at all upon counting trophies. We emphasise our native Language, our culture and the learning experiences as well as the school journey that the children who come under our care have. Historical days and brilliant memories like this are a bonus”
Gaelic Games coordinator at Bunscoil Phobal Feiste, Seán Mac Manus, himself a past pupil of Bunscoil Phobal Feirste, enthused;
“Táimid iontach bródúil as na páistí inniu. Bímid bródúil as gach páiste a thagann fríd na scoile seo. Tá sé d’aidhm againn timpeallacht a chruthú ina mothaíonn gach páiste féin-luach agus muinín iontu féin mar Ghaeil Óga. Tá sé deas trófaithe a bhaint ach an sprioc is mó atá againn ná go dtógann na páistí cuimhní cinn agus cairdis le linn á gcuid ama anseo, a mhaireann fad a saoil. Cuidíonn laethanta mar seo go mór linn”.
“We are very proud of our pupils today. We are proud of every child who passes through Bunscoil Phobal Feirste. We try to create an environment in the School, where each child feels a sense of great self-worth and confidence as a young Gael. It’s nice to win trophies, especially Ulster Football Championships! but our main aim is that each of our children who comes under our care carry great memories with them and make friendships that last a lifetime. Days like these do no harm in that regard!”
There was great play at the tournament by Co-Captain Shea Burns, who was in great goal-scoring mode and showing great leadership throughout the day, as well as fantastic defensive contributions by Goal Keeper Ódhrán Mag Uidhir, Shea Doran, Pádraig Mac Domhnaill, Keevan Taylor-Grieve, Lorcán Mac Ailín with Shea being ably assisted in attack by Conall Mc Laughlin and Eoghan Laverty.