Look to the future with hope and belief

What a game we had last Sunday! Breathtaking, vibrant, audacious! Call it whatever you like, it was an outstanding spectacle, and breathtaking from the moment it started until it ended.

Now, can it be done again this Saturday? I so hope so, because if any team deserves to win it is Mayo. I actually thought Mayo were the better team on the field on the day last Sunday, but it just did not happen because they were so evenly matched. We all wait and pray for next Saturday and, I guess, Mayo and Kerry will be denuded and Croke Park full again. The best of luck Mayo. I am really rooting for you on this occasion.

What dreadful events we had in Barcelona over the last week. I feel so many in Ireland have a sense of identity with Spain, and it is one that goes back centuries. We think back to the Spanish Armada and their forlorn but valiant trip by sea from Spain to Ireland to help this country in its doomed rebellion. We think of Hugh O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell after the battle of Kinsale, when they emigrated to Spain and were treated there as “Royal Noblemen”.

We think, in modern times, of the number of Spanish students who inhabit our towns all around Ireland and come to learn English here. We think of the number of Irish people who holiday in Spain every year. All in all, an overall picture of a vibrant, living relationship based on history, tradition, and modern times.

I notice now, here in Athlone, when I go to the supermarket and get change, frequently the €1 coins have King Felipe’s head on them, so you can feel that constant interchange.

And then I think back to the James Clarence Mangan poem:

“O my dark Rosaleen’

Do not sigh, do not weep!

The priests are on the ocean green,

They march along the deep.

There’s wine from the royal Pope,

Upon the ocean green;

And Spanish ale shall give you hope,

My dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!”

So, we relied on Spain in the past and, of course, now we are all one in Europe - what ills befall another country in Europe hit us too. We are all part of the one great family of Europe.

Another of the great domestic events last week was the Leaving Cert results and the CAO offers which issued quickly after. Firstly, the Leaving Cert results. Yes, there is a new system of grading but, by and large, that is welcome. There were some great results, as there always are, all over the country. But I always have a thought and a word for those who, perhaps, did not get what they thought they would get and might be feeling disconsolate at this time.

There is no need whatever to be down in the dumps about your results. The results of the Leaving Cert are only one stage in your life. Please get that into your head – mothers and fathers and the students themselves. The important thing is that you did your best, and you sat the exam. Be always sure to see, after talking with your teachers, if there are grounds for applying for a review of a particular paper which may upgrade you.

But really the most important fact to absorb is, going to college is not the whole point of life. It is just one facet of it. Now there are apprenticeships, internships and traineeships for almost every area of life. So, please look into that with your teachers and with your guidance counsellors. It is so important to check out everything.

There are also post-Leaving Certificate courses in most secondary schools now and, in fact, some areas have special PLC schools doing every kind of PLC. I would advise strongly to examine this option.

In fact, I heard a young man on the radio recently who had just got his PhD and he had started out from, what he thought, was a bad Leaving Certificate some years ago. He went on to do a PLC and went from that into an IT course. He then attended university and now he is the proud holder of his PhD. I thought that was a great story of hope and optimism.

A special, special word to the students. The Leaving Cert, no matter how high or how low the result, is not the end of your life. It is, in fact, only the beginning. The beginning of a whole new vista of what life can become. So, please do as I say – get out, be full of curiosity, and find out everything you can do in this great world of education.

Education is opening up all around us. When I go into town here in Athlone I meet anxious mums with fretful children in tow buying school uniforms. The newspapers are full of articles about returning to school. So, all in all, there is an air of frantic activity about all matters associated with education.

Many people fail to appreciate how difficult life can be for the 12- or 13-year-old leaving the cosy confines of his or her local primary school and moving in to a large secondary school with huge, long corridors, 10 or 11 new teachers, timetables, school buses to catch, new companions to consider, and, all in all, a whole new life opening up. It is difficult, it is a huge chasm and it is a very difficult time for very young children.

I intend to talk about this transition in a column quite soon because I think that not enough attention is paid to the mixed and swirling emotions of young children, as I said, leaving what they know so well and going into the great unknown.

Many years ago, when I was a secondary teacher, one of my areas of responsibility was dealing with the incoming first years. I always remember that period so vividly and, indeed, the many friendships I made with young girls at that time, and with their parents who came full of anxiety about how their child was coping with the new situation.

Now, many will sail through it all and thrive on it. At the same time, there are many who do not do so. So, I feel it is an area of life for parents who have children of that age, to be watchful for them and careful for them.

On that note I will end this week.

Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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