On Tuesday 17th April, for the first time in the history of Dominican College, the school’s U16 Gaelic team contested and went on to win their first Ulster Colleges final.
This week in school a special prize presentation was organised for the team and their families to celebrate this wonderful achievement with the wider school community.
The success of the GAA team is all the sweeter in this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the first boys arriving in Dominican in 1968.
The guest of honour was Mr Enda Muldoon the recently retired Derry GAA player widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation.
Enda has been appointed as Coaching officer of the Derry Board and was delighted to be invited to Dominican for the first time to celebrate the school’s success.
Many of the young Dominican team play within their local GAA teams but many also come from a soccer and rugby background. The boys have played and developed together over the past few seasons under their coach Mr Richard Carey and have grown into a formidable squad of players capable of competing and succeeding at the very highest levels.
The team emerged victorious after a thrilling and very closely- contested match at MUSA, Cookstown and this is a wonderful achievement for Mr Carey and his team.
At this week’s special presentation Mr Carey described the school’s Ulster Colleges U16 squad as a typical Dominican team. He explained how they all came from diverse sporting backgrounds.
A few of the panel played Gaelic within their local clubs but many had more experience in soccer and rugby. Some had never even lifted a Gaelic football until they arrived in Dominican College.
The team initially bonded in Year 8 with success in a Gaelic Blitz. Mr Carey explained how these early seven and nine-a-side tournaments were ideally suited to a young Dominican side growing in numbers, strength, skills and confidence.
Following on from success at U14 level where the team learned to play with and without the wind, Mr Carey described how things all came together with a full strength U16 squad last September in Greysteel.
He told the senior school, gathered to celebrate Dominican’s success in this year’s tournament, that the two attributes that most epitomised his team were character and guts.
Describing the scene that met the Dominican team in Cookstown at April’s final, Mr Carey admitted: “Although we were seriously outnumbered, we were never intimidated by the support for St John’s Dromore, the beaten finalists.”
He paid tribute to his own father Mr Carey Sr. who drove the boys to their games this season.
“No matter how old you get in every little boy there lives a desire to please his parents,” he said, and also thanked all the Dominican parents and families for travelling with and believing in the team throughout their campaign.
Taking the school through the turmoil of the final, he spoke of his own doubts as the team went in at half time with a slender two-point advantage and his fear that the lead may not have been enough.
A key turning point in the second half was a goal from Kacper Sobera but, with a mere ten minutes to go, doubts again surfaced as Mr Carey described how the St John’s crowd tried to cheer their team to victory.
In these final minutes he described how the boys’ work rate, desire and attitude were exceptional and were enough to carry them across the victory line.
Concluding with a slide show of photos of the team as they evolved from a small year 8 team to a strong panel of 19 with pupils from Years 10 to 12, Mr Carey spoke of our enormous pride in the team and their achievements.
Calling each of the boys in turn to the stage to be presented with their Ulster medal by Enda Muldoon, Mr Carey described their individual talents and how each connected to produce an Ulster victory.
The Year 10 boys: Lewis Hawthorne, Malachi Hendry and Jake Wallace
Mr Carey described how Lewis often faced boys almost three times his size but yet was undaunted saying: “He has the heart of a lion and excellent technical ability”.
He explained how Malachi was thrown into the deep end in the semi-final and went on to play well in the final.
Jake, on the other hand was described as an excellent footballer who used his wide experience within the NI squad to great effect on a Gaelic pitch and played 'like a natural'.
The Year 11 boys:
No team would be complete without a safe pair of hands and Ryan Taggart proved himself a most reliable keeper.
Logan Johnson transferred his skills on a Rugby team to excellent effect and was again a natural in terms of his handling and tackling.
Danny Liken proved himself “An ice-cool defender” who consistently showed composure as he played out from the back.
Dawid Ryczko was described as “A great athlete” with superb technical skills who became a real asset to the team.
Luke Carter-Woods was described as a player who again overcame players many times his height and a player with a low centre of gravity which enabled him to push the team forwards.
Ciaran McLaughlin was another player who turned his soccer skills to superb effect within the U16 team. Mr Carey described him as a player with “vision and an eye for a pass”
Filip Rygielski was another Year 11 player who was a key presence within the team. Usually tasked with the unenviable job of marking the opponent’s key man, Filip was a team stalwart.
Conor Carlisle was one of the boys who has had extensive experience within his local Eoghan Rua club and was another safe pair of hands whose experience always enabled him to make the right choices under pressure.
Adam Kosinski proved himself to be a versatile player adept at coping with pressure at key times in games.
Our final Year 11 players, many of whom will be available next year, were: Kacper Sobera whose superb athleticism gave him a lightening pace and led to a key second half goal in the final.
Jude Kerr, another Eoghan Rua player, was called into action in a tense semi-final which allowed him to go on to prove his worth to the team in the final.
Our final year 11 pupil was another pupil with a background in soccer goalkeeping , Jack Lucas, who proved equally adept and skilful on a Gaelic pitch.
Only four of the boys came from Year 12 and Mr Carey described how each in his own way was a leader and mentor to the younger boys.
Bart Drozd was another strong rugby player whose natural ability provided a late point which gave the Dominican team a four-point cushion which helped secure ultimate victory.
Alan Thompson again used his superb Rugby abilities to wonderful effect in this season’s campaign, often coming up with key scores at key moments.
Chad O’Neill was a superb full back this season often standing strong as the last line of defence within the squad.
The team captain, Lorcan McMullen, was the final year 12 pupil.
Mr Carey described how Lorcan was unlucky to have been left out of this year’s Derry minor squad but immediately attained a place in the hurling squad.
The final medal of the day was specially awarded to Mr Hynds in recognition of his instrumental role in introducing many of the boys to GAA in junior school and in helping with coaching at U14 level.
Concluding the special presentation Mr carey told his players: “As a school family we are all very, very proud of you here in Dominican College and you epitomise all that is good about the school. You have trained, played, lost and won together and today we celebrate your amazing success. Very well done lads.”
The school would like to thank all the parents, grandparents and family members who joined the celebrations and to thank them for their support for the team over the past few seasons.
Following on from this year’s successful campaign, Dominican College have been shortlisted for the Post Primary School of the Year Award in the Irish News School, Club and Volunteer Awards. The winners will be announced on Friday May 18th.