“MÁ aimsíonn tú é bí cinnte Gaeilge a labhairt leis,” deireann Bráthair Séan Mac Conmara in Inis. “Is fearr leis a bheith ag caint Gaeilge ná Béarla agus beidh an scéal go léir aige, faoin iománaíocht, Coláiste Eoin agus muintir Chuala chomh maith,” leanann Bráthair Mac Conmara.
True enough, when Bráthair Séan Ó Dubhgáin is tracked down in Carrick-on-Suir, he has stories to tell – hurling stories about Coláiste Eoin, Cuala and the rise and rise of the game in south Dublin that has culminated in a club from the capital reaching the All-Ireland club hurling final for the first time ever.
“Ní raibh ach 17 scoláire sa scoil nuair a thosaigh sé i 1969,” deireann sé, “ach bhí an iomáint ann ó thús, bhí a ndóthain againn do fhoireann – bhí béim i gconaí ar an iomáint in aigne na scoile.”
Bráthair Séan Ó Dubhgáin was principal of Coláiste Eoin, the Irish language secondary school on the Stillorgan Road in Dublin, from 1969 to 1979.
The bulk of this period may have coincided with the glory days of Dublin football, but Ó Dubhgáin was a hurling man, more than that he was a Clare hurling man from Ballymaguigan in Barefield.
“He was a passionate hurling man,” says current principal Prionsias de Poire, “and this is when the tradition for hurling was really established and became engrained in the school.
“It started with Bráthair Ó Dubhgáin with his huge passion for Clare hurling and it followed on with Bráthair Jack Beausang and Bráthair de Barra, who were from Cork and also great hurling men for the school.
“And the first lay teacher that was employed as a sports teacher here was Colm Ó Sealaí — a man renowned for his passion for hurling. They were the the flagbearers as to why Coláiste Eoin became so prominent in hurling.
“I was a pupil here in the 1970s,” continues de Poire, “and morning, noon and night we’d be out on the pitch honing the skills. We had school on a Saturday, when it was unthinkable to be coming in on a Saturday, and we’d all come in to hurl.
“The hurley was always part of going to school and the lads bought into it – not that you had to sell it. Lads know coming in the door here what they’re getting, just the same as they know what they’re getting when they go in the door of St Flannan’s or St Kieran’s. The tradition was set in stone,” he adds.
And Cuala was always part of that tradition – when they made their senior championship breakthrough with their first county senior title in 1989 by beating then reigning champions St Vincent’s in the final two members of the Coláiste Eoin alumni in Colm Ó Giolláin and Colmán Ó Drisceoil were among the teams leading lights.
Ó Drisceoil is now principal of Scoil Lorcáin primary school in Monkstown – a feeder school for Coláiste Eoin, which turn feeds Cuala.
The proof of that relationship is the supply line to the current Cuala squad that will be on duty against Ballyea on St Patrick’s Day – 13 players in all are Coláiste Eoin old boys.
“That’s a huge connection between the school and the club,” says de Poire, who himself is a St Vincent’s man, “and providing so may players to the Cuala squad is a huge source of pride to the school.
“This Cuala side has already made history by reaching the All-Ireland final — Crumlin were the last club to win a Leinster back in the ‘70s under Jimmy Grey, but this current crop are exceptional. Watching them coming together they an exceptional team, with an exceptional manager who has got them playing great hurling, has been great,” he adds.
And Coláiste Eoin’s place in that emergence can’t be underscored – from Bráthair Ó Dubhgáin’s days through to the present day, Cuala’s graph has risen, just Coláiste Eoin’s has, with the ethos towards hurling in the school playing a huge part in that evolution.
“Winning wasn’t necessarily the most important thing in Cóláiste Eoin,” says de Poire, “but it was just as important to develop as hurlers as well as achieving your highest level.
“Con O’Callaghan, his brother Cian, Mark Shutte, Sean Moran, Jacob Nolan, all these lads would have played at the highest level possible so that going out and playing with their clubs at the weekend could never be as high as the standard they were getting in the school,” he adds.
And the successes enjoyed by the school along the way always had the Cuala stamp to it – de Poire goes back to the Dublin College’s historic Leinster Colleges and Croke Cup winning team of 2006 that was managed by Coláiste Eoin’s Colm Ó Sealaí.
In the All-Ireland they beat St Flannan’s College in Dr Cullen Park in Carlow – the Ennis side included such notables as John Conlon and Seamus Hickey in its ranks, while Dublin Colleges had Diarmuid Connolly, Johnny Cooper and Paul Ryan, as well as two Cuala players in John Seanon and Shane Murphy, while Cian McBride of Coláiste Eoin got the winning goal on the day.
“That was huge for the school,” says de Poire, “and great to be part of an All-Ireland win. In my time here we’d have won everything in Dublin, with Cuala players to the fore.
“Our big breakthrough going way back would have been when we beat the great O’Connell’s School that were managed by Michéal Ó Muircheartaigh. That was our big because at that time for a small school like Coláiste Eoin to be able to beat a big school like O’Connells was huge. We went from strength to strength and went from Dublin into Leinster B and have been in Leinster A for the past ten years against St Kieran’s and Kilkenny CBS,” he adds.
In a way it has mirrored Cuala’s rise, with the marquee names like the O’Callaghan brothers and the Schuttes learning their way in a hurling environment that was also home to other star names like Danny Suthcliffe (St Jude’s), Óisín O’Rourke (Kilmacud Crokes) and many more.
“They never came in with any belief that they were any better than the next man,” says de Poire, “and that’s hugely important.  There was no point being a superstar here because you’d be knocked down fairly quickly — it would be a case of ‘for every medal you have, I have two’.
“And the one thing about them is that they never go down without a fight. Tá an croí mór iontu. They never give up and that’s something that Cuala really have, a real fighting spirit, never say die – it’s always something that was in Coláiste Eoin hurling from the earliest days,” he adds.
From Barefield man Bráthair Séan Ó Dubhgáin’s time – one of his proudest hurling days was in 1999 when his home club St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield won the All-Ireland.
Anois, Cuala nó Ballyea a bhráthair?
He laughs loudly, before gathering his thoughts. Cuala or Ballyea – the men from Clare or the men inextricably linked with his old school?
“Léifidh tú an freagairt ar an cheist sin san tuairisc ar mo  bhás,” he laughs.
Instead, “is binn béal ina thost” for Bráthair Ó Dubhgáin as he rightly pleads the fifth amendment on that one.

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