by Dave O’Hara
The New Year is well and truly underway. The Christmas break wasn’t long enough, then again it hasn’t been as excruciating as I thought it would have been to get back into the flow of things. There has been a lot going on recently too, not least the snow in exchange for the floods, a welcome change. There has been a great positive vibe, a freshness, a zest, an enthusiasm that comes with the start of a new chapter. I’ve broken most of my resolutions already but so be it, there has been plenty of good news from the Salesian quarter recently.
The first of the good news comes from the BT Young Scientist competition. I remember going as a student not so long ago, well some time ago, but I remember it more recently from bringing students. It’s a huge event, a huge celebration of Ireland as a country and the young people that represent the Island. It’s been growing for some time now and not only are there many entries, there are concerts and presentations and a whole host of things going on over the week. This year the competition is also hosting an event for third level students.
This year was a great year for the Salesian secondary schools. Beginning with Salesian Secondary College in Pallaskenry. The college was well represented by some their students who brought home the Jack Restan Display Award as well as five other display awards and a highly commended award. The Jack Restan Display Award is for the project which presents the concepts, details, images and research findings in the most clear and professional way. Clearly a lot of work was put in by the students from Pallaskenry. Of course Salesian College Celbridge joined in on the celebration with an award of their own. Students from Celbridge submitted a project on reducing the effects of evaporation on the scarce supply of water in hot countries using hydroscopic polymers to form solid gels. All that I can dissect from that is that it is highly relevant and obviously the judges thought so as the project was awarded the Special Irish Aid Award presented to the students by Minister Sean Sherlock. An amazing achievement.
There was also another great cause for celebration in Ireland and for the Salesian world recently. There has been a lot of heartache over the situation of the future of the Irish National Soccer team over recent years and thankfully there has been considerable improvement recently. Ireland is a nation that suffers from sports fanaticism, our athletes and supporters represent the country so well. Another young person has shown through character, determination and commitment that the transition to football in England is still something to be dreamed of for Irish young people. Conor Masterson was recently on the bench for the Liverpool Football Club Senior team at the tender age of seventeen! This is a huge achievement and milestone in Conor’s fledgling career. I remember him from his brief stint in Salesian College Celbridge and he certainly put forward the right characteristics let alone the talent to make it in the big league. He was mature and down to earth for his age and not once did I see or hear of him bragging. By the end of the year he had landed a big contract with Liverpool.
In an interview after the game, the surprise was written all over his face. Liverpool’s senior manager Jurgen Klopp spoke to him and said; “if you get the chance to go on, just go out and enjoy yourself. There’s no pressure on you. Just go out and enjoy yourself.” Klopp is certainly more of a person centred manager than others and it’s great to see an Irish lad getting that benefit. I hope to see Conor to go on and do great things from here.
A final piece of news that some may not see as good but I see as positive is that there were five sets of parents jailed recently for not sending their children to school. There is probably more to it than meets the eye but there are children in Ireland who don’t avail of the good educational opportunities provided as a result of at least in some part their parents. There are ways around it, ways to fall through the cracks so to speak and thankfully a judge has decided this is not acceptable and set an example. For all the achievements of young people in Ireland, who have good parents and committed teachers, many of whom are willing to give their time freely, it’s not good enough to not ensure that all young people have this opportunity. Each child should be given the same opportunity as much as possible and that’s the ideal we should aim for. We can’t just say that most young people are getting the opportunities they deserve, we need to ask why are there some not getting the same opportunity as everyone else? Then we can truly celebrate.
It’s been a great start to 2016 for Irish young people and the main man Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool Football Club manager, has changed around my resolutions for the year, lucky me, to “go out and enjoy yourself”- straight from the horse’s mouth! Go out, do your best, no pressure, sure what else can you do!