Ever hear the one about the student who moved to a new school and introduced herself to her teacher with the immortal words “we’re going to be playing against each other in the All-Ireland”? Niamh Breen laughs at the quirk of fate that has brought two Kildare players and one from Laois together in a school in Wicklow, ahead of the sides’ Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Final at on Sunday writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
Breen has been a PE and geography teacher at St Kevin’s Community College in Dunlavin for five years. It isn’t a long commute from the Narraghmore parish on the other side of the county border, which is why there is nothing unusual for her St Laurence’s clubmate and fellow Kildare panellist, Deirbhíle Byrne to be a sixth year student there. It is the arrival of Grace O’Neill that adds a twist to the tale however.
“The family moved into the area during the summer” explains Breen. “We went back to school last week and Grace came up to me and told me we’d be going up against each other in the All-Ireland final in Croke Park. It was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on her so it was a bit of a surprise.” There has been plenty of fun since. “I told her the PE classes will be hard this week. We’ll run the legs of her” jokes Breen.
O’Neill is still finding her feet in her new school and Byrne hadn’t even met the fifth year student until meeting up to take a photograph to mark their impending Sunday engagement. They did recognise each other from the playing field though.
Unfortunately, Byrne will not be able to play any part on the pitch, after damaging her cruciate ligament earlier this season but she has remained a part of the set-up and will be at Croke Park. Teacher-student relationships will go out the window at Headquarters.
“It’s all about the All-Ireland then” says Breen. “We’ll all do our best because we all want the same thing.”
The 28-year-old has been involved with Kildare for 10 years now and was captain when they won the All-Ireland junior A and Leinster titles in 2010, as well as the Division 3 league crown last year. None of those finals were at Croke Park however.
“There’s great excitement around it but this week people have come to realise, it’s great to get to play in Croke Park and to have the memories of that. But we want them to be good memories and memories of a victory. So everyone is 100% focussed on that 60 minutes on the pitch.”