The Royal College of Science Cup was first presented in 1916 to the province that scored the most points to win the Senior Team Competition at the Irish School’s Track and Field Championships. The school that amassed most points for their province got to hold on to the cup for the year. In 1954 the rules were changed slightly and the cup was presented not to the winning province but instead to the school that had amassed the highest score of points. As it transpired that honour went to a Galway school, Garbally College, and it returned a further three times to the great St. Jarlath’s College teams of 1972, 1973 and 1975. Since then it has never returned to Connacht until St. Mary’s College created a piece of College history by taking the cup across the Shannon for the first time in 43 years following an excellent day’s athletics in Tullamore.
St. Mary’s have been the dominant school in Connacht Schools athletics for the past number of years and following the most recent championships held at Athlone IT they are current holders of the Senior (U-19), Intermediate (U-17) and Junior (U-15) best school team shields, while narrowly missing out on the Minor (U-14) title by a single point when finishing second. Indeed, they have now won the senior team title for 11 years in a row, and the Intermediate and Junior titles for 7 and 6 years in succession respectively. This has ensured the status of Best Overall Boys School for those 11 years, an achievement to which many students, both current and former, have contributed.
Having amassed so many Connacht titles a plan was put into place over the past two years to make an attempt at winning a national title, and this year saw that dream finally come true. Mary’s qualified athletes in 31 events from the Connacht finals, including 13 events at Senior level. Nine points are awarded for a win in any event, with second securing 7 and so on down to eight place in a sliding scale. With so many qualified athletes the athletics coaches set about convincing their athletes that although they may not win an individual medal they may help the team effort by finishing in the top eight to secure a point for the team. To a man they bought into the idea and so the College playing grounds have been a hive of activity for the past few weeks as hurdlers, hammer throwers, sprinters and triple jumpers trained to perform to the best of their ability in the quest for those elusive points.
The senior team has a couple of dedicated athletes from GCH, for instance team captain and top class 400m runner Shane Traynor Canavan, but the rest are those whose athletics prowess lies in other fields. As a point in case, Diarmuid Mulkerrins, from Moycullen, is a multiple National Champion and World medallist in his sport of Handball, Gabriel Dossen is the Irish Junior Champion Boxer who hit the headlines when winning a bronze at the World Boxing Championships in Russia before Christmas, while Martynas Sakalauskas and Faustas Tamulis are Irish Basketball medal winners with the College Senior Basketball team. This eclectic team came together as one and focused all their considerable athletic ability into a single goal, and by the time the last event of the day, the Senior 4x400m relay, came along the College knew that they had created a piece of history by capturing the College of Science Cup for the first time ever.
That 4 x 400m then provided the icing on the cake, as Shane brought his relay team from fourth place on the final changeover to a within whisker of first, making up almost six seconds in a storming run to finish 2 seconds behind the winners from in second place. Shane had earlier experienced the disappointment of finishing 4th in the individual 400m, although his personal best time of 49.58s should be enough to ensure selection for the Irish Junior team going forward, so when he crossed the line to secure a coveted medal the response was electric. He was immediately surrounded by his teammates, and all of the younger athletes from the College. Indeed it was the example of one of those athletes, first year Jason Lydon, securing a bronze medal in the Minor Shot Putt, that set the standard for the day, and it was only right and fitting that each student shared in the excitement of the winning senior team as the famous old cup was presented to them on the podium. Also amongst those who were first at hand to congratulate the boys were the coaching team of Belvedere College in Dublin who have set the standard in this competition, winning 15 of the last 16 cups. As mentioned, the senior team amassed a hugely impressive total of 49 points with the team members who helped reach this total being; Eimhin Mulkerrins (4th Senior Walk), Gabriel Dossen (5th 400m Hurdles, 7th Triple Jump, 2nd 4 X 400m), Diarmuid Mulkerrins (5th 2000m Steeplechase, 2nd 4 x 400m Relay), Martynas Sakalauskas (4th Hammer, 6th 4x100m Relay), Faustas Tamulis (5th Hammer, 6th 4 x 100m Relay), Shanet Traynor Canavan (2nd 4 x 400m Relay, 4th 400m, 6th 200m), Ryan Traynor O’Toole (2nd 4 x 400m Relay, 4th 400m Hurdles), Henok Dems (6th 4x100m relay), Abraham Shomefun (6th 4 x 100m Relay)
Due to the combined efforts of the younger athletes on the day St. Mary’s College actually emerged as runners up for the overall School Trophy, finishing with 75.5 points behind the excellent 834 points of a very strong Thurles CBS team. All in all it was a fantastic day of athletics, which saw a number of other Connacht medallists, and a host of broken records, indicating that the standard in schools athletics is improving constantly. However, it is a standard that the St. Mary’s College athletics teams will continue to aspire towards, and hopefully the efforts of the current, now National Senior Champions, will inspire those coming behind them to emulate their feat.
Two Happy Men!