Posted on 28/10/2020 · Posted in Latest News

Cumann na mBunscol is the voluntary organisation of Primary School Teachers in Waterford who promote our National Games for children.

For many children the experience of Gaelic Games in Primary School will be their first experience of GAA or any sport for that matter. The value of experience in building our communities, setting goals and celebrating putting on the school jersey will have a profound impact on the pathway that these children take through life.

Young people lie at the very heart of Cumann na mBunscol and their involvement and enjoyment in all activities is paramount.

Cumann na mBunscol Port Láirge was established in Waterford in 1969. The 2019/2020 school year was to be a celebration of 50 years but, alas, the global COVID-19 pandemic put paid to those hopes. Nonetheless, we will take this opportunity as schools have now re-opened to mark this significant milestone.

The Beginning

The very first meeting of the East Waterford Cumann na mBunscol committee took place in the Manor School in May 1969. In attendance were Brother Finbarr (St. Declan’s), Brother Anselm (St. Stephen’s), James McGinn (Ballygunner), Brother Kiely (The Manor) and Brother Doherty (Scoil Lorcáin). Apologies were received from Mount Sion.

The purpose of the gathering was to organise Gaelic Games for primary schools in Waterford City. A decision was taken to organise Under-13 Hurling and Football competitions. Football would take place from September to October while hurling would be played from March to May – a tradition in place to this day!

A total of six schools took part in games in these early, humble beginnings: Ballygunner, Mount Sion, St. Declan’s, St. Stephen’s, The Manor and Scoil Lorcáin.

So successful were these initial competitions that within three years a decision was taken to expand and invite more schools to participate. These schools were Ferrybank, St. Paul’s. Tramore CBS and Butlerstown. Within five years, Under-11 hurling and football was added.

Further Progress

While matches took place in the West of the county, it wasn’t until 1980 that a formal structure was put in place and a committee was formed to organise games. By 1982, a committee was formed in the mid-county to allow for the organisation in schools in this area.

Later that year, a County Committee was established to facilitate the co-ordination of finals between each divisional winner. The first meeting of the County Committee took place in Lawlor’s Hotel, Dungarvan in December 1982.

However, there were teething problems as those schools in the mid-county found it difficult to finance transport for away games. In 1985, a decision was made to merge some of the mid-county schools – namely Newtown, Rathgormack, Clonea and Kill – into the Eastern division.

GAA Centenary Year

1984 was a significant year in the GAA – the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the organisation. By this stage, 17 schools were not taking part in games across East Waterford, nearly treble the number of teams since the beginning only 15 years previously.

Waterford GAA organised a parade in Dungarvan to mark the occasion of 100 Years and primary school children from across the county took part. For the record, the ‘Centenary’ winners of the U-13 Hurling were Mount Sion, while Ballygunner won the U-11 competition. In football, St. Declan’s took U-13 honours while Tramore CBS were victorious in the U-10 decider. You can check out our website for a record of winners in all competitions throughout the years.

Let the girls play!

As the 1980s rolled on, more and more children were taking part in games in our schools. However, games had yet to be organised for girls who wished to play Camogie and Football.

That all changed in in the early 1980s when camogie games were fixed between schools, and by 1989 the first official Ladies Football competition took place. Just three schools took part in that very first competition – today there are a whopping 24 schools who take part in both Camogie and Ladies Football.

Leading the Way

Cumann na mBunscol in Waterford were to the forefront of promoting games and began initiatives never seen before in Ireland.

Nowadays, every school across country is visited by a GAA coach periodically throughout the school year. This scheme first began in Waterford in 1988 when a visionary committee of teachers decided to appoint a full-time coach to visit schools in our county. Colm Bonnar – All-Ireland winner and Hurling All-Star from Tipperary – was the first person appointed. Soon after it became the norm as the GAA provided the finance and training for every county to employ such coaches.

Likewise, GAA Summer Camps first began in Waterford. This new concept was devised with the help of Cumann na mBunscol and the first camps took place in 1990. Before long, the idea spread all over Ireland and these days thousands of children participate in Cúl Camps on an annual basis.

These initiatives helped further the development of Gaelic Games in schools throughout Waterford and the 1990s and beyond proved a very successful period in the history of Waterford GAA.

50 Years and Counting

Today, Cumann na mBunscol caters for more than 5,000 children across 33 schools in East Waterford.

In our schools we organise Hurling, Camogie, Boys’ and Girls’ Football, Handball, Rounders, Indoor Hurling, Mini Sevens Hurling, Football and Camogie and The Brother Anselm GAA Quiz.

There are in excess of 400 matches played each school year in an inclusive environment where children of all backgrounds are welcomed regardless of creed, ethnic background or gender.

The Mini Sevens series has provided many children the opportunity to grace the hallowed turf of Croke Park in half-time games on both All-Ireland final and semi-final days. Hundreds of Waterford pupils have also had the honour of wearing the Déise colours on Munster Championship days in both Hurling and Gaelic Football. These mini games take place at half-time also and have created many happy memories for those involved.

Cumann na mBunscol also distributes subsidised playing equipment to schools each year. Ask your teacher if you wish to buy a hurley or a helmet.

Thank You

Cumann na mBunscol are very grateful for the time and effort all teachers put in before, during and after school hours to help promote our games. They provide for an unrivalled opportunity for our children to showcase their talents, to learn from their peers and to experience a high level of competition in a warm, friendly and fun filled atmosphere.

Thanks is due to all teachers and staff who have led and supported Cumann na mBunscol down through the years. Thanks to those who laid strong foundations over their many years of involvement. We also remember those teachers who supported our games who are no longer with us.

The support received from Waterford GAA, the Munster Council and Croke Park in the form financial support and the use of facilities enables us to have Gaelic Games the Games of Choice in our Primary Schools.

However, the great success that Cumann na mBunscol enjoys would not exist without the pupils across Waterford who take great pride in representing their schools and who enjoy playing Gaelic Games to the best of their ability. Some of the fondest memories of any child’s school years are of them taking part in games.

Anyone who has experienced the innocent intensity and unparalleled excitement of school’s football, camogie and hurling in the past will immediately appreciate the great service which Cumann na mBunscol provides to the GAA and its young players – here’s to the next 50 years!