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Tipperary Rural School Honours Irish Six Nations Rugby Hero, Brian Gleeson.

Freelance local journalist Tom Ryan reports;

A historic Irish Primary school, which in 1970, became the first Primary School in Ireland to introduce mixed rugby (boys and girls playing together), gave an ecstatic welcome to illustrious past pupil, Brian Gleeson of the triumphant under 20 Irish Six Nations Grand Slam winning rugby team, when he was feted
as ‘Guest of Honour’ at a reception in the afore mentioned, flags and bunting bedecked school, to
mark his achievements, recently.

Rahealty National School situated outside Thurles (latter home of the GAA) is just a few kilometres down the road from Semple Stadium.
It might once have seemed an unlikely venue for a major rugby occasion, but the school under then Principal, Mr Michael Quinlan of Thurles RFC in1970 pioneered a legendary rugby story which was to receive national media coverage for many years.

When past pupil, Brian Gleeson, brought the Six Nations Trophy into the school recently, he was accorded a tumultuous reception. Pupils and parents sang “The Fields of Athenry” and pupils sang a song about the victorious under 20 Irish team and wrote a poem about Brian Gleeson, who was accompanied by his parents, Pat and Fionnuala Gleeson and his sister, Aoibhe. Another sister, Ciara, is a pupil at the school where Deputy Principal, Michael Harty is a trained rugby coach.
Pupils formed a Guard of Honour on Brian’s arrival with the Six Nations Trophy and he was led into the school by the renowned, lone pipe, Mr John McCarthy of the Dr. Diarmuid O’Hurley Pipe Band from Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

Children carried miniature Irish tricoloured flags, courtesy of School Caretaker, Jim Fogarty as they sat on little stools for the occasion.
A sumptuous repast was enjoyed by all, including a fabulous cake in the shape of a rugby ball and treats were courtesy of past pupil, Siobhan Holohan.

Brian and his parents, Pat and Fionnuala, and sister Aoibhe, were welcomed to the school by School Principal, Mrs Edel Kelly Ryan. A former star dancer with the Bru Boru Seisiun Group in Cashel, Mrs Kelly Ryan noted that they might be back again next year celebrating as Brian would be eligible to play for the Ireland under 20s again next year.
A proud former Rahealty NS Principal, Thurles RFC personality and former rugby referee, Michael Quinlan spoke of Brian’s achievements with Rockwell College, Senior Clubs, the Munster Academy and the Munster panel.
Mr Quinlan presented a beautiful Genesis Art piece to Brian Gleeson in memory of eight students who wrote the poem, “Our Brian Gleeson”. Students recited their tribute in verse and Mrs Edel Kelly Ryan presented a copy of the poem to a delighted Brian.
Local priest and noted vocalist, Father James Purcell sang “Ireland’s Call“ and was joined by the young pupils, parents and guests who included Jackie Cahill ,TD. and local Councillors, Jim
Ryan, and Seamus Hanafin. Fr. Purcell offered a special blessing ahead of the World Cup in South Africa.

Mrs Kelly Ryan said Brian Gleeson and his classmates had great success over the years in both hurling and football, Quote “From early on it was clear to see, Brian was extremely driven”. “When he took the Number 8 jersey on the Irish team, there was great excitement in the school, but the joy that Brian brought to the school over the following months, he would never know.” added Mrs
Kelly Ryan.

The famous school’s mixed rugby finals in their grounds annually are one of the highlights of the sporting year in Tipperary with leading rugby personalities from various parts of Ireland frequently in attendance.

The school has a high profile and has featured often on local and national Press, on a number of RTE Shows including “The School Around The Corner” with the late Gerry Ryan and also BBC radio.

Former School Principal Mr Michael Quinlan of Thurles RFC, who started it all in 1970, said “I have the privilege of observing intelligent young people aspiring to be Primary Teachers prepare and deliver lessons to their young charges. There are some important criteria by which their efforts are assessed but by far the most important is inclusion. I am passionate about the necessity that our Primary School classrooms are inclusive in every way. For me rugby is the most inclusive field game Boys and girls of primary school age can play. There is a role for everybody regardless of skill or ability”.
Mr Quinlan said that in his teens Brian faced a real dilemma as so many talented sportspeople do.
“He was being wooed at the highest level by another code and a decision cannot have been easy. We can be happy an important decision was made for all the right reasons and lucky for us that decision was the game of rugby football”, added Mr Quinlan.

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