Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Pre-championship event boosts school’s charitable plans

By Diarmúid Pepper

On Thursday night, St Joseph’s High School hosted a Pre-Championship Chat event in aid of their Cambodian Humanity Trip, which will take place next year.

The special guests at the event were Aaron Kernan, Joe Brolly, Benny Tierney, and Dan McCartan.

Aine Cumiskey, a teacher at St Joseph’s, ran a hugely successful school trip to Kenya last year and hopes to turn the schools’ charitable missions abroad into an annual event.

Speaking to The Examiner, Aine said: “This trip will be the trip of a lifetime. Last summer I went to Kenya, and I know that the pupils will get so much out of this. It’s not just getting to see another part of the world; they’re going to meet different cultures, help the less fortunate, and when you come home after a trip like that you just appreciate everything around you and that’s invaluable in itself.” 

Aine was full of praise for the kindness and generosity of her south Armagh pupils: “I have worked in loads of other schools, but this school is one of the best for having pupils give up their time to support local causes, fundraisers – they are so generous with their money, always looking out for each other, and for them to go out there and spread that to another country and look out for other people; it’s what south Armagh is all about.”

Benny Tierney with the guests, Joe Brolly [ Derry] Aaron Kernan [ Armagh] Daniel McCartan [Down].

Joby Burke, a fellow teacher at St Joseph’s, will be joining Aine on the journey to Cambodia. He paid homage to the tireless work of Aine in organising these charitable missions. He said: “We have a fantastic teacher in Aine Cumiskey. Aine decided last year that this was a trip that pupils would be interested in. 

“There were a number of pupils who were interested in it, so Aine approached me and discussed the idea that she would like to keep this going on an annual basis. It gives the children a different perspective on life; they’re not just coming to school and going home and taking everything that they have for granted. Aine is a fantastic teacher, and hopefully, she will continue this as an annual thing.”

Joby also spoke highly of the character of the St Joseph’s pupils: “The children we have here are fantastic children. They are very committed, and I think this is a trip is a great example of what the youth of south Armagh can do. 

Benny Tierney MC [ Armagh], Joe Brolly [ Derry] Aaron Kernan [ Armagh] Daniel McCartan [Down] pictured with the pupils who helped orgainsed the event and are heading of to Cambodia.

“We had massive interest in the trip, and unfortunately we could only take ten pupils because we have only two teachers going. We had far more than ten pupils apply but I do think this is an example of the type of pupils we have here at St Joseph’s, that they were so interested in going on this trip.” 

The school have created special GAA jerseys in preparation for their trip to Cambodia, which features the “Opt for Life” logo. This is a cause which is very close to Joe Brolly, who was a participant in the Pre-Championship Chat, and Joby Burke explained how this partnership came to be.

Joby said: “Joe is fantastic, he had no hesitation whatsoever whenever I phoned him and asked him to come up tonight. We have the “Opt for Life” logo on our school’s Cambodia jerseys, and that came about because Joe is a very big GAA man, right to his core, and he didn’t ask for anything. 

“All he asked for is that if we were doing a jersey, that we would support Opt for Life. He does a lot of very good work for the Opt for Life cause of organ donation, so it was a pleasure for us to put this logo on our jerseys. And we also have the “Habitat for Humanity” logo on the other side as well. But Opt for Life is certainly something that we will be helping in the future.” 

Joe Brolly was delighted to see that the Opt for Life logo had made its way onto the Cambodian jerseys. He said: “Opt for Life has really swept the country. There are over 500 sports teams wearing it. It’s very special to us because the logo was designed by a friend of mine who lost a child and donated the child’s organs. So it is totally consistent with the GAA’s message of neighbourliness and community and it’s great for the kids to wear it and think about those less fortunate, it’s a good Christian message as well.”

Joe Brolly is not often described as humble, but he was certainly that when asked for his motivation to coming all the way to Crossmaglen to lend a helping hand. “The GAA is the most important social thing we have in this country. The GAA, more than anything else, is why we know each other and we aren’t strangers. So things like this, in a community like this, I like to support them if I can and sure, what else would I be doing, only watching “Emmerdale” or something?”

Past-pupil Aaron Kernan also made a guest appearance at the event. He spoke highly of St Joseph’s and how it shaped him during his formative years: “As soon as you are asked to do anything for your former school, you just jump at the chance. I know that the books might not have been the be all and end all for me, but my time here helped me a lot to develop and it was always a happy place for me. So this is only a small token of my gratitude, and I will never say no to it.”

Former All-Ireland winning Armagh goalkeeper, and current teacher, Benny Tierney was also at the event. Benny was more than happy to give some of his time for this worthy cause. He told The Examiner: “When you hear of a local charity, two teachers doing their bit, and school children heading off to Cambodia to try to do something positive and to make an impact – when you’re asked to do something with that, then you have no problem with saying “yes”. 

“When you see the impact of what they are doing and the amount of effort they are putting in; all I’m doing is coming along, we’re only putting the icing on the cake, but all the foundations have been laid before we arrive. But hopefully we will make it worthwhile, and with Brolly here it’s going to be funny anyway. He’ll probably take over and I could go away for coffee in the middle of it. But it’s all about what these people are doing for charity so when people ask me to help, it’s not a problem.” 

Benny spoke warmly not only about St Joseph’s, but also about the youth of south Armagh. He said: “My daughter goes to this school, and I couldn’t speak highly enough of St Joseph’s. You can only hope for a child that she gets the best, and I know that Aoife has got the best here and I couldn’t pick a better school for her than St Joseph’s. 

“South Armagh can get bad press, but I think you will find that anyone who ever visits south Armagh, we leave a lasting impression; be that through our warmth, our generosity, and our craic.”