Info - History

On Wednesday evening, May 13th, 1903 a group of men from various parts of Cork city and county assembled in No.7 Cook Street, Cork for a simple ceremony. At the start of the meeting, Mr. Matt O’Riordan, representing the Cork County G.A.A. Board presented two shields as gifts to the new group. It was possibly the best investment the County Board ever made. Eight Schools entered the hurling shield and seven schools contested the football shield competition. The first official competitive Sciath na Scol game was played on July 4th 1903 between Macroom and Millstreet at Carriganima. Macroom won the game which was refereed by local man Con Walsh. Con was an intercounty footballer and well known athlete. He emigrated to the U.S. shortly afterwards and competed for that country in the Olympic Games of 1904. He won a bronze medal in the Hammer Event.

Before making the draws in 1904, the shields were put on exhibition in some city establishments for a week to entice more schools to take part.

By and large the competitions in the early years ran smoothly but occasionally objections were submitted against teams for fielding players not on the roll. This was quite common in the pre-war years as it was not unusual for a pupil to leave school in mid term and take up a job as it became available.

While the Sciath na Scol competitions were kept alive within the city in the 1930’s and 1940’s, they also suffered during the war years 1939 – 1945. A few schools withdrew from the competitions. Money became scarce and food was rationed. Prices increased and this affected the cost of hurleys and footballs as well.

Much of 1977 was taken over with preparations for Sciath na Scol’s 75th anniversary celebrations in 1978 and the events of that year were a great success. These included a memorable inter-city games between Cork and Dublin in Croke Park, a feature of which was the clash of two future soccer internationals – Denis Irwin at full back for Cork and Niall Quinn at full forward for Dublin in hurling!

Cumann na mBunscol held their A.G.M. in Cork in January 1978. The venue was Hotel Blarney. The highlight was the Gala dinner on the Saturday night. The event was to prove memorable in more ways than one as, that evening, Cork was hit by a violent snowstorm which resulted in power failures and impossible road conditions. It put no dent however on the festivities in Blarney.

The playing of the finals in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, in particular, had several positive spin-offs. For instance, from 25 schools involved in Jubilee year 1978, over 240 schools were playing by 2003. Furthermore, from promoting just hurling and football, Sciath na Scol now also organised activities, including camogie, girls football, indoor hurling, inter county games (The Primary Game) and handball-countrywide.


The year 2003 was a memorable one for Sciath na Scol in its centenary year. Special medals were presented for all competitions, a history ‘An Dá Sciath’ was published and the Centenary Dinner attracted over 400 guests to the Rochestown Park Hotel. All this activity was organised by the Centenary Committee in unison with the current Sciath officers. The centenary committee comprised: David O’Kelly, Liam Weir, Br. Canisius Nealon, Emma Dineen, John McCarthy, John Daly, Jerry Walsh, and Seán MacCárthaigh.

The Sciath officers in centenary year were as follows; President: Liam McGrath, Chairman: Tony Farrell, Vice Chairman: Jim O’Reilly, Secretary: Máiréad O’Callaghan, Treasurer: Liam Breathnach, Equipment Officer: Dave Collins, P.R.O.: John McCarthy, Handball Officer: Seán O’Loingsigh, Assistant Secretaries: Eoin Hyde, Brian Cuthbert, Celine Hyde.

The last 100 years of Sciath activity is well documented in the excellent publication ‘An Dá Sciath’. The project was co-ordinated by editor Dave O’Kelly of Scoil Chríost Rí. His school colleague Br. Canisius Nealon did trojan workin researching the history and trawling through old minute books and newspapers. Many G.A.A. personalities contributed interesting articles. The schools are represented with articles outlining their progress in Gaelic games over the years. The book is a truly magnificent publication and a collector’s item.

The final item on the centenary calendar was the parade of schools at the County Football Final.153 schools took part in what was a very succesful and colourful spectacle. The centenary Football finals at the end of October brought the year’s special events to a close.

Billy George Remembers

Monday's training session before the big match on Wednesday followed the same routine. Its familiarity never failed to heighten the excitement and sense of anticipation. Silence fell when the Brother walked into the dressing-room, tossed the canvas bag on the table and pulled the sheet of paper from his inside pocket. "Anois, an fuireann a bheidh ag imirt i gcoinne An Mhainaistir Thuaidh DÉ Cheadhaoin" he would say. We listened with bated breath as he ran through the names and fought to stifle our glee when we were included. Any celebration of selection would be frowned upon with the comment: "Ciunas anois, time enough to celebrate if you win." The Brother would deliver a little speech along these lines: "What this means is that you are being entrusted with a lot of responsibility.

"You're representing the school and everyone in it who cannot play. You're expected to give of your best at all times and be proud of wearing the jersey." Ah, the jersey. What could be more evocative of heroism and stirring deeds than the sight of the beloved jersey - the broad bands of black-and-amber beneath the sparkling white collar. Successive generations of Sullivan's Quay boys had worn these colours honourably in sporting contest. They represented recognition of your ability, of course, but we were too young to fully appreciate the deeper meaning of wearing the colours.

Right now being handed the jersey merely inflated your ego a little, made you feel good and look good amongst your peers. You were one of the chosen ones. The Brother opened the canvas bag then and tossed the jerseys on the table; it was always the same routine. The players would use the jerseys in training on the Monday and then take them home to have them washed for the match.

There was a dive for the jerseys and eventually one player held a particular jersey aloft with the exclamation: "Here Jack, this is yours." It was the signal for some hearty belly-laughs and good-humoured ribbing all round. To his credit Jack always took it well. But, as his closest friend, I knew he ached inside every time it happened, for he told me often enough of his dis-comfort. At 13/14 years of age most fellows were acutely embarrassed at any individual attention, however harmless. The offending jersey was easily recognisable: just as it said in the toothpaste ad. - this particular jersey had its own ring of confidence.

Let me explain. Jackie was the apple of his mother's eye and while we all believed we were clean and tidy in our appearance and our habits, none of us could compare with Jackie. His mother turned him out every morning shining like a newly minted coin. He literally glowed with cleanliness and attention, from the quiff in his hair to the shine on his shoes. You could see your reflection in the toe-caps. He smelt like a brand new suite of furniture, so sparkling was he. Now the jerseys we wore back in the mid-'fifties were far superior to today's shirts. They were similar in every respect to the quality of rugby shirts in today's market and a Sullivan's Quay shirt that was washed and pressed looked resplendent with its white twill collar and strong black-and-white circular bands. After a period of time, however, the white collar deteriorated a little; up close it became mottled in appearance from the black spots that developed. It was probably due to dampness and sweat. Jack's mother washed his shirt but was perplexed because the spots on the collar did not budge in the wash. You would have to look closely to see them mind, the collars looked perfect when viewed from the sidelines, but Jack's mother was not prepared to compromise.

So she prepared a bowl of bleach, a mixture of Parozone and water. She draped the shirt collar over the rim so it was immersed in the liquid with the rest of the shirt stretched away from the bowl on the table. She went to bed confident the bleach would do its work and shift the spots. Her confidence was not mis-placed. Next morning she proudly examined her handiwork and took satisfaction from the fact that all the spots, if not completely erased, were at least much more faint in appearance. She gave the shirt another quick wash before she dried and ironed it. So 'down the Park' for the big game. And imagine Jack's embarrassment when he shook the jersey out before pulling it over his head and saw the tell-tale ring of confidence. The bleach had soaked through the collar and then quietly impregnated the upper neck of the jersey itself doing its deadly work. When the jersey was dried there was a narrow strip of freshly bleached material separating the actual collar from the first black band. It was like a miniature white scarf draped around Jack's neck and shoulders. The first black band of the jersey was now slightly narrower than the rest as a result. It was spotted immediately, of course, and Jack had to endure the most awful ribbing before we took the field. "Whose jersey is whiter than white ?" we jeered and "Who wears black, amber AND white ?". There was no end to his humiliation for a couple of matches until a sensitive Brother rescued him by taking possession of the offending jersey. Mercifully it disappeared, never to be seen again.


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