Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS - ST LARRIER'S GIRLS

'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.

St. Laurence O Toole’s Girls SchoolSheriff Street, Dublin

‘We come from Sheriff Street,

We're strong and proud,

And we sing very loud’.

Work was already underway on the new Gothic style Roman Catholic Church on Sheriff Street when the first stones of the St Laurence O’Toole Schools were laid directly behind it on 18th April 1847. Completed in November 1848, the new building comprised a pair of steeply gabled two-storey girls’ and boys’ schoolhouses. Between them was a simple gabled block, designated as a temporary chapel, where Mass was celebrated once a day and twice on Sundays until the church was completed. Substantially renovated in 1984, a completely new building is now pending. The school known throughout Dublin’s sporting world as the home of the ‘Larrier Girls’.

In 1848, there were over 350 both boys and girls. In 1938, the boys were relocated to the new Christian Brothers School on nearby Seville Place. 150 years on, there are now approximately 120 ‘Larrier’ Girls on the roll, from second class to sixth, most with strong family links to the school that run back several generations.

While Irish dancing, drama and music have long been hallmarks of St Laurence’s, it is a combination of soccer and GAA that has brought the school most press in the past decade. When new teacher Aodhán Ó Ríordáin arrived at the school in 2000, he came with a conviction that it is through sport that a community can master self-pride and find a common identity. He duly organised the girls into Gaelic football and soccer teams, the first in the school's long history. The unofficial school motto became: Have pride, play for your family, your school, your area. (Another favourite side-line chant runs thus: 'We come from Sheriff Street, We're strong and proud, And we sing very loud.')

Eight years later, Ó Ríordáin is now school principal and the green and white Larrier Girls are amongst the most feared opponents in the school system. Since 2001, they have won three Cumann na mBunscol football titles and four FAI Dublin Schools' soccer titles. Two former pupils are on the Republic of Ireland’s international Ladies soccer team - Michelle Kane and Olivia O'Toole (the Irish captain and the team's all-time highest scorer, with 53 goals). Supported by the likes of John Giles and Niall Quin, O’Toole now coaches the children of Sheriff Street in the art of soccer. In 2008, the Junior Inner-City Cup, founded in 2002, was re-named the Olivia O’Toole Cup in her honour. The Larriers duly won the inaugural competition. The local soccer club, Sheriff YV, provide transport for all the games. Dublin GAA manager Paul Caffrey is likewise on hand to promote Gaelic football and many parents are now involved in coaching. The importance of this new sense of self-respect cannot be overstated. It is contagious; parents absorb their children s success and ripple with pride.

The DDDA have been active in supporting the school for ten years, gifting each class a substantial library. Since 2002, they have sent the fifth class to Paris annually, with a visit St Laurence O’Toole’s crypt in Normandy en route. The DDDA also sponsor Words Week where the pupils hear talks and readings by the likes of Peter Sheridan, Frank McNally, Roddy Doyle, Terry Fagan , Patricia O’Reilly and local politicians.

Ó Ríordáin became school principal in 2008. He founded the Right to Read Campaign and was elected to Dublin City Council in 2004, served as Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin in 2006 and is the Labour Party's candidate for the Clontarf Electoral Ward in 2009.

With thanks to Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

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