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All-rounders with a thirst for knowledge: Ireland's highest achievers in the 2015 Leaving Cert

They all scooped over 800 points in the Leaving Cert, but their principals say they’re proud of every one of their students.

Alba Casey and Robert Dunne
Alba Casey and Robert Dunne

IRELAND’S TOP ACHIEVERS in the 2015 Leaving Cert all have many things in common.

The 800+ pointers (one of whom achieved 900 points and got an A1 in self-taught Japanese) – that’s at least 200 points more than the 600 points maximum – were nearly all described by their principals as all-rounders, students who chose the maths and sciences, but who also had plenty of extra-curricular activities like music and sports to keep them occupied.

But the principals were also keen to point out that it’s not just the super high achievers who are important in a school – it’s those who worked to their potential and got their points, be they 300 or 400 or anywhere on the spectrum.

There were eight students who achieved 800 points or more, and we spoke to some of their principals about how they did so well.

9 A1s: David Glynn

David Glynn from St Gerald’s College in Castlebar was the top Leaving Cert student in Ireland this year, gathering a whopping 900 points across nine subjects. That included an A1 in Japanese, which he taught himself.

His principal, Daniel Hyland, told TheJournal.ie that Glynn is thrilled, but modest – “very coy about the whole thing”. Hyland said that Glynn “always had great potential” and his teachers always knew the hardworking student was going to do well.

Glynn’s parents were “delighted – so proud of him”, said Hyland. “He worked with his strengths, which are the sciences and maths.”

The student wants to go on to study maths in Trinity College in Dublin.

St Gerald’s College isn’t unaccustomed to seeing high results – thanks to its strong academic tradition and culture, 20% of this year’s Leaving Certs achieved over 500 points.

But, said Hyland:

There are some of our students who get Cs and Bs and they worked very well for those. It’s not just about one student, it’s about all our students.

He said that a culture of working hard, coupled with good teaching and parental support was needed to ensure students achieved their potential.

8 A1s: Alba Casey

IMG_0915 (1) Alba Casey and Robert Dunne

Hard work must run in Alba Casey of Loreto Abbey in Dalkey’s blood – she achieved 825 (625) points in total and her twin sister achieved 595 points.

The Monkstown teenager was described by her principal Robert Dunne as “a very humble kid”, who studied the sciences, music, and French.

She wants to study science in Trinity.

This year, Loreto Abbey has had some students scoring very highly.

Dunne said that Casey is not just a great musician but a great traditional Irish musician, a “very well-rounded individual”.

“We are extremely proud of her, her diligence and her consistency throughout her time here,” said Dunne. “From first year she has always worked consistently and thoroughly. She deserved the results she got.”

He said that her teachers worked hard with Casey, and they are as proud of her “as much as we would [be of] the kids in their success at the other end”.

8 A1s: Lola Hourihan

At Jesus and Mary College in Goatstown, they are celebrating Lola Hourihan’s great result.

Her deputy principal, Colm Dooley, described her as “a superb individual”.

“She was totally focused and put all of the time and effort into trying to achieve it,” he said of her incredible performance.

She is taking some time out now and going to travel to the east coast of the US, where she hopes to attend college.

“It’s very impressive. We’re so delighted for her,” said Dooley. “We’re also delighted for the staff who have helped her every step of the way.”

This is the first time a student at Our Lady’s Grove achieved 8A1s.

8 A1s: Conall Ó hAiniféin

IMG_4945 (1)

At Ennis Community College/Gaelcholáiste an Chláir in Clare, student Conall Ó hAiniféin was another person to enter the 800 points club.

Principal John Cooke said “we are absolutely thrilled. I think we probably felt more than he did that he was going to get it. He is one of those sorts of students, he was a true all-rounder.”

Ó hAiniféin is not just a great student but an excellent sportsman, and a musician who played in the school’s céilí band.

After getting 10 or 11 A1s at Junior Cert level, it was clear he was set for a great Leaving Cert.

Out of 38 students, eight scored over 500 points at the school this year.

Ó hAiniféin is looking to study in the maths/sciences area. Like other top scorers, he did the sciences in his Leaving Cert, as well as applied maths, music and French.

There’s been “so much excitement” in the school since the results emerged, said Cooke.

8A1s: Lucy Prendeville

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At Sacred Heart Secondary School in Tullamore, Co Offaly, the teachers are “stunned” with Lucy Prendeville’s incredible result, said her principal Pauline McKenna.

In addition, they are thrilled with the “phenomenal result” of just over 55% of their pupils achieving in excess of 400 points this year.

“We also noticed a huge jump of students at 400 plus, students who would usually be 350 points,” said McKenna. “We’ve seen a marked raise in that group.”

Of Prendeville, McKenna said:

What we would say is very important about Lucy is she is in many ways a phenomenal student. She would be in our choir, our orchestra… for five years she put our end of year graduation shows together. She has been a huge part of the school.

She wasn’t a “lone soldier”, but “part of the fabric of the school”, said Lucy Prendeville’s proud principal.

Prendeville hopes to go on to study nanoscience in Trinity College, and studied the sciences for her Leaving Cert.

After a dip in their results last year, a tracking system was put in place for the students at Sacred Heart.

When students went “off centre”, teachers were able to spot this early, and chat to them about any issues.

“It brought about an awareness of sixth year that they really needed,” said McKenna.

She added:

The Leaving Cert is a strategic year and I’d say if you were to ask Lucy that’s what she would say. She knew from fifth year what to do and when to do it. She was the best analyser of her own weaknesses.

She was obviously great at spotting her strengths too, as her result shows.

8A1s: Kate Henry and Meabh Allen

DSC00984 Kate Henry

There were double the celebrations at Mount Mercy College in Cork today as two students, Kate Henry and Meabh Allen, both got 8A1s.

Their principal, Padriagín Uí Riordain, told TheJournal.ie:

“It was marvellous, wonderful to get a call from the Department of Education that we had two of the best results in the country. From time to time now over the last 10 to 11 years we’ve had students who came in the top bracket. You’re always very pleased.”

Henry and Allen are both hoping to go on and study medicine. “They have both worked hard and consistently over their time here,” said Uí Riordáin, adding that the two students studied the sciences and languages.

Allen, Meabh Meabh Allen

While Henry is in Ireland, Allen is in Germany right now and had to find out her results online.

Their proud principal added:

I was pleased for all of our students this year, not just Maebh and Kate. I’d like to pay tribute to my teachers here in Mount Mercy. It is important to remember the teachers who worked hard and put in long hours with the students.

Poll: Were you happy with your Leaving Cert results?

Read: Here’s how students got on in the Leaving Cert>

Read: In numbers: The Leaving Cert results>

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