It's that time of year again. The evenings are long, and the ground is hard. The longest day of the year approaches. The Sunday Game is back on television. The senior GAA championship is in full swing. And Semple Stadium hosts the Cumann na mBunscol Hurling and Camogie County Finals! This year Tipperary Allianz Cumann na mBunscol will hold 26 County Finals over two days in Semple Stadium, the Cathedral of Hurling. Thursday June 7th and Friday June 8th are the days that the famous and historic Stadium will be the centre of the Cumann na mBunscol universe. Those are the days that schools have been training, and preparing, for since Christmas. June 7th and June 8th are the days that all primary school children, the length and breadth of Tipperary, dream about being a part of. Those are the days that will see dreams fulfilled, and ambitions realised. All the hard work over the previous 6 months has been geared towards playing in Semple Stadium, the Field of Dreams, on County Final day. Many schools realise their ambition to reach hurling's Cathedral. But many more schools will not be part of County Finals day. Unfortunately a lot of schools, teams, coaches and players who have put in as much work as those that made it, will be on the outside when it comes to the 2 big days. It's a shame that all children won't get to play in Semple Stadium because in an ideal world they would. We would love to give every young hurler and camogie player the opportunity to play in the Field of Dreams, but unfortunately it's not possible. However 39 different schools will play in Semple Stadium this year. That's about 33 percent of competing Tipperary schools. Therefore around 1 out of every 3 schools will play in Semple Stadium in 2012. That's not a bad statistic. I wish each and every school the very best of luck in your big match. I hope the young players have a fantastic day. Win or lose I sincerely hope that each player will have a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and will bring great memories of the day away with them. I would like to wish the teachers and coaches the very best of luck on the day. For those schools bringing supporters and younger pupils with them I hope they have a great day as well. The younger pupils seeing the older pupils play on the sacred turf of Semple Stadium will whet the appetite of the younger boys and girls to come back to the Stadium, in the future, and play themselves on County Final Day. There will be many great matches this year, just as there have been over the past few years. In the Under 13 Roinn A Hurling Final Scoil Ailbhe vs Templemore should be a classic. In the Roinn B Cashel vs Tipperary CBS will be very close and exciting. In Roinn C Kildangan face off against Two Mile Borris in what promises to be a contest full of skill and style. In Roinn D Powerstown will be looking to win only their second under 13 title, having edged out Kilbarron two years ago in a rip roaring affair, when they take on a very skillful Gaelscoil Nenagh team. In Roinn E Carrig Nenagh and Ayle collide in a match that will reach an extremely high standard of hurling. Leugh will be making a first appearance in many years in Roinn G. Gurtagarry come back this year hoping to retain their 2 teacher school Roinn H title. In Under 11 there will be many excellent battles. In Section A, Scoil Ailbhe face off against Carrick CBS. In Section B Scoil Eoin Naofa face off against Cashel BNS. In C Knockavilla play Ardcroney. In D Ayle play Upperchurch. That will be a titanic battle. In Roinn E Skeheenarinky and Mount Bruis will face each other. These two schools will be back at Semple Stadium after a long absence. Remember also school's second teams will be playing as well in the Roinn A1,B1,C1 and D1 Finals. In C1 Ardfinnan are back after an absence of over ten years. In Camogie mighty St. Marys Nenagh won the Under 11 and Under 13 Roinn A double last year. They are back looking to put back to back doubles together. That would be an amazing achievement. But Ballina in Under 13 and Upperchurch in Under 11 have excellent teams, and will be hoping that this will be their year. Presentation Thurles play Gaelscoil Nenagh in the Under 13 B Camogie Final. That should be an exciting game between two teams who play with flair and skill. Rossmore will play in the Under 13 D Camogie final. It will be their first Final in a number of years. All in all there will be great action over the two days. There will be incredible skill on display. The intensity of the play will be fantastic. There will be awesome stick work on view. There will be brilliant hooking and courageous blocking. There will be marvellous catching and stylish striking. Teams will play with flair. Teams will put on swash-buckling performances. Many different boys and girls will stand out. Stars of the future will be created. But remember - everyone is a star on these two days. From the 'player of the match' to the substitute who does not get to play. From the winning captain, who lifts the cup, to the captain of the runners-up. Everyone is a star. Everyone has put in the same huge effort to get to Semple Stadium. Therefore everyone should be a winner on County Final day. Remember Cumann na mBunscol is first and foremost about participation and enjoyment. Winning isn't the be all and end all. It has taken us, and me in particular, long enough to get it out of our heads that winning is the be all and end all at Primary Level. It isn't. It shouldn't be, and it won't be from here on. What we in Cumann na mBunscol really want is for the children to enjoy playing and training. For the children to improve their skills every day, and for children to continue playing Gaelic games when they leave Primary School. Our greatest legacy in Cumann na mBunscol, and as teachers will be if the children say as they enter secondary school that they have great memories of playing their favourite Gaelic games with their friends. That they won together. That they lost together. That they trained together. That they progressed together. That they improved together. That they played together in Semple Stadium. That's what is really important. All I can say to the players who will play in the County Final is relax, enjoy the experience, play without fear, play without caution, play with freedom and exhibit your vast array of skills. Whether you win or lose your parents, your teachers, your peers and everyone in Cumann na mBunscol will be proud of you. Let me assure all schools that we, in Cumann na mBunscol, will do everything possible to ensure all players have a fantastic day. Go n-éirí le gach duine i Stáid Semple. Le cunamh Dé beidh lá den chéad scoth ag gach duine.
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