THE WAITING GAME Paddy Heneghan from Castlebar is a Leaving Cert student at St Gerald’s College. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Paddy Heneghan on balancing football and the Leaving Cert
IT’S been a whirlwind 12 months for Castlebar teenager Paddy Heneghan.
From breaking into the Mayo minor team last summer and winning a Connacht championship medal before leading St Gerald’s College to a clean sweep of Mayo and Connacht Post-Primary Schools Senior ‘A’ titles in more recent months.
Then came Covid-19, the subsequent shutdown, and the domino effect for all Leaving Cert students that saw a decision taken to cancel the tried-and-trusted examinations next month.
It’s just as well that the talented left-footed forward tends to take things in his stride.
Heneghan — as befits a young man who is regarded by those who know him as mature, calm and measured — is taking a philosophical view about the cancelled Leaving Cert.
He’s still waiting for ‘confirmation’ on what happens next, but he knows what he wants.
And while he would have loved a shot at the exams, he has no hesitation in saying that the ‘main priority’ had to be met. ‘Health comes first’ he told The Mayo News.
“On a personal level, I’d have preferred if the exams had gone ahead, I think it’s the fairest way, but it’s minor compared to health,” said the 18 year-old from the Turlough Road.
“I had mixed emotions really when I heard the news. In some ways I was quite worried that I may not get the course I wanted because I would have faith in my own ability if the exams had gone ahead.
“I felt I could have done well, I always do well under pressure, and you’d have more control over your own situation. On the other hand, there was probably relief that the stress all of us in Leaving Cert had been under was gone.
“I’m hoping to get into Financial Maths in UCD which was 521 points last year,” he added. “I’ve visited the college and I’ve been very impressed with the facilities. I’m still hopeful.”
Heneghan made a name for himself with the Mayo minors and St Gerald’s College by taking the same sort of approach; working hard, applying himself and focussing on his goals.
But he also knows that striking a balance between playing sport and education is crucial.
“Football is huge. During the Leaving Cert football can be time-consuming but I find it very helpful in my life. There’s nothing like a good hard training session, and Mr Forde and Mr Naughton are well able to put us through our paces.
“In my younger years, education wasn’t as important to me but it’s now at the forefront of my mind. Football is very important to me, but it’s still an amateur sport at the end of the day.
“But it’s a big community thing and I love being part of it.”
The whole experience of breaking into the Mayo minor team last year also left its mark.
“It was a very professional set-up, and I enjoyed the experience of training three and four times a week. It was very well laid out and well-organised.
“I was very proud to win a Connacht title and to get to play in Croke Park. The whole family were there, including my granny who was 88. That really inspired me and spurred me on.”
A son of well-known parents TJ Heneghan and Maura Thornton, and a brother of some talented musicians and singers, Paddy himself is also an accomplished operator on the uileann pipes and the fiddle.
He says he plays music ‘to relax and to keep busy’ while a few days in the bog last week also got him out into the fresh air and helped to clear the head.
He’s been hitting the weights too, ‘trying to bulk up and put on some weight’ while keeping one eye on the possibility that St Gerald’s College may have an All-Ireland schools semi-final to play at some stage in the months ahead.
“We’re keeping our options open,” he admitted. “All the lads are still training and we have to make sure that we’re ready if the GAA decides to put games on again.
“I’ve kept up training, have a few running sessions to do every week, and some weights at home as well. We play football to enjoy it, but at the end of the day you want to win.”
As for whether or not there will be any football to play in 2020, Paddy Heneghan is equally pragmatic. What will be, will be.
“As a footballer I’d love to be back. I’m really missing football so if it was recommended, of course I’d be delighted. Everyone is really eager to get back but we have to patient. Health comes first.”