Irish Olympic hockey star Katie Mullan presents Royal School Cavan with overall prize
Today, five students from Royal School Cavan were announced as the winners of the 2020 Certified Irish Angus School’s Competition at an awards ceremony which took place at Croke Park. Winners Rachel Alexander, Barry Stratford, Sophie Reilly, Lloyd Hastings and Kelvin McNally are the first group from Cavan to participate in the prestigious calf-rearing competition, which is now in its sixth year. During the competition, the winning group raised awareness for mental health among their local farming community, holding a ‘Walk in my Wellies’ fundraising event in their school for Pieta House.
Irish Olympic hockey star Katie Mullan was the special guest for this year’s awards ceremony. Katie, who hails from a farming background and has strong family links to the agri-food industry shared her experience of growing up on a farm; detailing how this positively impacted her career and sporting achievements through instilling her with a strong work ethic.
Speaking at the event, Katie said: “Growing up on a farm taught me many valuable skills which stood to me on the hockey pitch. It made me fearless. Getting out on a farm and standing between two gate posts with a stick in my hand is something many of the city girls on my team never experienced. At the start of my career as a player I was never the most skillful but I was always hardworking and that is something I definitely picked up on the farm.
From a young age, seeing what my Dad and brothers had to do and the dedication and commitment it takes to run a farm is a value I learned at a young age, and one I brought onto the hockey pitch. I also learned to never give up. Farming is something which is not just there on the sunny days, its there on the bad days as well. We’ve had a couple of tough weeks training with all of the storms and the skills that it requires to go out in those conditions are definitely ones I learned on the farm.”
About the Competition
The Certified Irish Angus Beef Schools competition, created by Certified Irish Angus ABP and Kepak, challenges students to rear five Irish Angus calves for beef production. It aims to promote the Certified Irish Angus Beef brand while communicating the care and attention required to produce quality beef for consumers.
Announcing the winners, Charles Smith, General Manager, Irish Angus Producer Group said, “The students at Royal School Cavan displayed excellent teamwork and enthusiasm throughout the competition, and faced up to challenges with confidence and maturity beyond their years. The group were driven and knowledgeable and this, coupled with an excellent mental health promotion focussed on the farming community made them the worthy winners of this competition”.
The Winning Project
To highlight the importance of positive mental health among farmers, the group organised a “Walk in my Wellies” day in their school, with all proceeds going towards Pieta House. The finalists wore wellies to school, encouraging their peers to join them in doing so to draw attention to the important cause. As part of their project, the students also explored how the Angus breed could provide an opportunity for beef farmers in Cavan, where beef farming is predominantly part-time. In the course of this project, the students recognised that while Cavan has a passionate farming community, there still exists a need to promote positive mental health to address the challenges faced by farmers in the region.
The runners up in the 2020 competition were Amy Everard, Francesca McKenna, Saidhbh Gaffney-Bent, Ciara Smith and Katie Tully from St. Joseph’s Mercy Secondary School in Navan Co. Meath. The students explored the theme of women in agriculture and alongside promoting their project they sought to raise funds for their former teacher who is recovering from an acquired brain injury. The judges said, “These ambitious, curious, and proud young women were impressive in their confidence and ability to influence policy makers, in their school they lobbied for Agricultural Science to be added to the curriculum; and they were proactive in identifying opportunities to promote their project”
Outstanding Achievement by an Individual Award
An additional award was presented, which recognised the personal contribution made to the competition by one individual, with one student shortlisted from each group. The award went to Keelan Gallagher from Roscommon Community College who the judges said demonstrated “a can-do attitude, displaying courage and determination throughout the competition”.
The organisers are currently in the process of selecting five new schools from a shortlist of 35, who presented their project ideas at the Croke Park event today. The judges included representatives from right across the agri-food industry ABP, Kepak, Tesco, Hilton Foods, Irish Country Living, Teagasc, Bord Bia, Agri aware, Irish Angus Society, Alltech, IASTA, Slaney Foods, Irish Angus Producer Group, Ballymaloe Foods, UCD, NPA, JM Foods, Irish Farmers Journal, Agriland, and Dromoland Castle. The five schools who best demonstrate an understanding of the project along with innovative ideas will be announced in April and will receive their calves at the National Ploughing Championships in September 2020.