‘It was grand, very doable . . . I’ll definitely be happy going into tomorrow’

Leaving Cert students at Bertie Ahern’s former school give their first impressions of English Paper 1

 Leaving Certificate students Kevin Nangle, Liam Ashton, Mark Hodson and Lorcan Reilly at St Aidan’s CBS, Collins Avenue, Whitehall peruse their Leaving Certificate English Paper 1.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Leaving Certificate students Kevin Nangle, Liam Ashton, Mark Hodson and Lorcan Reilly at St Aidan’s CBS, Collins Avenue, Whitehall peruse their Leaving Certificate English Paper 1. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 01:00

St Aidan’s CBS in Whitehall, Dublin, has a sixth year of high achievers in sports and academia who took English Paper 1 in their stride. Most of the 110 students who sat the first English paper here yesterday felt it was a challenging exam with a surprise appearance from Seamus Heaney, but they conquered it with confidence.

“I thought some of the questions were phrased badly, but it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. The composition was nice and we were able to draw on our own experiences,” said James Cooke.

Luke Gibbons had a similar experience: “It was grand, very doable. I wrote about the influence of young people and politics. I’ll definitely be happy going into tomorrow.”

‘Surprised to see Heaney’

Seamus Heaney’s appearance in the comprehension threw some people, but

he was familiar to the students, who had studied his poetry. “I was surprised to see Heaney there to be honest, we weren’t expecting that,” said Alan O’Brien, while classmate Ryan Hayes looked to Paper 2. “We were caught by surprise with Heaney: I think people might veer away from him now tomorrow.”

However, English teacher Oliver Deneher reckoned they shouldn’t read too much into it. “It was strange to see Heaney there but it was good for the students because they would know his poetry in depth – I don’t think it will affect what poets come up tomorrow.”

Initial nerves

Initial nerves on this first big day affected a few of the boys, but once they

settled down things were easier. “The first 10 minutes were shaky, I was in two minds about what to answer, but I think I did better than I thought I would once I relaxed,” said Seán Ryan.

For others, the length of the paper tested writing legibility. “It was a long one. My hand was sore from all the writing, but I kept going. It wasn’t a hard paper,” said Conor Hartford.

St Aidan’s past pupils include Bertie Ahern, who attended in the school’s first year, almost 50 years ago, as did Liam Brady, former Republic of Ireland soccer international.

Current students are set to follow their predecessors’ path to success: “This is one of our most academic years yet: we have some very high achievers sitting exams this year,” said principal Brendan Harrington.