Leaving Cert student says ‘nothing could prepare him’ for nine A1s

Conor Gallagher of St Michael’s College, Dublin among 13 students to achieve all A1s

Erin McGuire talks to students at St John’s College in Ballyfermot in Dublin about their Leaving Cert results.


Conor Gallagher, the student who achieved the highest results in this year’s Leaving Certificate exams, said “nothing could have prepared him” for achieving nine higher level A1s.

The student from St Michael’s College on Ailesbury Road, Dublin 4 was among 13 candidates to receive all A1s today, although he was the only one to sit nine subjects.

“I was happy with how I did following the exams but nothing could have prepared me for this,” said Mr Gallagher after receiving his results this morning.

Note: Each count includes the count above i.e. 8 candidates had 13 A1’s and this includes the 1 candidate who had 9 A1’s)

The 18-year-old, who plans to study Business and Law at University College Dublin, said his family were “delighted” with the news but also a bit “shocked”.

Conor Gallagher is the third member of his family to sit the Leaving Cert following his two older brothers who also did “very well”.

Mr Gallagher studied English, Irish, Maths, Biology, Economics, History, Spanish, Business and French.

Tim Kelleher, Principal of St Michael’s College, said Mr Gallagher was a “balanced” student, “a lovely fella”.

“He always integrated really well with other students and had a great broad range of friends. He would have been very active in all facets of the school, both arts and music, but particularly the sport as well.”

Mr Kelleher added that although Conor’s achievements are “exceptional”, it’s important to applaud the students who may have faced “certain adversities in their lives.”

“They might have had bereavement and would have achieved their potential in quite difficult circumstances. Sometimes they’re the ones that you are most happy about.”

Chart: Leaving Cert A1s Higher Level

Mr Gallagher’s results matched the feat achieved last year by Mark Berney of Gorey Community School who also got nine A1s.

Twelve other candidates received eight higher level A1s. Five of these students were from Dublin schools, three are from Cork schools. The others are from schools in Donegal, Sligo, Roscrea and Galway city.

Megan Ross (19) from St Joseph of Cluny Secondary School in Dun Laoghaire, who scored eight A1s in her exams, will travel to the US next Monday to study at Harvard University .

Ms Ross had planned to sit the Leaving Cert in June 2013, but after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer had to take a few months off school. She has made a full recovery and looks forward to studying applied maths at Harvard.

“I had surgery to remove my thyroid and will be on medication for life,” she said, adding that the illness was “ just a setback rather than something that was really serious”.

Ms Ross was accepted into Harvard last March. “It’s kind of terrifying but exciting too,” she told The Irish Times. “I’ve already been in touch with my roommate and I’m excited to meet all these great new people from all over the world.”

Matthew Kavanagh (18), a student at Cistercian College Roscrea, was another of the twelve students to receive eight A1s in today’s Leaving Cert results.

“I am absolutely thrilled with the results,” said Mr Kavanagh. “I am looking forward now to going on to third level and hoping to study medicine at University College Cork”.

Mr Kavanagh’s father said he was “absolutely delighted” with his son’s performance and that his teachers had gone “above and beyond the call of duty to make themselves available to give extra tutorials.”

The number of students achieving all higher level A1s is up by three on last year.

Record Bonus Points

Entry requirements for engineering, business and several other popular courses are expected to rise this year after a record number of students gained bonus points for higher level maths in the Leaving Cert.

Some 27 per cent of students took the higher paper, up from 16 per cent in 2011. With more than 95 per cent passing the exam, there will be 13,660 students earning 25 bonus points for CAO courses, nearly 1,100 more than last year.

A 2.4 per cent increase in the overall number of students sitting the Leaving Cert this year to 56,990 will also edge up college entry requirements, as will a rise in demand for courses linked to growing sectors of the economy.

Demand for architecture is up 13.5 per cent, engineering 5.8 per cent, law 5.5 per cent and business 4.4 per cent.

There was also a rise of 8 per cent in those seeking science places at ordinary degree or higher cert level.

While the number of students sitting higher level maths reached a record 14,326, the figures mask a growing trend of students dropping to ordinary level prior to examination day.

Some 17,065 students had registered to sit higher level maths this year but 16 per cent of these then opted for the easier paper. No other subject sees such a rate of drop-downs, with just 6 per cent of Irish and English higher level students opting to take the ordinary paper after registration.

The pattern will strengthen the argument for rewarding students who attempt the honours paper but fail to make the 40 per cent grade, as recommended by a new discussion paper.

The document, circulated by a task group of the Irish Universities Association, notes that both the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the State Examinations Commission had asked higher education institutions to consider awarding points for any mark above 30 per cent.

Despite perceived risks, the numbers taking higher level papers continues to rise, not just in maths (up 10 per cent on last year) but also physics (up 12 per cent), chemistry (up 7 per cent), agricultural science (up 6.4 per cent) and biology (up 4.5 per cent).