De La Salle Teacher Training College

Munster Hurling Championship Program, Cork v Portláirge, Thurles, May 17, 2018

There’s a fine picture on the internet of a hurling team from De la Salle Training College, Waterford in 1927 called the Invincibles. The names of the players aren’t given but their counties are, written in Irish on the bás of their hurleys help aloft. The players come from Kilkenny, Laois, Galway, Cork, Carlow, Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick.

In that year the college was at the height of its power, one of two training colleges for male primary school teachers in the country, the other being St. Patrick’s, Drumcondra. It was under the care of the Society of De La Salle, who had come to Waterford in 1887 and started the teacher training college in 1891.

The college was located in a very impressive building in Bilberry stone, 2i5 feet long, 60 feet wide and 80 feet high. It included an impressive chapel, the altar of which weighed 4 tons and was the work of James Pearse & Sons, Dublin.

The building wasn’t completed until 1894, and cost £35,000. The first batch of forty students commenced their training in 1891 and stayed in the Adelphi Hotel in the city until such time as the building was completed. The new college was licensed to enrol 120 students, later increased to 200.

The students who enrolled came from all over the south of Ireland as the 1927 picture indicates. The games of hurling and football were strongly promoted and many graduates of the college went back to their counties and promoted the games in their schools and featured on intercounty teams.

The Tipperary Connection

Many Tipperary teachers were trained there. One such graduate was Mick Cronin of Lorrha, who received a gold medal in recognition of his position as De La Salle hurling team captain, 1922. In the same year he graduated and became principal in Lorrha school on the first day of his appointment as a teacher, even though a principal was supposed to have five years teaching experience before he could became principal. The manager is reputed to have told the Department that Mick was the best man for the job. The result was that when Mick Cronin retired in 1969, he must have been the longest serving National School principal in the country. Mick played for Tipperary from 1927-1934, winning an All-Ireland senior title in 1930.

Another such graduate was Rody Nealon, who graduated in 1918, having also won the gold medal for captaining the hurling team. Rody started his teaching career in Banbridge and eventually succeeded his father as principal of Youghalarra N.S. He played for Tipperary during the nineteen-twenties and was on the famous U.S. trip with the team in 1926.

A third Tipperary man of note was Seamus Ó Riain, later Uachtaran Cumann Luthchleas Gael, who featured on both the hurling and football teams in 1936, the year he graduated, winning a Waterford senior football championship the same year.

End of Training College

In 1939 a Government decision was taken to discontinue the training of teachers in De La Salle College, owing to the decrease in the numbers of pupils attending National Schools and the consequent rise in the number of unemployed teachers.

At the annual convention of the Munster Council of the G.A.A. on February 23, 1940, the chairman, Seam McCarthy, noticed with deep regret the fact that De La Salle College in Waterford was closing down. A request was made to the Minister for Education to review the decision which is a ‘grave injustice inflicted on an institution, which has served the nation so well for half a century’.

Nothing came of the request. Young Brothers of the De La Salle Order were allowed to continue training there but this was discontinued in 1949, when De La Salle College ceased to be a teacher training institution, and the building became the home of the secondary school.