THEY could be on the verge of fortune and hero status among the world’s dairy farmers but two Cork teenagers were taking it all in their stride on their return to school from being crowned Europe’s best young scientists.
While Sam Maguire was being carried back to Kerry yesterday, Junior Certificate students Liam McCarthy and John D O’Callaghan were back in class at Kinsale Community School where they were given a hero’s welcome – and a special congratulations by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe.
The pair won a €7,000 cash prize for the accolade of overall winners at the EU Young Scientist competition in Paris, and Liam was planning to spend his share on a new laptop computer. For John D, however, all he could think about since the announcement was getting to the All-Ireland football final to cheer for Cork.
“I didn’t get a lot of time for writing speeches because I was too busy giving out about the ref in Croke Park,” he told students who gathered in the school hall yesterday.
The pair are just 14 and 15 and were among the youngest of 130 competitors at the European event.
“Even the judges told us they were calling us the Irish boys with the cows all week and even though we did win, we’re still just two boys with the cows,” Liam said.
Their winning project involved the development of a test at home – using washing-up liquid – to check cow’s milk for infection and earned them the top prize at the BT Young Scientist exhibition last January.
“We’re hoping to bring out a test kit that farmers can use, there’s a big market for it,” said Liam.
School principal, Sr Mary Donovan said the dairy farming sector may end up owing them a debt of gratitude in the future.
The school now has three European Young Scientist winners on the roll book, as Leaving Certificate student Aisling Judge picked up a top prize three years ago after becoming BT Young Scientist.
Mr O’Keeffe praised the students and their teachers at Kinsale Community School, saying it was great to welcome home European champions after the disappointment of the Cork defeat on Sunday.
“This school epitomises everything the Government is looking for in terms of the smart economy,” he said.
In response to Kinsale Mayor Councillor Tomás O’Brien’s call for funding for the school’s extension application to the Department of Education, the minister said he would do his best to progress the project but his 2009 school building budget has already been allocated.
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