One of the top three students in this year’s Leaving Certificate is hoping for a career at Nasa, the Cern physics research centre or, failing that, in a band.
Conor Durkan, from Maryborough Hill in Douglas, was wakened at 8am by his wide-eyed mother Maria Ryan after his principal at Christian Brothers, Sydney Hill, Cork, rang the house with his result of nine A1s.
“Mam burst into the room,” he said. “I thought she was just a bit too excited about taking me to school [to receive the results].”
The guitar and piano player, who plans to dedicate time to busking or getting gigs “anywhere anyone lets me play”, was full of praise for his school.
“I’m a little bit delighted but it hasn’t quite sunk in,” he said. “I was telling people all morning that I feel wonderful but I haven’t had time to sit down and think about it.”
Not wanting to single out anyone, the 18-year-old noted the efforts of Irish teacher Elaine Hammond who began her day’s work at 7am practising orals with students to make the most of the 40% marks for spoken Irish.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic group of teachers,” he said.
“I’m not one to sit down and study. I’m the biggest procrastinator, I’ve no discipline, I’ve no idea how I managed it. No-one can be 100% prepared. There’s something more to it.”
The teenager is on his way to study maths and science in University College Cork (UCC) and is inspired by recent scientific breakthroughs.
“Nasa landing the rover on Mars and all the work that we hear about from Cern - it’d be great to go on and be a part of that,” he said.
“Science is a great leader in the world. It’s going to space, it’s always growing out, so to be part of it would be great... but I wouldn’t turn down a career in music.”
The Christian Brothers school is no stranger to top achievers with past pupil Rory Crotty earning nine A1s in 2009.
Durkan secured the top marks alongside Blackrock College boarder Joe O’Sullivan and Caoimhe Normile, a student at Presentation Secondary School, Tralee, Co Kerry.
Caoimhe, sitting in a school corridor with her father Chris and mother Jacqueline by her side, said she had not come back down to earth after opening the results.
“Not quite just yet – I’m over the moon, still am. I’m delighted,” she said.
“Definitely not what I expected. I started balling when I picked the results out. I was in with the principal in her office and I’d been so nervous. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Caoimhe, a regular at Thomond Park for Munster rugby, put her success down to consistency.
“I worked fairly hard over the last two years. I tried to work consistently because I’m not a good crammer,” she said.
The student plans to go on to UCC to study medicine.
“I was kind of hoping that I would cross this road and get to other side first. I haven’t looked further ahead than that,” she said.
Caoimhe said her sister Laura, a law and French student at UCC, was a great help keeping the stress levels down and offering advice.
“She was also teasing me about the exams alright when I was doing them but she was also good with the notes and the advice,” she said.
In Dublin Joe O’Sullivan, a boarder at Blackrock College was celebrating in the Stillorgan Park Hotel with a glass of champagne with his family.
The teenager who lived in London until age 11 is to take up an offer from Cambridge to study medicine.
“Boarding was a huge help, I loved it,” he said.
“The leaving was tough but I enjoyed it. I had my friends around me all the time – I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Joe, whose family live in Kenmare, Co Kerry, said he found some aspects of the maths course difficult.
“I finished some exams and I thought I had done badly,” he said.
“The Project Maths was hard. It was very unpredictable and I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on in some of it or how I had got on.”