Saint Eunan's College

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Coordinates: 54°57′06″N 7°44′44″W / 54.951737°N 7.745554°W / 54.951737; -7.745554

Saint Eunan's College
Coláiste Naomh Adhamhnáin
St. Eunan's College round towers & turrets.jpg
Saint Eunan's College, taken from a distance

TypeSecondary school
MottoIn hoc signo vinces
(Latin for "in this sign you will conquer")
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
PrincipalChristopher Darby
Medium of languageEnglish
View of the College

Saint Eunan's College (Irish: Coláiste Adhamhnáin) is a voluntary Roman Catholic all-male secondary school in County Donegal, Ireland. Located in the Glencar area of Letterkenny, it was designed by renowned Irish architect Thomas Francis McNamara. Named after Adomnán or Eunan, the Abbot of Iona who was native to Donegal and is patron saint of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raphoe, it celebrated its centenary in 2006.[1]

An imposing three-storey edifice resembling a Medieval keep (indeed, it has been referred to as "the castle on the hill");[2] notable also is its singular architecture; four turreted round towers and flying buttresses are modelled on the nearby Cathedral, there is a sizeable medial courtyard, a commodious stone chapel and a habitat comprising an unusual array of flora, fauna and fungi — completed by the conspicuous presence of a large monkey puzzle tree on its front lawn.

A prolific sporting institution, it has produced several Olympic athletes including Mark English (considered by RTÉ analyst Jerry Kiernan to be Ireland's "greatest talent" ever in middle-distance running)[3] and cyclist Philip Deignan. The actor Ray McAnally, lexicographer Niall Ó Dónaill and one of the world's foremost quiz players, Pat Gibson (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Mastermind, Brain of Britain, Mastermind Champion of Champions, Eggheads), are among the school's other illustrious past students. Several members of Cabinet were educated here, including Neil Blaney, Jim McDaid and the present Minister for Education Joe McHugh. In addition, countless Gaelic footballers have passed through the school — perhaps most famously the current Donegal captain Michael Murphy, who led his team to win the Sam Maguire Cup — and numerous others who have played at the game's highest level.

Among the current staff are Ollie Horgan (who has managed Finn Harps and the Republic of Ireland national schoolboy football team), All-Ireland winning Gaelic football All Star Colm McFadden and football manager Gary McDaid (of Glenswilly, currently managing the U-20 Donegal football team).


Saint Eunan's College was founded as a boarding school in 1906 by the then Bishop of Raphoe, Patrick O' Donnell. Originally intended as a minor seminary, it was designed to prepare students for the priesthood of the Catholic Church. Diocesan colleges experienced an increasingly favoured stature at the time and were designed to give a nonpareil Catholic education to boys of every class.

The student population broadened in the 1920s and it was necessary to build an extension to the College in the early 1930s. The current recreation hall was built in 1958 and the science block in 1968. The College Chapel was designed by J. J. Robinson, the architect of Galway Cathedral. It was completed in 1961 at a cost of £42,000.[4] The "new building" was opened in 1979 to serve the 500 students registered at that time. Due to the growth of other second level schools in the area the number of boarders dropped extensively and in 1992, the boarding wing was permanently shut.

The school's centenary year was 2006. Events to mark the occasion began on Friday 6 October with an exhibition and the launch of the centenary booklet. The exhibition included photographs of past and present staff and students, as well as the colleg's many successful sports teams. Books, uniforms and other memorabilia were on display. Bishop of Derry Séamus Hegarty (a past student and a former patron of the school) opened the exhibition. On Saturday a sporting exhibition took place on the pitch. A veterans soccer match was organised along with a veterans Gaelic football match. Mass was celebrated on Sunday by Bishop of Raphoe Philip Boyce in St. Eunan's Cathedral. A dinner dance was held in the Mount Errigal Hotel later that evening.[5] On Sunday 8 April 2007, golfer Paul McGinley launched the College Centenary Golf Classic. It was the final event in the centenary year celebrations and was played at Letterkenny Golf Club.[6]

In 2007, the school came to the attention of the national media. Retailers were urged not to sell eggs and flour to students following a spate of attacks on passing cars.[7]

In 2009, Christopher Darby became the first lay person to become president of the college, taking over from Father Michael Carney.[8]

In his autobiography, released in 2010, the chef Conrad Gallagher told of abuse he received while attending the school. He alleged the Christian Brothers would feel him up and attempt to interfere with him; though, ultimately, he decided not to press charges. He expressed his wish to put it all behind him.[9]

Saint Eunan's College continues to this day as a Catholic School under the trusteeship of the Bishop of Raphoe. The school currently serves approximately 900 students from Letterkenny and its surrounding area, and is one of the few remaining all-male schools in the north-western part of Ireland. The president (since 2009) is Christopher Darby and the vice-principal (since 2010) is Mary Cunningham. Efforts to attempt a further extension proved fruitless.[10] Two plans were drawn up, but an approach was never finalised. As per planning regulations, the school installed a set of ramps and two chair-lifts. To serve the burgeoning plenitude of incoming first-year students, three prefabs were installed in summer 2008; these were followed by four ancillary prefabs in summer 2010.


In this photograph, taken from the front lawn, many of the cars driven by staff members are visible.


As is the case with the vast majority of secondary schools in the country, the College provides the qualifications of the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate. It also provides the facilities for Transition Year, which includes two work experience allotments and a choice between Computer or Sport GCSEs. The College is one of only 18 schools in the county that offers the LCA programme.[11]

At Junior Certificate level, the College offers art, woodwork and technical drawing. The College currently offers two foreign languages, French and German, at Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate levels, but Irish is also compulsory, subject to some exemptions, as in all other secondary schools in Ireland. Spanish is offered during Transition Year along with French and German.

Transition Year modules (taken on a Friday afternoon) include first-aid, cooking, car maintenance, tourism and electronics. Yoga and juggling were introduced in 2007. Towards the end of the year, more diverse modules are offered such as tennis, karate, and drama (at An Grianán Theatre).

Junior and Leaving Certificate students usually undertake pre-test examinations (MOCKs) each February or March or April, whilst the final examinations follow swiftly in June.

The College Library is open to students during lunch hours on certain days of the week.


Teams from the College typically contest the All-Ireland Higher Maths national finals, a competition for Higher Level students of mathematics. In 1999, a team made up of Paul Elliot, Hugh Harkin, Jamie Gallagher and Aodh Sweeney won a gold medal. In 2007, a team made up of Colm McCormick, Patrick Clear, Luke Kelly and Mark McGowan (Gaelic footballer) won a silver medal.[12]


Students from the College partake of the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition,[13] with some success enjoyed in recent years.[14][15]

Gaelic football[edit]

Physical education and team activities are important to the school, with a prolific record and several national titles in Gaelic football. Among the more important teachers to be found in the College are All-Ireland winning footballer Colm McFadden, Glenswilly and Donegal Under-20 manager Gary McDaid,[16] Finn Harps and Republic of Ireland schoolboys manager Ollie Horgan,[17] and Mickey Houston. Mickey is a former club manager and was also a team selector for the Donegal senior football team but quit after a row with the manager. He was enjoying the game when his authority was undermined and substitutions were made without his consultation.[18]

Rory Kavanagh, Colm McFadden, Neil Gallagher and Michael Boyle, who all previously played with college teams, became members of the Donegal senior football team and played through the county's most successful period, each winning a National Football League title in 2007, an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in 2012 and several Ulster Senior Football Championships along the way.[19] Michael Murphy, the future All-Ireland winning Donegal team captain, also captained his school team.

The College has a long history of contesting the MacRory Cup, going back to finals in the 1950s and 1960s.

At the turn of the millennium, the senior Gaelic football team won the MacLarnon Cup. With future inter-county footballers Rory Kavanagh and Colm McFadden part of the team, (indeed McFadden would later become a teacher at the school), the College won the 2000 MacLarnon Cup for the first time since 1979,[20] as well as the Ulster Herald Cup in 2004.[21] The Herald Cup win was the school's first in 25 years. The 2007 campaign went as follows: On Sunday 25 March 2007, the College beat Rathmore by a scoreline of 1–09 to 2–03 at Casement Park in Belfast, having travelled there six days earlier only for the match to be postponed. They progressed to the All-Ireland B Colleges semi-final where they overcame Rice College of Westport, only to be defeated themselves by St Mary's of Edenderry in the All-Ireland Final at Breffni Park in Cavan on Saturday 21 April 2007. The match went to extra-time after a penalty save by Saint Eunan's goalkeeper John Carr, but the College eventually lost by a scoreline of 2–12 to 0–14.

Following this, the College contested the 2008 MacRory Cup, only for St Michael's College of Enniskillen to defeat them by a scoreline of 1–17 to 0–7 in the semi-final on 22 February 2008.

All Stars

Seven students have achieved Ulster All Stars while playing for the college.[22] These are, with their years of attendance included, as follows: Sean McEwen (1987 - 1992 - left corner back 1992),[23] Hugh Brendan Kerr (1992 - 1998 left corner back 1998),[24] Mark McGowan (2001 - 2007),[25] Michael Murphy, Ciaran Cannon, Shaun Patton and Cormac Callaghan.

Other sports[edit]

The college has several national titles in soccer.[26] It is now also the number one athletics and basketball school in the county, with many county titles in various age groups. Golf[27] and swimming[28] are also popular. Even hurling teams, a sport which is not seen as very popular in Donegal, have reached the semi-finals of some competitions.[29] There is also a school rugby team

After a number of years absent from the sport, Saint Eunan's College began competing in Rugby once again during the 2007–2008 academic year. The school started playing rugby competitively against other Donegal schools and developed U14, U16 and ultimately U18 squads. All age categories compete in their respective Donegal Schools Cup competitions against other schools: Abbey VS Donegal, Carndonagh CS, Coláiste Áiligh Leitir Ceanainn, Coláiste Cholmcille Ballyshannon, Loreto Milford, Mulroy College Milford, Rosses CS Dungloe, Saint Columb's College Derry and Saint Columba's College Stranorlar. Saint Eunan's College Rugby won its first ever silverware in January 2014 beating Saint Columba's College Stranorlar to win the Senior (U18s) Donegal Schools Cup.

Extracurricular activities[edit]

Close-up view of the College's front gates with Coláiste Naomh Adhamhnáin, Leitirceanainn, and the motto In hoc signo vinces carved into the crest design


The college has long sent debating teams to competitions across Ireland, while maths and science students have taken part in national and international competitions.[30]

Foreign exchange[edit]

The college has taken part in a number of foreign exchange programmes involving schools in France and Austria.[31] Many European students have also availed of the college, from as far away as Spain, France and Austria.


The college's musical tradition can be seen every year in the annual Saint Eunan's College Rock Concert – held every May since 2002 in the local An Grianán Theatre.[32]


Each year many teachers and students head for the European ski-slopes during the holidays.[33] The 2008 trip, when Neil Gordon led a troupe of skiers to the United States, proved eventful — the Airbus craft bringing them home experienced motor difficulties in mid-flight and had to return to Logan International Airport after several hours in the air. The aborted flight received coverage in national media, such as The Irish Times.[34]

List of presidents[edit]

Turrets, among the school's many impressive architectural features
  • Fr. Edward Maguire (1906–1910)
  • Fr. Michael Ward (1910–1919)
  • Fr. Patrick D. McCaul (1919–1929)
  • Fr. John Kerr (1929–1940)
  • Fr. Arthur McLoone (1944–1954)
  • Fr. Christopher Finnegan (1954–1960)
  • Fr. Daniel J. Cunnea (1961–1969)
  • Fr. Peter McMahon (1969–1971)
  • Fr. P. Austin Laverty (1971–1982)
  • Fr. Daniel Carr (1982–1988)
  • Fr. Cathal Ó Fearraí (1988–1996)
  • Fr. Michael Carney (1996–2009)
  • Christopher Darby (2009–present)

Distinguished guests[edit]

  • On Thursday 29 March 2007, the former Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern briefly visited the school. This followed on from a visit by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny in late 2006.
  • On Sunday 8 April 2007, professional golfer Paul McGinley visited the school to formally launch the Saint Eunan's College Centenary Golf Classic. His father, Michael McGinley, is a past student of the College and, having represented the College in the MacRory Cup final team of 1956, sponsored the prizes for the golf classic.[6][35]
  • On Friday 21 January 2011, Labour TD Pat Rabbitte visited the school. He was led around the college by Principal Chris Darby.


Past pupils[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Information and References Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College website. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  2. ^ a b Foley, Alan (11 September 2012). "Forward thinking McFadden". Donegal Democrat. Retrieved 11 September 2012. As a student, McFadden used to gaze at the framed team photographs dotting the interior walls of St Eunan's College in Letterkenny. It's where he teaches now. Although perhaps traditionally more a soccer school with All-Irelands continually coming through the towering gates of the school known as 'the castle on the hill', MacLarnon Cup winning teams are also immortalised in dusting print.
  3. ^ McNulty, Chris (6 March 2019). "Jerry Kiernan says Mark English is the 'greatest ever' talent in Irish middle-distance running".
  4. ^ "Did You Know", Published in the 1995 edition of the Letterkenny and District Christmas Annual.
  5. ^ "Plans for St Eunan's College Centenary celebrations". Donegal News. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 22 September 2006.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b "College backed by McGinleys". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. 18 April 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
  7. ^ "Garda crackdown on 'bad eggs' in rural town". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012. ...Also this week, the principals of Letterkenny's two largest secondary schools joined forces in a letter to parents appealing for their assistance in encouraging their children to behave well. Father Michael Carney, principal of St Eunan's College, and Noel O'Fearraigh, principal of the Loreto Convent, said they were responding to complaints received from gardai and retailers in the town.
  8. ^ "New president for St Eunan's College". Donegal Democrat. 2 July 2009. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  9. ^ "Chef's bitter taste of St Eunan's revealed in new book". Donegal Democrat. December 2010. Retrieved December 2010. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ New Building/Extension Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  11. ^ Schools in Donegal providing the LCA Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Leaving Certificate Applied website
  12. ^ "Five in a row in high maths for St. Eunan's College students". Donegal Now. 4 March 2017. Archived from the original on 29 August 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2017. Over the years since the winning team 1999 of Paul Elliot, Hugh Harkin, Jamie Gallagher and Aodh Sweeney the school has competed in Cork University, University of Limerick, NUI Galway, Trinity College, UCD and next Saturday they travel to NUI Maynooth to compete against the top 20 schools in the All –Ireland Final... Back in 2007, the school won a silver medal with a team members Colm McCormick, Patrick Clear, Luke Kelly and Mark McGowan.
  13. ^ Debates – Quiz Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  14. ^ "Donegal teenager wins 'Young Scientist of the Year' gong". Donegal Daily. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012. Eoin Farrell (15) from St Eunan's College, Letterkenny, won best individual project for his project to develop a more accurate way to estimate the weight of children brought into hospital.
  15. ^ "Live: 2012 Young Scientist Exhibition". RTÉ News. 13 January 2012. Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 1950: Best Individual award went to Eoin Farrell from St Eunan's College, Donegal, for his project Paediatric resuscitation: How reliable are existing weight estimation methods in Ireland.
  16. ^ a b McNulty, Chris (19 October 2013). "Manager's view: Heart and soul still there for Glenswilly boss Gary McDaid". Donegal News. Archived from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  17. ^ "Ollie Horgan new Harps Manager". Highland Radio. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  18. ^ "Houston's big problem". BBC Sport. 30 May 2001. Retrieved 30 May 2001.
  19. ^ "Gaelic Football". Archived from the original on 24 October 2006.
  20. ^ MacLarnon Cup Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  21. ^ Herald Cup Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  22. ^ "All Stars". Archived from the original on 24 October 2006.
  23. ^ "Sean McEwen 87-92". Archived from the original on 24 October 2006.
  24. ^ "Hugh Brendan Kerr". Archived from the original on 24 October 2006.
  25. ^ "Mark McGowan". Archived from the original on 24 October 2006.
  26. ^ "Saint Eunan's claim schools double". RTÉ Sport. 4 May 2004. Retrieved 4 May 2004.
  27. ^ Golf Pages Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  28. ^ Swimming Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  29. ^ Hurling Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  30. ^ Mathematics students for International Mathematical Olympiad in Vietnam[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ Student Exchange Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  32. ^ Musical/Concerts Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  33. ^ Ski Trips Archived 24 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Saint Eunan's College Website
  34. ^ "Aer Lingus flight to Shannon aborted". The Irish Times. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  35. ^ DN supplement with local newspaper, dated Friday 13 April 2007. SPORTS page 7.
  36. ^ McNulty, Chris (17 October 2014). "Ollie Horgan lays foundations in year one, but age old issues leave Finn Harps in familiar quandry [sic] at season's end". Donegal News. Retrieved 17 October 2014. A maths teacher at St Eunan's College, Horgan shares the same love for the numbers and theorems as he has for notes and tactics.
  37. ^ "Former Tanaiste John Wilson dies". Longford Leader. 11 July 2007. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012.
  38. ^ The emergence, development and influence of French Haute Cuisine on public dining in Dublin restaurants 1900-2000: an oral history. Part 2 (downloadable), p. 343.
  39. ^ McDonagh, Marese (16 October 2002). "Top chef Conrad Gallagher finds success is like a souffle - fast to rise but quick to sink". Irish Independent.
  40. ^ Neill, Laura (4 September 2012). "Seeking Spiritual Fulfillment At The Purple Fig". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 4 September 2012. ...whilst attending Scoil Colmcille and St. Eunan's for education...
  41. ^ Walsh, Harry (25 March 2016). "Pramerica Systems Ireland appoint local man as new CIO". Donegal News. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016.
  42. ^ Nic Phaidin, Michelle (21 January 2013). "John Logue: Law, learning and listening". Donegal Democrat. Retrieved 21 January 2013. ...He began his schooling in Scoil Cholmcille before attending St. Eunan's all boys college in Letterkenny which he very much enjoyed. "I absolutely loved St Eunan's. You had a great group of people there, you had boys who were seriously academic and you had people there who were seriously sports orientated, we knew when to get up to a bit of mischief but we also knew when to knuckle down," he said...
  43. ^ "Mark English is the pride of Letterkenny". Highland Radio. 19 August 2014.
  44. ^ Magee, Declan (2 August 2012). "Gary O'Hanlon, star of Irish food scene, takes up new Donegal role". Donegal Democrat. Retrieved 2 August 2012. As a student at St Eunan's College in Letterkenny he was very aware of the success...

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