As proved just last Wednesday, Conlethians are famously tough on the rugby pitch, but off the field we are notoriously reluctant to engage in juvenile fisticuffs when local toughs accost us at the DART station or ambush us in the darker recesses of Herbert Park. Many a time, primary schoolers from the other side of the tracks have been able to bully even our hulking back rows from the preferred perches along the duckpond. We are just too well bred to sink to that level of carry-on! Now, draw your epee and let us settle us this like gentlemen. Or, even better, wield your mace… I am sorry, you do not have one? No wonder, as nearly every debating mace awarded these last few years in Ireland is lying in our trophy case, which now resembles a veritable medieval armoury!
In medieval times, the mace was a fearsome weapon and a symbol of power and prerogative: now it is form of debate where the contestants have limited and un-coached preparation time. The student debaters have twenty minutes to prepare their proposition or opposition of the motion and then they get up and speak for four minutes about something they may know very little about. It is a skill that seems to come naturally to Conlethians. A few years back, Michael O’Dwyer (Class of 2010) memorably wielded the Mace of the English Speaking Union, awarded to the best university debater in the ‘British’ Isles. The latest mace wielders are Third Years Oisín and Evan Power, who recently won outright the Loret0 on the Green stage of the National Junior Mace, speaking with authority (assumed or actual) about such topics from the MMA to the election of judges, from bribing kids into Leaving Cert success to boycotting sports events in countries which have poor human rights records, such as Cuba, and defeating such debating powerhouses as Coláiste na hInse and Belvedere College. The Twin Powers (related only rhetorically) also recently won a round of the UCD L&H Leinster Junior Debating championships, as did fellow Third Years Joymarita Ratinikanth and Trevor Bolger just last week, and Second Years Colman Hegarty and Daragh Sweeney also finishing near the ‘top of the tape’. And on the Senior side of the competition we are doing just as well, with Fifth Years Frank Knowles, Joe Downey, James Hastings-Rafferty and Robert O’Connor all marching through the early rounds of the Leinster’s in style. Why do we, year-after-year, dominate Irish Schools Debating? Partly because of Moderator Mr. Carvill’s deal with the devil, but primarily because he brings back alumni debating coaches: currently, Conor White orchestrates a team of Daniel Gilligan, Conor Power, Simon Pettitt and Oisín Dowling… all of whom have a mace or two in the closet.