Donncha Ó Murchú has been teaching in Gaelchultúr since September 2017. When he is not teaching, he can be found playing football, cycling, discussing sport on the radio or studying for the MA in Scríobh agus Cumarsáid na Gaeilge, which he is currently undertaking in UCD. Nuachtlitir Ghaelchultúir spoke to him recently to find out more about him.
Tell us about yourself.
My sister and I were raised through Irish in Mount Merrion, in south County Dublin, and being able to speak the language was a great advantage when we were growing up. My parents both speak Irish fluently, and it was they who sparked such a great interest in Irish culture in us from an early age. Both my mother and my sister are excellent musicians, and even though I play music as well, sport was always my true passion. I've spent my whole life playing hurling for the local club, Kilmacud Crokes. I believe that being active is of real importance, and it helps my mind to relax, especially when I need a break from work!
I was privileged to have been given the chance to attend Coláiste Eoin, an Irish language secondary school in Booterstown. The atmosphere in that school was truly unique, and both sport and music were greatly encouraged, which suited me down to the ground. After spending six years there I made the long, arduous journey across the N11 to UCD, where I was recently awarded a degree in History and Irish. I haven’t left the place yet!
How did you begin teaching Irish to adults?
I had very little teaching experience before I began working with Gaelchultúr. During the final year of my degree I was offered a role as a substitute Irish teacher in a local secondary school in the south of the city. That was my very first taste of teaching. I had Leaving Cert classes that time and even though there was a certain degree of pressure involved to complete the course, I had great fun with the class. They definitely realised that I myself had only recently done the Leaving Cert, so thankfully they were happy to listen to me!
I'm currently an Irish tutor at university. I really enjoy this work as the students are generally a lot more relaxed than secondary school pupils, and one doesn’t need to put as much pressure on them regarding assignments. The course itself also allows for a certain amount of freedom, which is nice.
I first came to Gaelchultúr when I was in my third year at university. I used to come in once a week to offer technical support when the online classes were taking place and after that I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to teach a class of my own. I had never taught an adult class before and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. We do a huge amount of work in the class, but there's also an awful lot of fun. I've received nothing but great encouragement ever since I started working here, and I find myself constantly looking forward to the discussion and debate in the next class each week!
What do you get up to when you’re not teaching Irish classes?
I’m doing a postgraduate course at the moment in UCD: MA Scríobh agus Cumarsáid na Gaeilge. The course is mainly focussed on journalism and on translation, however students have the option to choose between many different modules in order to find ones they might enjoy. I have a particular interest in journalism and I enjoy writing and publishing opinion pieces now and again. I believe the masters is steering me in the right direction, as I seek to pursue a career in journalism in the future.
I really enjoy radio as well, and I give sports reports every so often on Newstalk, on Raidió na Life and on Raidió na Gaeltachta. I get a great buzz from the radio, especially when there’s a group of people all taking part in a conversation or debate on air. I get great energy from it.
What do you do in your spare time?
My father is a great cyclist, and a very devoted one at that. He was the one who got me into cycling a few years ago and I’m still very taken with it. I sometimes go out at dawn at the weekend and head for the Wicklow mountains if the weather is good. The bad weather doesn't stop my father from heading out, and he’d often be seen heading for the hills in the pouring rain in the dead of winter, whereas I’m probably more of a fair-weather cyclist!
My friends and I are always eager to try out new sports in our spare time as well. We started playing tennis recently and can’t get enough of it! When I’m not too busy during the summer I go swimming in the sea, which gives me a new boost of energy for the week ahead.
What are your plans for the coming months?
I'll be going on holidays to California for two weeks in June, but apart from that, I have a busy summer of work ahead of me. I'm in the middle of a thesis at the moment, due to be completed in August, which discusses voluntary broadcasting media in Irish and in Gàidhlig. I intend to visit Scotland during the summer at some point to do some research and to do a few interviews with friends of mine who are Gàidhlig speakers. It will certainly be a challenging project, however I'm lucky that I have had many opportunities to familiarise myself with Gàidhlig culture in Scotland, and that I have many Scottish friends willing to help me with my research.
In August of this year, I'll be going to America on the Fulbright scholarship programme. I'll be spending the year in the University of Montana. Having spoken to people who have had this opportunity before, I realise that it's a very valuable experience, and something I feel is necessary for my own personal development before I begin to work. I understand the Irish have great links to Montana and that there's a vibrant Irish community there, and I look forward to promoting the Irish language in the university.