Donegal Student Carves Winning Niche in National Championships

For the fifth successive year a student at IT Sligo has come first in Joinery at the Ireland Skills competition, the annual national showcase for outstanding young craft trainees.

Sheamus McLaughlin from Kerrykeel, Co Donegal, who is doing a BSc in Advanced Wood & Sustainable Building Technology degree at IT Sligo, picked up the top Joinery prize and was also presented with the John Sisk & Sons Joinery Trophy.

Five IT Sligo trained students reached the finals – three in Joinery and two in Carpentry – in yet another remarkable demonstration of IT Sligo-expertise at its record of success at the event.

“It was exciting and exhausting, too, spread over two and a half days, but it was certainly worth it ,” said Sheamus (21), a third year student who plans to do further  studies after graduation to become a teacher of woodwork and technical drawing.

The event, which used to be known as the National Skills competition, provides a showcase for the training and development of highly skilled crafts persons within the Irish education system and is one of the most prestigious in the crafts’ calendar.

The other IT Sligo finalists were, in Joinery,  Donal Harte ( Ballintogher, Co Sligo) and Eddie Moore (Tipperary) and, in Carpentry,  Martin Murray (Galway) and Kenny Crotty (Waterford).

In the six-competitor final and using hand tools mainly, Sheamus had to produce a complex door with curved head and panels based on drawings given to him at the start of the final.

He explained: “You don’t know what you’ll be asked to do until you go in. You are given it just on an A3 page and you have to draw the full-scale working sections on to plywood. Then you get your square timber and you have to cut it and curve it, and joint it and fit it all and put on all the mouldings and rebates

“It was a very testing competition. You have to think so far ahead before doing anything. You actually have to sit down and visualise what has to go in where, and what has to fit and be jointed and cut before you even do it. There’s a lot of preparation before you start on the job itself.

“It was mentally and physically draining and afterwards you could sleep for a day,” he joked.

IT Sligo lecturer John Joe O’Reilly, who is the Ireland Skills Chief Joinery Expert, said: “All our students performed to a very high standard and represented the Institute with great distinction over the demanding 19 hour competition.

“Sheamus prepared himself very well for the final but great credit must also go to all the staff of the Dept. of Applied Technology in IT Sligo.”

After the event, an exhilarated Sheamus said he would wholeheartedly recommend the IT Sligo course to anyone who is interested not just in woodwork but project and site management.

“It would be a very good course for anyone who has any interest in construction whatsoever. The staff are very helpful and understanding. I’m delighted to have done the course.”

Present at the prize-giving at Cork Institute of Technology’s Booterstown campus was Kathleen Lynch TD Minister of State, Department of Health and Department of Justice and other dignitaries.

Kieran Gallagher, Programme Chair of the BSc in Advanced Wood & Sustainable Building Technology at IT Sligo, said: “I am delighted with the success of the students on our new course. It reflects the high quality of teaching and learning in IT Sligo and in the Department.

“We are committed to delivering a modern innovative programme which will meet the future needs of the industry. We heartily congratulate Sheamus and all our finalists and hope to see many of our graduates achieving similar success in the future”.

Adding his congratulations, Trevor McSharry, Head of Department of Civil Engineering and Construction, said the Carpentry and Joinery group at IT Sligo continued to have the strongest performance at the national skills competition and it had “established itself as the leader in advanced wood and sustainable building technology nationally which is something to be very proud of.”

For further information on the BSc in Advanced Wood & Sustainable Building Technology see

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