This week’s Friday Focus is local student Conal Fagan.  Hailing from the Fortwilliam area of Shantallow,  he has made headlines recently due to receiving a few very special offers.  Conal will be leaving Derry in July to begin the next chapter of his education in the famous home of the Fighting Irish, The University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA. 

Conal has been whittled down from 1,600 hopeful applicants to The Sutton Trust which helps connect international students with life changing scholarships in prestigious American Colleges.  Having the choice of both North Carolina and Notre Dame Universities Conal chose the latter, accepting their offer to fund his full education through their esteemed Hesburgh-Yusko Scholarship based on the strength of the academics, incredible resources and vast diversity whilst not forgetting their sporting spirit (it is the home of the Touchdown Jesus after all!).

Beginning his education in St.Brigid's Primary School followed by St.Columb’s College in his teenage years, Conal has excelled in his academic performance throughout, ultimately completing a highly acclaimed tenure as Head Boy until March this year.  Conal is also involved in various mentoring programmes throughout the city and holds very special coaching position with the much loved Oxford Bulls, which help him fulfil his hobbies of volunteering and mentoring.  Conal’s other passion is football and he has played international football for Northern Ireland in their youth squad, as well as Derry City FC.

How would you describe yourself? Very motivated, which stems from a desire to make my family proud. This has made me really hardworking and ambitious.

You are about to take a big leap and move away from home – what will you miss about Shantallow?   In general I’ll miss the people of Derry, and the specific humour, craic and understanding of each other we all seem to have. I’ll miss simple things like recognising people when I am walking down the street and having to start over.  

As you approach your 18th Birthday, what’s your favourite funny story about yourself?   Well in my path to education I didn’t start off as eager as I am now! I actually bit my Primary 1 teacher so it’s ironic that I probably should have been expelled at 4 years of age. It would have been all over before it began!  

What’s your favourite way to relax? I love sports and music. Ed Sheeran is unreal, and Coldplay. I’m excited to see them in Croke Park this summer, my sister got us both tickets and it will be one of the last events before I leave so I’m sure that will be a bit emotional.

Tell me something about yourself that people don’t know? I do a lot of volunteering and fundraising work for local groups, and always for causes that mean something to me.  I work with the Oxford Bulls and those wee guys just make me happy, they are some craic.  Also, I completed a Sky dive to raise money for Alzheimer’s, which is close to my heart because unfortunately my father suffers from it.  It’s been tough ride and I haven't really talked about my personal reasons for fundraising for Alzheimer's before now, but I realise now-that even talking about my own situation helps raise awareness- allows me to help- so its worth telling my own story and putting myself out there. 


What makes you laugh? The College boys and local comedy, Derry humour.

What is the best compliment you have ever received? There have been too many! Only joking, I don’t really let all that stuff phase me, but I was really proud at something I heard recently.  I attended the wake of the late Martin McGuiness and I was told by a person close to Martin that he had high hopes for me and that he thought the youth like me were the future for our city.  That really struck me.

Who would you most like to meet? Barack Obama, he is a legend. Not only because of the history he made and what he signifies, but for all that he has ever achieved in his life in politics. He actually spoke at Notre Dame and their tradition of inviting each incoming president to speak definitely formed part of my decision.

What makes you happy? Working with The Oxford Bulls. As I said those wee guys are something else, and also local people succeeding and doing well.

What makes you angry? Corruption, poverty and people not respecting climate change.

What has been the high point of your life to date? I captained Northern Ireland on my debut for the youth team against Estonia which was a big moment, and personally my Sky Dive for Alzheimer’s was really meaningful because of my dad.  And of course the moment I accepted Notre Dame.

What has been your low point? The death of my English teacher last year without a doubt. Ms. Hughes really believed in me and influenced me so much, her passing was tough.  She was very much loved and left a big gap. 

How would you like people to remember you? I would like people to remember that I gave back to the community and hopefully after my career is behind me, that they can say I achieved things no one thought was possible.

What are your treasured possessions? Everything else can be replaced but I have scrapbooks of all my football memories and achievements, they’re my number one possessions.

What’s your motto? Work hard, dream big, stay focused and surround yourself with good people.

What advice do you have for anyone here at home aspiring to better or challenge themselves as you are? Never give up, aim high and even if you fall short then you are still in a good place and better off that you were.  Take the leap. 

Conal certainly has, and we at the Greater Shantallow Area Partnership wish him all the very best.