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100 years of Irish cuisine at Galway’s historic hotels

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Michelin Star Chef Ross Lewis and JP McMahon of Galway’s Michelin Star Restaurant Aniar launch the 5th Galway Food Festival Programme which takes place at Easter (March 24-28) and celebrates 100 years of Irish food. Photo: Robbie Reynolds.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets the people behind two celebrated institutions in hospitality and tourist industries

Two of Galway’s most historic buildings will play a central role in this year’s Galway’s Food Festival, with chefs from both taking part in demonstrations to celebrate the last 100 years of Irish cuisine.

The Ardilaun in Galway City and Ballynahinch Castle were both centres of hospitality long before they became hotels – the difference these days is that anybody who can afford the price of a lunch or dinner can avail of the fare on offer in these four-star establishments. Back then, most of us wouldn’t have got beyond the servants’ quarters!

On Easter Monday, the Ardilaun will mark its link with the Boland family – of the famed Boland Mills in Dublin, which was under de Valera’s command during the 1916 Rising – with a family picnic. It will be on the grounds if the day is fine, and in the dining room if not, explains Breda Ryan, who with her late husband Paddy oversaw the transformation of the former Glenarde House into the Ardilaun Hotel in the early 1960s.

Paddy and Breda bought the house from the Misses Bolands, two sisters whose father had purchased it in the early 1900s from the Persse family.

The Protestant Persses had fought at the Battle of Aughrim on the side of William of Orange and were awarded land in Roxboro in South Galway for their efforts, says Breda. From there, they branched out into other areas and into other business, most notably distilling.

Like the Smithwicks in Kilkenny, they started brewing beer, but graduated to whiskey as it was more respectable. Their distillery was a lucrative business for many years and helped finance various townhouses in Galway of which Glenarde was one. Eventually, however, having taken their eye off the business in favour of the high life, they were forced to sell it and Patrick Boland, a Catholic, purchased it. He had been a lawyer in London but suffered poor health and was sent to the West of Ireland for its fresh air.

Glenarde House was at the heart of a small estate then, Breda explains, as she maps out where the boundaries reached. That has long been swallowed up by housing.

The Bolands were an industrious family, she says and Patrick’s daughters, Miss Eleanor and Miss Maeve, kept silkworms. They had six gardeners to maintain the gardens and they supplied flowers for free to the Jesuit church. They also maintained the woodlands, which are still there and are much loved by Breda.

The Ryans initially bought the house and land immediately around it from the sisters. They later bought the walled garden, which now supplies many of the ingredients for the kitchen.

The contents of the house were auctioned off by the Misses Bolands and Breda remembers the event, when the late Mrs Kenny of Kennys’ Bookshop, realising how valuable the library was, made a special and successful effort to acquire it.

The Misses Bolands, who “were beautifully mannered but not of this world”, initially moved to a new house on their land after selling Glenarde. Subsequently they moved to one that had bigger gardens and more space, which kept them busy. The rest of the estate was sold off gradually.

Paddy and Breda Ryan had bought the house with a hotel in mind – “Paddy was very interested in tourism and could see what was developing”, his wife explains.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

US basketball champion boasts impeccable Galway roots

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Galway roots...Pat Connaughton.

An Irish American basketball player with impeccable Galway roots helped end a 50-year NBA famine for the Milwaukee Bucks last week.

Boston-born Pat Connaughton, whose grandparents hail from Clostoken, Loughrea, played a pivotal part in his side clinching the NBA championship final series over the Phoenix Suns.

The 6ft 5in shoot guard was involved in all six games of the final series, including the last, which the Bucks won 105-98.

Afterwards, the 28-year-old said: “It’s incredible. The fans supported us through thick and thin. They’ve had our backs. To be able to do it and to win it and to be able to call ourselves World champions in front of our own fans . . . it’s incredible. The city of Milwaukee deserves it and I’m just proud that I could be a part of a team, with my teammates, that gave it to them.”

One of his cousins in Loughrea, Madeleine Connaughton, told the Connacht Tribune that his relations in Galway were incredibly proud of his achievement.

“It’s absolutely brilliant; he’s a celebrity in our eyes because he has done so well,” said Madeleine.

“It’s brilliant that Pat is flying the flag for us over there. He was the only person to play both professionally, baseball and basketball with Notre Dame. He was as good a baseball player as basketball and had to choose.”

Madeleine joked that there ‘is a clatter of us’ in Loughrea related to Pat Connaughton, including the Connaughtons, Tierneys, Keanes and Burkes.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Galway duo make sporting history as out first Olympic medallists

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Ireland rowers (from left) Aifric Keogh from Furbo, Eimear Lambe from Dublin, Fiona Murtagh from Moycullen and Emily Hegarty from Cork celebrate on the podium with their Olympic bronze medals after the Women's Four final at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The motto of the Ireland Women’s Coxless Four team, which includes Galway’s first ever Olympic medallists, Aifric Keogh and Fiona Murtagh, has been drilled into them by coach Giuseppe De Vita: ‘Winter miles makes Summer smiles.’

At twenty-three minutes past two on Wednesday morning Irish time, during the Tokyo Olympic medal presentation ceremony at a windswept Sea Forest Waterway, the rowing quartet’s smiles beamed from ear-to-ear.

It was a testament to the hard graft they’ve put into the sport over many years, especially the past 18 months, and the last eight weeks in particular in the build-up to the biggest six minutes of their careers to date.

Keogh (29) from Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, Fiona Murtagh (26) from Gortachalla in Moycullen, and Eimear Lambe and Emily Hegarty were well entitled to smile after a remarkable rowing performance that earned them bronze medals in the Women’s Fours Final.

As they presented each other with their medals, in keeping with Covid-19 restrictions, and waved their bouquets into the air, back home, their smiles lit up the television and computer screens in living rooms of their family, friends and new legion of fans throughout the land.

It was a history-making feat – Galway’s first Olympic medallists, Ireland’s first women rowers to win Olympic medals, and the nation’s first at Tokyo 2020.

Both women were ecstatic afterwards as they spoke with the Connacht Tribune via Zoom from the media centre in the Olympic Village.

Read the full interview with Galway’s Olympic heroes in today’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie   

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Connacht Tribune

Olympic dream comes true for Galway sprinting star

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Cillín Greene's parents Sinead and Cole and sisters Iarlaith (left) and Miriam above the Olympic flag on the Nine Arches in Claregalway. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It was March, 2019 when the Olympic dream of Cillín Greene went up in smoke – or so everyone thought.

On day one of the European Indoor championships in Glasgow, the Claregalway sprinter was progressing nicely in a 400m heat.

He was in lane two, minding his own business, when, all of a sudden, he was ‘bounced’ by a Polish competitor on his inside.

Cillín steadied himself after the collision but was unable to react quick enough to hop over a Czech runner who tumbled in front of him. Both hit the deck. Bad enough that his race was run; worse again, afterwards it emerged he’d sustained a serious injury.

“He was knocked on the track and broke his elbow,” recalled his father, Colman.

“I think it put his whole make-up out of line for a long time. He started pulling hamstrings after that, and things like that. It took a long time to get it right. It’s like a fine-tuned sports car, everything has to be right. Last year, he had a lot of injuries and he wasn’t really going anywhere,” he said.

Glasgow was just over a year out from the Tokyo Olympic Games, and almost certainly wiped his chances of qualification.

But then Covid-19 delayed the Games, giving time to rehab; and the Galway City Harriers clubman worked relentlessly in Lockdown to get back on track.

The result? This Friday, along with another Galway man, Robert McDonnell (19) from Knocknacarra, 23-year-old Cillín Greene will become an Olympian when he competes in the mixed 4x400m relay heat at the Olympic Stadium at 12 noon Irish time.

See the full story – and comprehensive Olympic coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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