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1980 change of luck was all down to Pope John Paul II



Date Published: {J}

WHENEVER the Galway senior hurling champions make the St. Patrick’s Day trip to Croke Park these days, there is always a certain amount of optimism in the air. It may have something to do with the fact that in the past 18 years alone, Galway clubs have taken home no less than nine All-Ireland club titles.

Definitely, it is a remarkable statistic, but All-Ireland victories in this competition were not always as bountiful. For instance, prior to Kiltormer’s 0-15 to 1-8 victory over Birr in the 1992 decider, Castlegar were the only other Galway side to lift the Tommy Moore Cup.

Indeed, before Castlegar’s win in 1980, no other Galway club had even contested a club final, never mind win one while, at inter-county level, Galway’s senior hurlers were still seeking their first Liam McCarthy Cup since 1923.

Then, there was the small matter of the curse! The curse? Yes, the curse. Local folklore had it that no Galway team would ever win another All-Ireland title while there was a Castlegar man in the side. “We had heard that ourselves,” laughs former Castlegar goalkeeper Tommie Grogan, “but we never paid heed to it.

“Maybe the fact that the Pope visited the parish in 1979 broke that [curse], but in any event Galway won the All-Ireland the following year and with a Castlegar man (Joe Connolly) as captain. That really rubbed it in, didn’t it?

“Of course, UCG winning the Fitzgibbon in 1980 started it all off. Then, Connacht won the Railway Cup, we won the All-Ireland club, before Galway won the All-Ireland. I think Joe Connolly could have all of those medals. I suppose, you could say, all that was down to Pope John Paul II.”

No wonder, then, that Castlegar’s netminder throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s has many fond memories of that era. As an understudy to Tony Gavin, he collected county senior medals in ‘72 and ‘73, before inheriting the position, himself, in the late ‘70s.

Consequently, he collected his first medal on the field of play in 1979 when Cashel defeated Kinvara on a scoreline of 2-13 to 0-6 on a bitterly cold December’s day in Duggan Park, Ballinasloe. “That time, a lot of our success was down to Tony Regan coming on board,” says Grogan, who added to his medal collection with Castlegar’s last senior title success in ‘84. “He was a great trainer.

“When he came in that time, in ‘79, he brought a great bit of drive to the team. In fairness, we had a great team that time, but Tony brought professionalism to it. As a result, we were a super fit team, really fit, at the time. We were as fit as we could be. In fairness, Tony took no nonsense. He wasn’t called ‘Horse’ for nothing. It all just kind of followed on from the county final win though after that. We were only taking it a game at a time; we never looked too far ahead.”

The Tom Callanan Cup secured, Castlegar advanced to a Connacht final meeting against Roscommon outfit, Tremane, with the Galway kingpins eventually edging beyond the 1976 Connacht champions on a scoreline of 1-16 to 1-9. That victory set up a mouth-watering clash with reigning All-Ireland club champions, Blackrock of Cork, who had defeated Dunhill of Waterford in the Munster decider and Brian Boru’s of London in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

“The semi-final was a huge one for us, against Blackrock in Athenry,” recalls Grogan. “I think they had seven of the Cork senior team, along with Frank Cummins from Kilkenny. He was centre-forward. So, they had a star studded team really, with the likes of Ray Cummins, Eamonn O’Donoghue, Pat Moylan, Dermot McCurtain, and Danny Buckley.

“That said, we did feel that we could run them close, even though we were rank outsiders. We felt going out we were in fantastic condition. Sure, they had a massive team that time, but we managed to hold them goalless that day, 2-9 to 0-9. It was a big win for us.

“We were under awful pressure, though, in the last 15 minutes. I think Joe Connolly got one goal and [his brother] Gerry got the other. John Connolly was brilliant at centre-back that day as well. Everyone rose to the occasion. We had to, because you wouldn’t beat them with just 10 or 12 fellows playing well. The whole team had to play out of their socks.”

Having accounted for Blackrock – who had already won All-Ireland club titles in ‘72, ‘74 and ‘79 – Castlegar faced Ulster champions Ballycastle in the final just one week later, on June 1, in Navan. For their part, the Antrim men had unceremoniously dispatched Crumlin on a scoreline of 3-9 to 0-8 in their semi-final.

“We played Ballycastle, who had six or seven Donnellys, and it was an awful tight game all the way through. They were a good team and there was only a point or two in it at any stage. We were under pressure all day. I think Joe Connolly got a rake of scores that day from frees, while Liam Mulryan got the goal. It was a hard earned win, that one.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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