Country Living with Francis Farragher
A lot of the nostalgia buttons are being pressed these days from our look back to Galway’s hurling success of 1980s to a more localised one for those of us who have spent the biggest chunk of our working lives at 15 Market Street in the heart of the city. This week marks the last editions of the Connacht Tribune newspapers to be produced from our current location as we move out to a new and more compact premises in the Liosbán Business Park just off the Tuam Road.
Like the 1980 hurling final, it does seem just like yesterday since I worked my first day in Market Street – the Monday after Galway had lost the 1986 All-Ireland hurling final to Cork. Galway had destroyed Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final at Thurles when they employed the then revolutionary tactic of playing a two-man full-forward line clearing the way for Noel Lane to strike for a hat-trick of goals.
Cork though were a lot wilier for the final leaving Johnny Crowley back as a sweeper . . . and he did just that . . . cleaning up across the Munster champions’ full backline and landing the man-of-the-match accolade in the process, as Galway eventually went down on a 4-13 to 2-15 scoreline.
All week that old rhyme about Cork hurling and Christy Ring kept creeping through my head: ‘Now Cork is bet; the hay is saved; the thousands wildly sing. They speak too soon, my sweet garsun, for here comes Christy Ring’. That day in Croker, Tomás Mulcahy was Cork’s Christy Ring when he scored one of the great All-Ireland final goals after a 50-yard second-half run to swing the match their way.
Those days in the late 1980s, the printing presses of the Connacht Tribune, as well as rolling out their own three titles – The Sentinel, Connacht Tribune and City Tribune – also produced thousands of copies of other titles every week including the Tuam Herald, Clare Champion and Connaught Telegraph. Like a lot of other industries, with the passing of time, the physical production of papers moved to just a handful of locations around the country and the rumble of the printing presses in Market Street grew silent as we went through the noughties.
While 1986 was one of desperate disappointment for Galway hurlers, the next two years – ’87 and ’88 – represented the most glorious ever period for the game in the county with Cyril Farrell’s charges winning back-to-back All-Ireland titles. From a Tribune coverage point-of-view, they were also very special weekends for those of us involved, often booked into the same hotel as the team – invariably The Ashling – with Turloughmore’s, Phelim Murphy, in charge of proceedings. There was a lot more informality about the ‘mixing’ between the team, reporters and supporters in those days, and while Cyril Farrell, did like to create his own little bubble with the squad, access and contact never seemed to be a problem.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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‘Give even one big GAA game to Ballinasloe’
It’s the most centrally located ground in the country but Ballinasloe’s Duggan Park won’t host a single inter-county match this year – much to the annoyance of one local councillor who wants the GAA to allocate at least one big game to the venue.
Cllr Michael Connolly told a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that the ground is entitled to host major football and hurling fixtures – even though all but one of the Galway footballers’ home league games are assigned to Pearse Stadium with the other one in Tuam.
“If they gave us one match in Duggan Park, it would be something,” he said. “But at the moment, it seems as if it is being ignored.”
The Moylough councillor described it as the most accessible ground in the country and a venue in which players and supporters like to travel to – unlike, he suggested, Pearse Stadium.
He said that it was “a hateful venue” and few GAA supporters relished the prospect of travelling to the “far side of the city” to watch a football or hurling match.
A recent meeting in Gullane’s Hotel to discuss Duggan Park was attended by Deputy Denis Naughton, Senator Aisling Dolan, Cllr Evelyn Parsons and Cllr Declan Kelly among others.
But the Duggan Park Committee then issued a statement saying that the ground is owned by Galway GAA and any use of the facility needed to be authorised – and no authorisation was given to the meeting organiser, former Mayor of Ballinasloe Joe Kelly, for this purpose.
Mr Kelly has been a staunch campaigner for the redevelopment of Duggan Park and has called on the local authority to row in behind this initiative.
They went on to say that there is a plan in place for the development of Duggan Park which is multiple staged which started with the new dressing rooms, flood lights and a new entrance to the venue.
Planning permission is in place for this development and that €500,000 has already been spent in the Duggan Park over the past number of years carrying out these projects.
The work in the ground, they say, is done to an excellent standard by local contractors with the support of the previous Town Council for grants and sports capital grants.
Former tourism magnet officially on register of derelict sites
The fire-ravaged hotel that was once one of the most popular in the county is now officially considered a derelict site – and that has led a local councillor to call for it to be either redeveloped or levelled.
Portumna’s Shannon Oaks Hotel, for so long popular with anglers and golfers in particular, has been boarded up for more than a decade since it was destroyed by fire.
Local councillor, Jimmy McClearn, has called on the owners to reopen or sell the property – adding that it should either be levelled or redeveloped.
“We are a tourist town and we need a hotel. The last thing we want is for a hotel to be shut up,” he said.
“It is a fine facility and on an extensive site so there is no reason why it should be boarded up,” he added.
The Shannon Oaks saga has gone on for the past twelve years – but now the owners, the multi-millionaire Comer brothers, will be forced to pay a derelict site levy if they do not reopen or redevelop.
That amounts to a seven per cent levy based on the market value of the property, which is worth around €1 million even in its derelict state.
The Shannon Oaks was ravaged by fire in September 2011 and four years later, the site was acquired by the Comer Group who, at the time, gave an undertaking that it would be reopened.
Around two years ago, planning permission was granted by Galway County Council to Barry Comer of the Comer Group to renovate the hotel by providing 60 new bedrooms along with 40 apartments to the rear of the structure.
However, there has been little or no movement on the site since then and now the owners are being again asked to give some indication as to when the hotel will be rebuilt.
It is considered an integral part of the tourism industry for the town and that is why pressure is mounting on the owners to rebuild the hotel.
Cllr McClearn said that all he is asking for is the owners to develop the site and provide a hotel there. “It’s not much to ask in a tourist town,” he added.
More than €200,000 worth of cannabis seized in East Galway
More than €200,000 worth of cannabis was seized in during two separate search operations in East Galway on Saturday.
Gardai from the Divisional Drugs Unit conducted a search at a residence in Aughrim and seized cannabis plants with an estimated street value of €146,000 and €20,000 worth of cannabis herb which will now be sent for analysis.
Two men (both in their 30s) were arrested at the scene in connection with the investigation and are currently detained at Galway Garda station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996. Both men remain in custody.
A separate search was carried out at a residence in Ballinasloe yesterday afternoon and cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €35,000 was seized. Cannabis jellies and €7,510 in cash were also seized.
A man in his 40s was arrested and later released without charge and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.