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A tough slog for USA college basketball star

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Date Published: {J}

MANY would envy the life Tuam’s Dearbhna Coen had for those years bridging her late teens to her early 20s – that of a college basketball star in the United States – but Coen, herself, explains that it had its demands which, quite frankly, too often detracted from the enjoyment of the sport.

Back home in Tuam since May of this year, the 6 ft 1” athlete – who is to the fore in establishing a new women’s senior basketball ladies team in the town, alongside Galway ladies footballer Edel Concannon – says she is only now beginning to enjoy a sport she loved as a child once again.

Not that she has any regrets, but as the American playwright and actress Mae West once said: ‘Too much of a good thing can be taxing’. It is a sentiment, no doubt, shared by former collegian basketballer Coen.

“It [basketball] did have its demands,” says the 24-year-old. “It was like every day in America, Monday to Saturday. You would train for three hours every evening and during pre-season you would also train in the morning as well. That said, I have no regrets. I mean, it took up a lot of time, but it was still good craic and I make great friends.

“I suppose, you were with the team every day, so you just get so close. You literally eat and sleep and play basketball. It was a small family and, in fairness, all the girls’ families took me in at one time or another, be it at Christmas or what have you.

“I was never home for Christmas; in fact, last year, was my first Christmas home in five years. The basketball season always ran through Christmas and it was tough, initially, but you kind of got used to it and it didn’t bother me in the end.”

Coen began her basketball career in the Pres. Tuam, under the guidance of Mrs. Pat Jacobson, before moving to The Bower [boarding school] in Athlone after the Junior Cert. for the remaining two years of her secondary school education.

“I went there because I met this coach, Paddy Mullaly from Athlone and his daughter Laura played in America,” says Coen. “I met him one summer and he said I was an alright basketballer, so I decided to go to The Bower because it would have offered better training or whatever.

“So, I did my two years there until the Leaving Cert. Then I went to Boston for one year, to Worcester Academy, and I played with them. We actually won the championship there.”

Already, in the summer of her fifth year at secondary school, she had played with the Rhode Island Breakers in the All American Women’s Tournament and following her Leaving Cert. she was accepted to the renowned private college of Worcester Academy in Boston, Massachusetts.

In Worcester, she played at senior high school level and was to the fore, as noted, in leading an undefeated Worcester to the championship. “From there, I went to Dowling College in Long Island, New York, where I studied sports management,” continues Coen, who was on an athletic scholarship at Dowling. “I was there for four years and I loved it. Although it was basketball every day, I was captain during my senior year – my fourth year there [and fifth year in the States].”

The Tuam native – whose Claregalway cousin Hannah Coen also spent time on a basketball scholarship in the US – admits the whole experience opened up a new world to her and she is thankful to the support she got from both Coach Joe Pellicane and Assistant Coach Laura Mullaly, daughter of her former mentor in Athlone, Paddy.

“It was completely different. Basketball here compared to basketball over there is totally different. It is a lot faster and stronger over there. I got on alright, though. I had the height – I am over six foot – and I was one of the tallest on the team.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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

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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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