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Aintree veteran Black Apalachi back for one last crack at National



Date Published: 12-Apr-2012

 JUST two horses in the last 25 years have carried more than 11st to victory in the Aintree Grand National.

Since the gruelling race was first run at Liverpool in 1829, only two 13-year-olds has come home first.

Only twice since 1980 has a 40/1 shot come up trumps in the most famous National Hunt race in the world.

The odds are stacked against Black Apalachi – a 13-year-old, carrying 11st 3lb, and priced in the ante-post market at 40/1.

His owner, Castlegar man Gerard Burke, knows he’s up against it but is upbeat about his chances in the famous handicap chase run over four and half miles and 30 fences.

“He’s in good form and all that’s against him is his age, but he has fairly low mileage on him even at 13,” he said.

And the weight, is that too prohibitive? “Ah sure every horse owner and trainer will cry about the weights, that’s part of it,” explained Burke.

Black Apalachi was gearing up for a tilt at the Aintree Grand National last year but in the months beforehand in a warm up race at Punchestown, Burke felt his horse ‘had a bit of heat’ and so he was ruled out for the rest of the season.

His ratings didn’t change since, however, and as a result must carry a hefty burden in Aintree. “For his age he should have got a few pounds off but look, that’s handicap racing, it’s all part of it,” said Burke.

One big plus for Black Apalachi, trained by the Curragh-based Dessie Hughes, is the going – it’s due to rain every day up to Saturday at Liverpool which should ensure soft enough ground, which he relishes. Another advantage is his experience. This is Black Apalachi’s fourth attempt at this marathon event. He was runner up to Don’t Push It in April, 2010, finishing five lengths second to Tony McCoy’s mount but a staggering 20 lengths clear of State of Play in third.

In 2008, he fell at the second fence on his debut trip to the Liverpool track, when he was sent off joint favourite; and in 2009, he was motoring along nicely, way out in front, when he unseated his rider Denis O’Regan at the famous Beecher’s Brook fence the second time round, with just about a mile left to race.

Despite these two incidents, Burke has no worries about Black Apalachi’s jumping ability. “I’ve no doubts at all about his jumping. He’s a natural jumper and he loves Aintree – his eyes light up there. There’s a bit of excitement and trumpets and that at the start that can be off-putting, but if he can get over the first two or three he should be fine.

“He’s a stayer, too. There’s no question that he’ll stay as long as his age doesn’t catch up with him. We just don’t know. He’ll stay out of trouble as well. He usually gets out in front and avoids the traffic so he only has the fences to worry about. Who knows?

There’s always that bit of hope that he might do it. He’s at 40/1 but he has a good following – he’s been around a long time and there’re a lot of grannies who put a few Euro on him! I think they pay for a sixth place now so he’s ideal for an each way.”

Burke won’t decide until this November if Black Apalachi has the appetite for another season but on the law of averages, at 13, this could be his last season – and this race could be his ‘last hurray’, for a horse that provided memorable wins, including the big Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown in 2005, the 2008 Becher Chase at Cheltenham and the 2009 Grade 2 Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.

“He’s been a great servant and hopefully he’ll go out in style. You just never know; I’d like him to come back safe first of all and then you never know. That’s the beauty of racing, every time you put a bridal on a young filly you think this could be the one but so many of them end up making a fool of you!

That’s what it’s all about but we’ve had great days with Black Apalachi and we hope he can go out in style,” added Burke.

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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