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All National School players must be catered for

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

COUNTY Galway Cumann na mBunscol Secretary Pat Kelly believes increasing levels of participation in Gaelic games and athletics among national school pupils, along with fostering respect among players towards referees and others, should be the primary objectives of the organisation heading into the future.


Since its foundation in 1928, Cumann na mBunscol has provided countless hours of fun and enjoyment for national school children the length and breadth of the country. In many respects, the organisation has been the lifeblood of the GAA, nurturing a great love of Gaelic games among the masses.

That said, even an organisation such as Cumann na mBunscol faces on-going challenges, particularly at local level. Despite providing a comprehensive programme of games annually, be it through the INTO Mini Sevens or the various school championships, Kelly insists more can be done to entice – and more importantly keep – young people involved in sport.

He cites his own school, Craughwell NS, as an example. Boasting of 280 pupils, he notes that out of, say, 140 boys, only 13 to 18 can line out in the hurling or football championships each year. “What about the rest?” asks the school principal.

He says that other codes, such as soccer and rugby, seem to place their emphasis on participation rather than competition, and while there is still a place for competitions, he believes getting greater numbers out on the playing fields has to become the priority. “We tend to look at these competitions from an adult perspective, not a child’s, who simply just want to play.”

Kelly highlights the avid opposition to the dismantling of U-12 county championship by GAA headquarters as one example. While recognising the value of the competition, he says the reason clubs have opposed the move is because the GAA are selling the ‘Go Games’ format as “non competitive”.

However, he adds: “I have never seen two kids playing with a ball who weren’t competitive. Again, it is the adult perspective against the child perspective. I would look at something like the ‘Go Games’ as creating greater levels of participation by more children, and we need that.

“When I see the players who we have lost on the way up, in our own club and other clubs, it is disappointing. Some of these guys fell away because they were a bit overweight or just couldn’t wield the hurl at the time. It is amazing though to see them in their later teens and they are already washed up as hurlers. It is a travesty that it is happening.”

The Craughwell native – who has played key roles in the promotion of hurling and camogie in the area over the years – says that has direct consequences for clubs’ senior teams, in that they are narrowing their player base considerably, simply by cultivating just the talented players at U-12 and U-14.

He says there is a mentality that if a player excels at U-14, he will do so at senior. In contrast, if a child does not make an impact at U-12 or U-14, clubs have the tendency – unintentionally – to marginalise these players.

“As a result, once they are picked for U-14, it is seen that these are the guys who will be picked up along the grades. The other lads then don’t bother and they go to play other sports. And we are losing those guys. What people don’t realise is that those U-14 players were the best players at ‘that’ time. I believe we are losing a huge volume of potential.”

Cumann na mBunscol, itself, is endeavouring to change this mindset. Kelly explains: “We are moving towards a situation where more children will participate than before. They will play a number of games where you have, say, 10-a -side, playing four quarters, and all the children that want to play will be allowed to play for two quarters. That is what we are heading towards, and we have to do that so more and more children play hurling, football, camogie and girls football.”

Another tool Cumann na mBunscol is using to promote participation is modifying the rules to ensure all players are involved in the games. “Already we have one hop, one solo in football and I can see the day where we will also have lift and strike in hurling.

“The reason we are doing that is to have more participation – that smaller players aren’t dominated by the one big player. Everybody agrees that is good – the one hop, one solo – because it takes the big player out of the game. It also ensures we can actually get more children on the field playing our games in some sort of a meaningful way.”

For more, read page 54 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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