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Below par Portumna come unstuck in Croke Park

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Date Published: {J}

IT couldn’t last forever, but the Portumna hurlers will be bitterly disappointed that their long unbeaten championship run unceremoniously ground to a halt at Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day. Given the manner in which the final evolved, the reigning champions can have no complaints with the result, but it will torment players and mentors alike that they were significantly below their best.

Amid some pre-match concerns that Portumna were trying too hard to cover all the bases in terms of physical training and challenge outings, they certainly weren’t as vibrant or as industrious as we have come to expect from such a battle-hardened outfit. It didn’t help, of course, that Ballyhale had a big cause in trying to atone for last year’s semi-final eclipse and the Kilkenny men were clearly the hungrier side.

Nobody could have envisaged, however, that Portumna would only have two points on the board eight minutes from the interval. Having become used to their early scoring blitzes, this sluggish start was unexpected as Ballyhale dictated the exchanges with TJ Reid quick to make an impact in the half-forward line. Johnny Kelly’s men were on the back-foot and being hounded when in possession. To make matters worse, several key players never got to the pitch of the game.

 

Their 0-11 0-5 interval deficit was far from irretrievable, but this was new territory for the Portumna players who are not used to having to come from behind. They improved significantly on the resumption and with Joe Canning a towering presence up front, they were gradually dragging themselves back into the contest when goalkeeper Ivan Canning committed an unforced error which presented the only green flag of the game to David Hoyne in the 46th minute.

It was a goal out of nothing and the concession of it must have sickened Portumna. Typically, they never threw in the towel, but it was always going to be an uphill battle from there to the finish. Ballyhale were simply slicker, more driven and hungrier on the day with the Reid brothers, Eoin and TJ, Henry Shefflin, and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick picking off the vital points which were always keeping the champions at bay.

Portumna have been a long time on the go and, on the law of averages alone, they were due to come unstuck sooner rather than later, but last Wednesday week in Croke Park was the last occasion they would have chosen for it to happen, especially standing on the brink of hurling history. They owe apologies to no-one, however, as this group of players have been magnificent ambassadors for Galway.

We all knew that Ballyhale were longing for another crack at Portumna and they certainly walked the walk on St. Patrick’s Day. They were up for the match big time and their early avalanche of points must have been soul destroying for the Portumna supporters. They got the perfect start and were in no mood to surrender the initiative with corner back Alan Cuddihy typifying their defensive tenacity.

Overall, the Shamrocks had an urgency about them which Portumna struggled to match. With Shefflin calling most of the organisational shots from the forty, they had prepared well tactically and rarely gave the opposition’s attack the room it needs to thrive on. They were nearly always forcing the pace but, more importantly, ensured that Portumna were rarely allowed to build up their normal momentum.

It will take Leo Smith and his team-mates a while to come to terms with their first championship defeat since the county final of 2006 and given the levels of professionalism, ambition and commitment in their ranks, they are probably still in a state of shock over coming to grief in the All-Ireland final. Like all great teams, Portumna don’t like being beaten but, one thing is for sure … they will be back.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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