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Big chance for Connacht to finish the job

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Date Published: 18-Dec-2009

THE first time Connacht secured back-to-back victories against English opposition was way back in 1997 when the minnows from the west famously overcame the might of Northampton on the double and went on to top their pool and secure a European Challenge Cup quarter final berth.

Although they have claimed notable English scalps on home soil since, last Saturday’s accomplished 26-21 victory over Worcester at Sixways was the province’s first on English territory in 12 years.

And this Friday night (7pm), the current Connacht squad have a chance of emulating that double achieved against Northampton all those years ago under the stewardship of Warren Gatland, when they face the Warriors in a crucial return leg – a home win against

Guinness premiership outfit will almost certainly put paid to Worcester’s chances of advancing to the next stage while it will keep clear daylight between Connacht and Montpellier in pool 2.

Portumna’s John Muldoon remembers Tuesday September 9, 1997 vividly, as he was among the crowd at the Sportsground who witnessed Connacht shock the club rugby ‘order’ of the Northern hemisphere by toppling Northampton 43-13.

Muldoon was only 15 and had to mitch school in Portumna with a couple of friends and get a bus into Galway to make the historic occasion (the tie was unusually rescheduled from the Saturday and held at 3pm on the Tuesday because of the funeral of Diana, princess of Wales).

The victory had a lasting impact, awakened his interest in rugby and spurred him on to pursue a career in the sport. Now, aged 27, Connacht Captain Muldoon is looking forward to leading his side out onto the pitch at the Sportsground, where he hopes to steer his men to another notable success, and ever closer to that coveted quarter-final place.

With three wins out of three, including two massive away victories against Worcester and Montpellier, under their belts, that quarter-final place is within touching distance – surely only a Connacht slip-up can unravel their European Cup hopes now?

“That’s 100% right; our destiny is in our own hands. Unless we make errors and become complacent, our destiny is in our hands and the carrot of a quarter-final is there at the end of the road. It would be a huge thing for Connacht Rugby and supporters to have a big day out in April to look forward to with a good French side or a premiership side coming to the Sportsground for a quarterfinal.

We know what we have to do,” says Muldoon, who earned his first senior international cap against Canada in May.

Of course beating Worcester won’t nail down that quarter final place, but with a home match against Montpellier and an away tie against Madrid to look forward to, it will put Connacht odds on favourites to qualify top of their group, with an 80% chance of securing a home quarter-final.

And on last Saturday’s evidence, Connacht are more than capable of beating what looks likely to be a second-string, experimental Worcester outfit – Warrior’s Director of Rugby Mike Ruddock has one eye on a crucial Guinness premiership tie against Northampton next weekend, and said he will rotate his squad for this return leg in Galway.

But far from being pushovers, Muldoon feels a Worcester side with the shackles off, probably poses more of an attacking threat. “In a way, we won’t change our approach to the match at all. Worcester say they are going to rotate the squad and so they will change their game plan.

“They kick an awful lot of ball high into the air, which isn’t the most attractive style but it’s effective. But on Friday night I think they won’t kick as much and will probably run at us and they’ll be more threatening. They have strength in depth, and they will probably play a few young lads and we won’t know their names but they won’t be afraid to run with the ball, and they will be threatening. We won’t be taking them lightly.”

For more preview of the match see page 52 of the City Tribune or page 56 of the 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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Archive News

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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