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Burke leads Ôband of brothersÕ



Date Published: 14-Nov-2012


NOT since the legendary Sarsfields team of the 1990s has a club as small as St Thomas’ been top dogs in Galway hurling and the perception that they are a small ‘band of brothers’ is enhanced by the fact that team manager John Burke has six sons on the team who are aiming to deliver a first county senior title to the club on Sunday.

For the Cooneys and McGraths from New Inn, substitute the Burkes, Murrays, Skehills, Kellys and, indeed, Cooneys on the youthful St Thomas’ side who are aiming to make club history at Pearse Stadium. They represent barely 200 houses in Kilchreest and Peterswell, and the team is backboned by a handful of families.

John Burke has managed the team for half a decade, but he knew there was potential there as far back as 2002 when he was selector on the team who beat Carnmore in the U-12 final. That group of players reached the last two U-21 finals and make up the majority of this year’s senior side.

“We are aiming for this for a number of years. We saw the potential in these fellas even then. I remember I was a selector that day in 2002 with Mark Fahy and Kevin Cunningham. We said that this group of players would go places if they stuck together.

“They progressed up along after that. They went to U-14, won the U-16, won the minor and the U-21. They have stuck together as a group. Very few of them have left. A few have, between work and different things. But most have stuck to the hurling. They are all great friends.”

Perhaps this county final has come a little early for such a young side. But, as he surveyed a training session under temporary floodlights at Castledaly last week, Burke made it clear that they were a very happy group, bonded as much by a love of the game as blood ties or the sense of togetherness that comes from neighbours living in a small rural area.

“It’s probably the fact that we are an awful small parish,” said Burke. “It’s a very close-knit community, the hurling community here. That’s basically what we do. We hurl. There’s nothing else. They love their hurling. We stress that to every age group up along. You have to enjoy it. If it is a chore to come to the pitch for training, there is no point in coming then.”

Burke hurled himself until he was well into his 40s. With so many of his own young lads joining the underage ranks, it was almost inevitable he would take up a coaching role. He has made life-long friends from rival clubs through a mutual love of hurling and could hardly imagine life without the game.

With six sons involved in the senior panel – David, Darragh, Cathal, Kenneth, Sean, and Eanna – it is very much a family affair, but he treats every member of the panel equally and selectors Jimmy Kelly (Kilchreest) and Justin Flannery (Peterswell) work hard with Burke to ensure they have a happy camp.

“The lads on the panel are all equal to me, every man that’s out there. It’s all about who is working hardest all the time. We have a great panel. We stress that the last couple of years, it’s the young lads coming through who are probably making our team now. They are pushing it a little more for us, which is awful important. You won’t win any game with 15 players,” he said.

“We have a few other fellas there who are ready to go if we need them. On any given day, a lad could get hurt or injured. You have to be able to get the players in if we need them. I wouldn’t be worried about five or six of the subs if we had to use them. And the bit of experience of the likes of Enda Tannian and Richie Murray is very important. You need to have a few wise heads with the bit of experience all the time.”


For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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