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City club making all the right moves



Date Published: 18-Sep-2009

For many of us, the idea of spending an hour and a half in front of a chess board seems like a less than appealing prospect. Probably due to a lack of understanding of the game, we shudder at the thought of figuring out which move to make and which ‘pawn’ to play.
However, the members of the Galway Chess Club have a far more positive attitude to the game, which in recent years has seen them set up a chess tournament in the city, giving the public a chance to win one of many prizes totalling €4,000.
“It started off very small,” says Ronan Duke, chairman of the Galway Chess Club, who set up the annual chess tournament with friend Pat Croke eight years ago.
“The first year we ran it in the Galway Bridge Centre and we were expecting it to be all quiet and serious. Upstairs there was a gospel choir though so there was little chance of that.”
The tournament has changed in the eight years since, however, with its peak coming in 2005. A prize fund of €10,000 was on offer then thanks to sponsorship from computer manufacturer Hewlett Packard, but, just like many of the big events taking place around the city this year, the recession has taken its toll on the tournament, with the Chess club now without a sponsor.
“In previous years we had invited the top players and coaches to the tournament,” says Mr Duke. “They’d be happy if we just paid for their flights on Ryanair and their accommodation.
“Even €500 would make a difference, but unfortunately we don’t even have that to spend.”
Despite this setback, the Galway Chess tournament is still a fledgling one. According to Mr Duke it is the third biggest chess competition in the country, and is expected to attract players from as far as the UK and Slovakia.
The Chess Club itself currently has 35 members, but the spread of the game among young people in other areas in Galway has seen it grow in popularity. “Around Galway it’s very strong underage. There are seven or eight kids from the county in the Irish team. There are also about 60 kids in Briarhill and 60 in Ballinasloe playing chess, and an awful lot of coaching going on.”
While the tournament may be for big cash prizes, it is open to chess players of all abilities. The competition is divided into three categories and players are put into a category dependent on how many ‘ratings’ they have earned due to winning previous games. Beginners enter the Minor section of the tournament, while intermediate players are entered into the Major section and the professionals enter the Masters section.
However, Mr Duke admits that most players in the tournament would be of the lesser ability. “The average standard is very much like a pyramid. A bit like any kind of club, most members would be of a lower standard.”
Despite this, the tournament has seen national success come to Galway chess players. Recently, NUI Galway student Yury Rochev won last year’s tournament, while the six-member Galway chess team finished third in the national championships, narrowly missing out on a place in the main European chess tournament, referred to by Mr Duke as the “Champions League” of chess.
With these successes in mind, no doubt much will be expected of this year’s tournament. The competition is scheduled to take place from Friday, October 9, to Sunday, October 11, and whoever makes it to the final stages will have gone through a marathon weekend of chess.
Playing begins for all tournament entrants in the Salthill Hotel at 8pm on Friday, with the games resuming at 10am the following morning and running, with breaks, until 9pm that night. The playing continues on Sunday until winner is announced at around 5.30pm.
Even though the schedule seems gruelling, Mr Duke says it’s all treated as fun by many of the participants.”Most of the guys that come down from Dublin are there mainly for the beer. It’s a bit of a circuit for them.
“In the middle of nowhere they can go and play chess and enjoy themselves for a weekend,” he adds.
Entry fees for the tournament range from €45 for an adult to €35 for those under 16 years of age. But if playing isn’t for you, Mr Duke says that anyone is happy to come to view the games. “The time limit for each game is 90 minutes, so near the end it does get exciting,” he says. “With three or four minutes to go, each guy takes five or six seconds per move.”
Further information on the Galway chess tournament and the chess club, including details on signing up for the competition, can be found on

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

BallinasloeÕs young squad aiming to floor Armagh junior champs



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

A new chapter in the history of Ballinasloe football will be written at Breffni Park, Cavan, on Sunday when Sean Riddell’s young side take on Ulster champions An Port Mor of Armagh in the All-Ireland Junior semi-final (2pm).

It’s the first competitive game outside the province of Connacht in 33 years for Galway football’s ‘sleeping giant’ with the enticing prospect of an appearance at Croke Park on February 9 on offer for the winners of what should be a competitive tie.

Ballinasloe have romped through Connacht since overcoming a couple of tricky hurdles on their way to collecting the Galway junior title, which was their target for the campaign this time last year.

With a return to Intermediate football secured, Riddell’s youngsters really have nothing to lose – while their triumphant march to county and provincial titles has revived memories of the club’s glory days when they contested three Galway senior finals in a row between 1979 and ’81.

Intriguingly, the seniors of St Grellan’s never got to play in Croke Park when they reached the All-Ireland final back in 1980 – they lost by 3-9 to 0-8 to St Finbarr’s of Cork in Tipperary Town.

This team’s progression has provided rich rewards for an abundance of hard work at underage levels in the past ten to 15 years and the current side’s ‘do or die’ attitude was very much in evidence in the cliffhanger wins over Tuam and Clifden in the domestic championship.


They are a well-balanced side who really never know when they are beaten and have an inspirational leader in county panelist Keith Kelly, whose exploits at centre back have been among the key components in their dramatic run to reach the All-Ireland series.

Riddell, who recalls playing senior football with the club during their heyday, is determined to get Ballinasloe back among the county’s leading clubs but, for the moment, he is delighted just to have a shot at getting to Croke Park in a bid to emulate Clonbur’s achievement in winning the title outright last year.

Riddell went to Newry on a ‘spying mission’ to see the Armagh champions overcome Brackaville of Tyrone by 2-9 to 0-11 in November – and was impressed by the quality of the football produced by An Port Mor in the Ulster final.

“They are a nicely balanced side who play good football,” he said. “There was a bit of the physical stuff you’d expect from two Ulster side, but I was impressed by their performance.”

An Port Mor became the first Armagh side to win the provincial junior decider. First half goals from Shane Nugent and Christopher Lennon sent them on the road to victory, before a red card for Brackaville captain Cahir McGuinness eased their progress to the All-Ireland series.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Coalition promised an ocean of reform Ð but the wind has gone out of its sails



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013


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