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Coach John dreams of Olympics – and another Francie

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Date Published: 07-Jan-2011

If the enthusiasm of Olympic Boxing Club coach John Mongan is anything to go by, then it will not be long before Galway produces another worldclass fighter.

It is easy to remember those heady days of 1996, when Galway’s Francie Barrett flew the flag proudly for Ireland at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. While a boxer of equal talent has failed to emerge from Corribside in the interim, Mongan believes a number of his fighters are on the cusp of similar glory.

And Mongan should know. Tutored in his early days by the great Michael ‘Chick’ Gillen – who also coached Barrett to a senior title – Mongan took over the coaching duties from the legendary trainer at the Westside, Galway, gym just over 12 years ago, with much success.

The Belclare native admits, though, he has had big shoes to fill. Gillen, a former Connacht champion and Irish light welterweight, founded the Holy Family BC in the 1960s before setting up Olympic BC in 1988. Gillen really sprung to prominence then when he trained Barrett, who was the first Traveller to reach the Olympics. Indeed, in his time, Gillen trained over 50 national champions, both junior and senior.

“I boxed with Chick Gillen in the early ’80s and then I took over from Chick about 12 years ago as a head coach,” says Mongan.

“He was a great mentor and I learned a lot from Chick. To be honest, there was probably a lot more I could have learned from him, but I still learned a lot from Chick, from his stories and his experiences. He is a great boxing man.”

One of the key characteristics Mongan did identify from Chick in becoming a good coach was the importance of being able to handle a fighter as well as train him. “That is No. 1,” agrees Mongan. “Plus, you have to get to know your boxer. You have to have a great relationship. A boxer will tell you a lot of stuff that he might feel he cannot tell his parents, one to one.

“It’s like being a priest in the confessional box. It will go no further than that. I will know from a lad when he is boxing if there is something wrong or he is down. I will pull him aside and say ‘there is something wrong – what’s wrong? – talk to me’. And they will open up to me,” continues the father-of-seven. “So, I would be a friend, a mentor and a father figure to a lot of them.”

It may have taken some time, but this ‘hands on’ approach has begun to pay handsome dividends, with the club producing over 30 Irish champions at various grades in recent times. To the fore have been Patrick Corcoran, a two-time U-21 heavyweight champion (’08 & ’09), and Brian Brosnan, another U-21 and intermediate champion, who has also excelled in the discipline of kickboxing, winning a European middleweight title in November, 2008. They will certainly be ones to watch in the up and coming senior boxing championships, as will Patrick J Ward after he was crowned both national U-21 and intermediate champion at light middleweight in 2010.

Suffice to say, the club is in a very healthy position at the moment, underlined when Olympic BC secured no fewer than 15 Connacht boys and youth boxing championships in March of last year. It was the most successful haul by any club in the province, with its young competitors – Frankie Cleary, his cousin James, Bernie McDonagh, Dylan Ward, Martin Delaney, Oisin O’Mahoney, Jamie Mongan, Jonathan Ward, Conor Murphy, Tom McDonagh, John Donovan, Brian Ward, Chris Sherlock and Willie Barrett – excelling at the championship.

For more of this interview see page 39 of this week’s Tribunes.

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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