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Connacht are coming good at the right time

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Date Published: {J}

THE irony of it all can’t be lost on Michael Bradley. Seven seasons he has been at the Sportsground and now when the former Irish international scrum half is about to leave Connacht, the team is playing the best rugby of his protracted tenure. The Cork native would be entitled to a wry smile in the circumstances, but he must also take immense satisfaction from the squad’s progression over the past couple of months in particular.

Bradley has been a loyal and dedicated servant to Connacht rugby and though his tactics and team selections occasionally came under scrutiny, he had immersed himself in developing a potent rugby force out West and given the province’s recent rollicking displays, he could be set to depart on an incredible high. Suddenly, previously elusive qualification for the Heineken Cup is no longer a pipedream.

Sure, they are still propping up the Magners League table, but the gap between Connacht and the other teams is now nearly as yawning as in previous seasons. They are now only four points behind struggling Ulster with four rounds of the competition remaining and have far more momentum than their counterparts up North. John Muldoon and company still have work to do, but the chance is there.

 

Connacht, of course, can also secure qualification for the Heineken Cup through the European route. This Saturday at the Sportsground, they take on Bourgoin in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final and should Bradley and his already appointed successor, Eriu Elwood, manage to guide them to victory, they will also have the considerable advantage of a home semi-final draw. Naturally, it’s a big ask for Connacht to go all the way, but their current body language and performances suggests that they are afraid of nothing these days.

Having beaten Leinster everywhere bar on the scoreboard at the RDS the previous weekend, it was heartening to see Connacht edge another tight encounter against title-chasing Edinburgh at the Sportsground on Friday night. Initially, it appeared that the men in green had the capacity to rout the Scots when they stormed into a thoroughly deserved 11-0 lead after just 13 minutes. Ian Keatley landed a penalty and also converted a well executed try from Brian Tuohy.

Though still controlling possession, Connacht were unable to add to their early haul before being caught napping for two Edinburgh tries from Tim Visser and hooker Andrew Kelly, both of which were converted by Phil Goodman. Trailing by 11-14 at the break, Connacht were entitled to feel sorry for themselves, but the regained the initiative in the third quarter thanks largely to a Keatley intercept try. With 54 minutes gone on the clock, they had fought back to lead 19-14 only to again fall behind. This time Roddy Grant’s converted try did the damage.

In the past, Connacht would not have either the belief or the capacity to pull the game out of the fire in similar circumstances, but they weren’t found wanting on Friday night and replacement out half Miah Nikora emerged as the hero of the hour with a thumping penalty from just outside the Edinburgh 10-metre line. The result extended Connacht’s unbeaten run on College Road to six matches and must leave them in perfect heart to face up to their French visitors on Saturday, despite the ungodly starting time of 1pm.

Bourgoin, however, still present a formidable challenge for Connacht to overcome. Remember, they only lost out to Northampton in last year’s showdown having achieved a tremendous away victory (32-30) over London Irish in the semi-final. Now freed from relegation worries in their own Top 14 domestic league, Bourgoin will not be lacking intent and possess a quality out half in Benjamin Boyet. They are a big strong physical outfit and certainly won’t fear their hosts.

The indications are that Saturday’s semi-final will be a sell out – that’s the least Connacht deserve – and the manner in which Fionn Carr and his team-mates have been upping the ante in recent matches, they are well capable of qualifying for the province’s first European semi-final since 2004. Though Elwood and the squad have only been awarded one-year rolling contracts amid further IRFU murmurings about cost-cutting, they have the high morale ground at present and, hopefully, that state of affairs will continue for what yet could yet prove a landmark season for rugby in the West.

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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Olive helps people deal with cancer diagnosis

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

None of us wants to get cancer and nor do we want to see anybody we love suffer from it either. However, the fact is that one in every three of us will be diagnosed with the illness at some time in our lives. About 30,000 people a year get cancer in Ireland, but according to Olive Gallagher from the Irish Cancer Society, mostly it’s not serious and can be treated.

For anyone who has to deal with cancer, it’d be a blessing to have Olive on your side. She is the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Nurse at UHG, who supports and advises people who have been diagnosed with the illness and also supports their families.

It’s a role the former Oncology Sister sees as hugely important in patients’ lives.

The Daffodil Centre opened in 2009 at University Hospital Galway. The first in the Ireland, it is now one of seven countrywide. Olive has been at UHG Centre for the past 15 months. Before that she worked in oncology wards in St Luke’s in Dublin and in the Galway Clinic.

Olive describes the Daffodil Nurse’s role as bringing information to people at the point of diagnosis and treatment.

“It’s here and it’s free and you don’t need an appointment,” she says from her tiny office on the ground floor of the hospital.

“I don’t know what’s going to come in the door any day. It could be the patient, or it could be brothers, sisters, a parent or a child, looking for practical or emotional support.”

Her role is to help them, whatever is required.

“It’s very practical information sometimes, such as ‘what can I expect from chemo?’ because having knowledge takes a lot of the fear out of it. And it’s also saying to people ‘you are not alone’. When a person goes into a [cancer] clinic and gets information from a doctor or nurse there is only so much you can retain. For instance, a woman with a diagnosis is trying to protect her husband and her kids, so this is somewhere she can come to and acknowledge her fears and get psychological support.

“And if we don’t know the answer to something someone asks us, we’ll find out.”

People are sent to her by nurses or doctors and also hear about the service via word of mouth.

Olive doesn’t have access to patients’ case notes or have any information about them, except what a person chooses to tell her. She’s just there to help.

“When people need help to navigate their way through the system, it’s there. Sometimes it’s about helping them to verbalise questions for the doctor – to give them the language to discuss their illness, or to break down the language for them.”

She also helps with information on diet and complementary therapies, and says that “coming here is about people having a bit of control. Decisions are being made for them in the system and this is about giving them back a bit of power”.

Basically, it’s about patients having somebody there for them and also for family members who might want a coffee and a chat.

“Not to feel on your own is what a lot of it is about. If there is good news, great. But we are also there for the bad news and to support people. For me oncology nursing was always about the person and what you could do to make their journey easier. Sometimes it’s about holding a hand or sitting with somebody.

“We are there when people need us. And everybody’s needs are different. Some people want loads of information about what’s happening to their bodies and others want the bare minimum. Neither is right nor wrong.”

Some people can be angry and just want to vent, which is OK too.

“It’s about being where they are in their journey, giving them a safe place, where they can let stuff out in a confidential environment.”

 

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Jazz, folk and rock-inspired Syd Arthur set to hit the road

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Combining jazz, folk and rock influences, Syd Arthur play Róisín Dubh on Thursday, February 14. The Canterbury-based band are Liam Magill (vocals/guitar), Raven Bush (violin), Fred Rother (drums) and Joel Magill (bass). As he prepares to hit the road with the band, Joel recalls how they met.

“Me and Liam are brothers, so obviously we’ve known each other for a while,” he laughs. “We met Fred, our drummer, at school and started jamming together. Then we met Raven a bit later on, when I was 19 or 20. It went from there, basically.”

Some parents may be wary about their children going the rock ‘n’ route, but Joel and his friends met no such obstacles.

“We were always interested in it, and encouraged at school and by family,” he says. “Later on, the discovery of the Canterbury sound had a big influence on us.”

The ‘Canterbury sound’ refers to a scene that emerged in the late Sixties and early Seventies, spearheaded by groups with a taste for avant-garde and progressive rock music.

 

“I would always think of The Soft Machine and Caravan, and Hatfield and the North,” says Joel. “They’d be the big ones for us.”

In a previous incarnation, Joel and his bandmates went under the moniker of Grumpy Jumper. Why did they change their name?

“That was a long time ago, before Raven was in the band,” Joel explains. We were just playing locally and we made a CD under that name. When Raven joined, we felt like it was a new thing, so time to move on.”

Their new name comes from Siddhartha, a Buddhism-inspired novel written by Hermann Hesse.

“We all discovered that book around the same time,” says Joel. “It went round the whole band at the time we were trying to come up with a new name. We took a little bit of a play on it, made it a bit English. We used to pronounce the name of the book ‘Syd Arthur’.”

Last year, Syd Arthur released their debut album On And On, which was recorded in their own studio in Canterbury. Having their own space allowed the quartet to become familiar with recording, producing and mixing their music.

“Three or four years ago we got access to this space from Raven’s family,” says Joel. “It was an old dilapidated building that was on their property. We were often underwhelmed by going into the studio, spending a lot of money and generally not coming out with anything as good as one would hope.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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