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Connacht blow a big chance

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Date Published: 28-Dec-2012

 IT feels a lot more like Christmas when Connacht are battling in the rain against Munster at a sold out Sportsground. This is Christmas rugby as we know it and, all too often, it ends in frustration for the westerners.

Saturday was no different. Rob Penney’s coaching philosophy hasn’t altered Munster’s innate sense of superiority in this fixture. They came without a handful of key men but with capable replacements and they conquered in defiant fashion, doing just enough to get over the line without ever looking invincible. That’s their style.

A 13-6 half time lead came thanks to a controversial penalty try decision just before half time when Connacht were down to 14 men. The lead was stretched to ten early in the second half before Eric Elwood’s men gradually came back into the contest in the final half hour, pulling within four and coming very close to winning, but the visitors escaped with yet another victory in this fixture.

Connacht have one hell of a poor record when it comes to meetings with Munster. In fact no two sides in the league have a more lopsided head-to-head record over the duration of the competition. The home games are where most of the hard luck stories preside, however, and this is another to add to the scrap heap.

One win in ten league encounters in the west, with the last four at the Sportsground seeing a margin of just four points each time. This one was somewhat different but it might be hard to convince the masses of that as supporters will have had a ‘same old story’ feeling as they walked away from the sodden College Road venue.

The game can neatly be boiled down to three key moments, starting with Fetu Vainikolo’s break and Ian Keatly’s heroic pursuit and tackle, followed by Munster’s highly controversial penalty try, before George Naoupu’s try opportunity that had the television match official straining to see if he had got downward pressure as he slid over the end line.

The first half break for the Tongan winger was the loudest moment of the night for the home side as the Tongan winger scooped up a dropped pass from Luke O’Dea, rounded the cover with his trademark step and was away.

Keatley had a slight angle on him in the race to the corner but still had no right to make up the ground and save the day. It was a huge moment for the former Connacht ten. Vainikolo, has footwork and acceleration to burn, but out and out pace when in the clear was what got slightly exposed here.

That came when the game was very much in the balance and a score then could have been pivotal. As it was, the game’s key score came just before the break. Jason Harris Wright was sin-binned for Connacht with four minutes left in the first half. The hooker failed to roll away and it was Connacht’s 10th penalty of a torrid first half hour discipline wise.

Munster opted for the scrum five metres from the Connacht line and that’s where Phillips had a key role in the outcome of the contest. On the very first put in, he awarded them a penalty try after the scrum half set and moved six paces infield after the front rows engaged. Quick calls on penalty tries do seem to be part of a new directive but this was perplexing and infuriating for the

home players and supporters.

Decreeing that a try was almost certainly going to be scored at that moment seemed harsh in the extreme and while the seven man home scrum was likely to struggle, the signs were far from clear from that one incident. A vital call all the same which added to a sense of injustice in a half where one or two other key decisions rankled.

For a fine example, take a lineout and maul from the first quarter when Connacht seemed to be on a charge to the Munster line only to be harshly hauled back by referee Phillips on the ‘use it or lose it’ clause.

By the 42nd minute, the margin was ten points, the early second half penalty had come directly as a result of canny and typically tenacious play from Peter Stringer, who had put huge pressure on his young up and coming opponent at the base of an early ruck by spotting the ball was out before Kieran Marmion knew himself. The confusion led to the concession of a key three points.

Connacht fought back with a Parks penalty before the out half dinked a short 22 drop out into the hands of Eoin McKeon for the number 8 to charge up the field in a breakout that led to a Parks’ drop goal which closed the gap to just four points.

That set up a nail bitting finish and with less than ten minutes remaining Connacht came as close as they could imagine to winning it when replacement Eoin Griffin saw a chance to turn the Munster defence in their 22 and grubber kicked to the corner. It seemed perfectly judged with Naoupu sliding in to score.

Yet the TMO showed that the Connacht second row hadn’t got downward pressure. If you want a snapshot that sums up why Munster, as a collective, just seem to own this fixture, you can see it in the fact that they had all lined up for the 22 drop out long before the decision was made to rule out the try. All part of the psychological warfare.

Pound for pound, man for man, home supporters would have felt their team match up well with their illustrious neighbours coming in. More than well, in fact only a third of the visiting line up would arguably make the Connacht XV in a straw poll, but that’s what makes this game great. The sum of parts and all that. Once again, Munster’s x-factor came to the fore and decided this fixture.

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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