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Connacht bow out but they have a team now

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

THE Heineken Cup may have tantalisingly remained out of Connacht’s reach for another season, but the province has finally assembled a quality squad with which they can go to war with next autumn. Of course, it will be no consolation to the Connacht players in the wake of last Friday’s epic effort against Toulon, but when the wounds heal and the disappointment fades, they will start to appreciate that rugby in the West has never been in a better place.

It’s a fitting legacy for Michael Bradley to leave after over six arduous seasons as Connacht coach. There were many bad days and some terrible thrashings along the way, but the former Irish scrum half never complained or bemoaned his sporting station in life. He remained utterly dedicated to the Connacht cause and the province owes him a massive debt of gratitude.

Bradley hands over a team with no little prospects to Eric Elwood.

Having been one of the 7,000 supporters who thronged the Sportsground for last Friday’s Amlin Cup semi-final, it was an evening to savour. The electric atmosphere spoke volumes for the manner in which the local sporting community have rallied behind the team and, boy, did they get a performance worthy of the occasion. To a man, Connacht died with their boots on with captain John Muldoon setting the tone in the opening moments.

In terms of the rival squads’ budgets, this should have been a no contest, but Connacht refused to be daunted by the huge challenge ahead of them. They fronted up spectacularly to their classy French visitors with Michael Swift, Sean Cronin and Johnny O’Connor repeatedly laying their bodies on the line in the high intensity exchanges. Behind them, Ian Keatley was deadly accurate with his place kicking as Connacht remained extremely competitive for the entire 80 plus minutes of action.

The spectacular fielding of Gavin Duffy at full back was inspirational and as the match drifted to half-time, Connacht were only three points behind despite Toulon having the benefit of the elements. Unfortunately, the match officials missed what appeared to be a blatant knock on in the build up to what eventually amounted to ten minutes of added time. That period was monopolised by repeated Toulon five-yard scrums which led to the home team being penalised on numerous occasions.

The Connacht scrum was starting to wilt and tighthead Jamie Hagen, already officially warned, was replaced by Robbie Morris. Had they held out, the odds would have favoured the home team going on to achieve the province’s greatest ever victory, but Toulon remained patient and, eventually, they broke through for the only try of the evening thanks to centre Mali Kufu. It was a sickening time to concede, but Connacht didn’t let their heads drop.

Roared on by their fanatical supporters, they went on to carry the battle to Toulon on the resumption. Now, it was Connacht who were dominating territory and possession. They came close on a couple of occasions to breeching their opponents line, notably through Cronin, and Toulon were desperately hanging on, but that vital try remained elusive. In the end, only seven points separated them from the rising force of European rugby.

To a man, Connacht can feel justifiably proud of a Trojan effort. Naturally, they will be bitterly disappointed at the result, especially with both Munster and Leinster also coming to grief over the weekend – a scenario which eliminated the province’s last chance of securing Heineken Cup rugby next season. Muldoon and his team-mates deserved a better fate than that, but they have now laid a strong platform for next season.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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A battle of talent and the ability to pull in public votes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 11-Mar-2013

Here is a question. And there is no holiday or grand prize for getting the answer. But can anyone name the people who have won The Voice of Ireland and what has become of them?

Over across the water in the UK they have The X Factor and while I hate the concept of it, it has produced a few stars even though they don’t last long in the whole scheme of things.

But The Voice of Ireland seems to generate false excitement with the winner ending up become more anonymous than they already were. And it is costing families a fortune in the process.

While the programme is a ratings winner, strangely, it has resulted in those getting through to the final stages investing huge amounts of money in the hope that they will receive enough votes to get through to the next stages.

So, suddenly, it is not about the voice or the talent involved, it is all about votes and who the participants can convince to pledge their support for them. So it is obvious that talent goes out the window.

It means that someone with half a talent could realistically win the whole thing if they generated enough support behind them. From now on, the judges will be taken out of the equation and it will be left to the public to generate income for some phone operator.

Those who get through to the live performances have to engage in a massive publicity campaign in an effort to win votes which makes this whole effort a pure sham. It is no longer about their ability and just an effort to win appeal.

While the initial process does involve some vetting of the acts, now it becomes a general election type exercise in which the most popular will win the competition and the judges will have no say whatsoever.

It is a bit like the recent Eurosong in which the judging panel across the country voted for their favourite song, which incidentally was the best of a very bad lot, but then this was overturned by the public who chose a relatively crap song to represent us.

But again, this was all down to convincing the public about who to vote for rather than having any bearing on the quality on offer. There are times that genuine talent becomes overlooked because of the need to extract money from the voting public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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