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Connacht CEO Sears not prepared to suffer in silence

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Date Published: 19-Dec-2012

IRELAND has gradually become a country where political correctness, health and safety and a reluctance to speak one’s mind have become pervasive. Sure, the politicians can still knock strips off each under Dail privilege, but people tend not to court controversy even when they have right on the side. We now have a largely hyper-sensitive and over-principled population which tends to take umbrage at the slightest criticism.

Against that background, it was refreshing to see new Connacht CEO, Tom Sears, not holding back last week in his condemnation of Leinster after their successful swoop for the Western province’s star player this season, Mike McCarthy. It had been known for some time that the international second row was a big target for Leinster, but Connacht were in no mood to accommodate them.

In fact, Sears was already on record that the province was determined to hang onto McCarthy, whose terrific form in recent months was highlighted by a barnstorming performance in the Autumn Internationals against South Africa. The 31-year-old has been the stand out performer in the Connacht pack this season with his commitment and leadership making the Englishman a popular hit with the fans at the Sportsground.

Despite Connacht matching Leinster’s contract offer of reportedly €200,000 a year, the greater prospect of endorsements, sponsorship benefits, match bonuses and, admittedly, winning something has understandably tilted McCarthy’s head east and though few are finding fault with the player’s own decision, it must have led to some awkwardness on the training ground when his departure at the end of the current campaign was confirmed.

To their credit, Connacht have never been in better shape on the playing fields. Long gone are the days of the routine hammerings, with the emergence of home grown talent winning the hearts and minds of the increasing numbers who now regularly flock to the revamped College Road venue. But the province also needed to stand up and be counted off the field, and Sears is admirably meeting that challenge head on.

When McCarthy’s controversial move was confirmed, the Connacht CEO abandoned diplomatic channels in accusing Leinster of “persistently targeting Connacht players in recent years” and also questioned if Irish rugby would be the losers. Sears pointed to similar transfers involving Fionn Carr, Sean Cronin and Jamie Hagan in the past which hadn’t worked out to the desired level for the individuals concerned.

It also rankles the corridors of power in Connacht that these moves only seen to happen when the team itself is enjoying relative success. Sears, however, also struck a defiant note. “We won’t adopt a defeatist attitude and moan about the situation. We will continue to strive to prove to players that they can fulfil their potential with us and win trophies as Connacht players.” His stance typifies the new sense of rugby confidence and self-worth out West, and also flushed Leinster coach Joe Schmidt out into the open on the matter.

He denied that Leinster had acted improperly in their pursuit of McCarthy, but was clearly uncomfortable about having to defend the province’s reputation. He also insisted that they had only followed the protocols laid down by the IRFU in the transfer of players – a claim subsequently rebutted by Sears who said that the current protocols were not sufficient to serve Irish rugby well.

Given the furore over the poaching of McCarthy, it’s likely at least that Leinster will think twice in the future about heading west to improve their squad. The affair has cast them in a negative light, while Connacht certainly retaining the high moral ground. Fair play to Sears for rattling Leinster’s cages and being not prepared to suffer in silence – in the circumstances, he was perfectly entitled to let off some steam.

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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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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