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Connacht don’t know how to win

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Date Published: 30-Dec-2010

The Sportsground isn’t much of a fortress this season. Just the one Magners League win way way back in September and nothing but utter frustration ever since. Monday’s defeat to Munster marked the lowlight in that sequence, a seventh straight loss and yet another by a heart breakingly tight margin.

It must have left many of the 4,703 pondering another spring of discontent and another pit end of the season with nothing to play for. This was the game to turn things around with the Ian Keatley ⁄ Darragh Fanning chance with five minutes remaining the opportunity to make a statement but Connacht’s out half botched it. No other way of putting it.

It wasn’t all down to one player, of course. Referee David Wilkinson also botched his big moment – he had a clear cut case for a penalty try when the wilting Munster pack dragged down the scrum as Connacht drove over the line on 80 minutes, but he chose the safe option.

A fifth ranked defence in the league with just 15 tries conceded, a total of five losing bonus points (a record for a Connacht team in a season) and a scrum that is right up there with the best in the league will keep the hope alive for now, but there is some discontent out there at the moment and their arguments are gathering legs.

Monday once again demonstrated the limits of where that progress can go with the current squad. On the evidence of this game and recent performances, only one of the starting backline is making a strong case for a contract next season, that’s the irrepressible Keith Matthews who was a shining light from kick off to the final three peeps of the whistle.

The rest are interchangeable with any number of players who have passed through the Connacht revolving doors in recent years and it’s time for one or two to awake from their slumber.

The aforementioned Keatley was excellent with the boot from placed kicks, landing four from five but the running game which lit up Connacht hearts back in September against the Dragons has long since died. Let’s hope he relocates his fire before he puts on the red of Munster rather than after.

Fionn Carr was an absolute shadow of his former self once again. He scored four tries in September and not a jot ever since. He’s now in the incredible position of preparing to join a Heineken cup winning squad in the summer and struggling to retain his place on a mid-level challenge cup team.

Up front, the scrum worked well with Rob Sweeney performing superbly against Munster’s big hope in kiwi Peter Borlase. The pack as a whole were not completely outplayed but the absence of an eight remains a huge problem. Ezra Taylor just doesn’t have the answers.

Connacht had their injury woes with John Muldoon, Gavin Duffy, Ray Ofisa and Brett Wilkinson all out, but Munster came without a number of front-line internationals.

What they did have though was experience, Alan Quinlan (before his nasty elbow injury) Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara and even Niall Ronan all played key roles in helping their side over the line.

Stringer’s turnover under his posts in the closing stages encapsulated everything the 33-year- old brings to his side. Young local stars like Ian Nagle and 20-year-old Paddy Butler can thrive in such an environment and they did so here.

For the full match report see page 32 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

Call for poets to enter new competition

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust is seeking entries for a new poetry competition.

The winner will have her or his poem published and displayed on the Arts Corridor of University Hospital Galway as part of the 2013 Poems for Patience. This is a long-running series which has previously featured work by leading Irish and international poets including Seamus Heaney, Philip Schultz, Michael Longley, Vona Groarke, Jane Hirschfield and Tess Gallagher.

The winner will be invited to read her or his winning poem in April, at the launch of the Poems for Patience during the Cúirt International Festival. Prizes also include accommodation in Galway for one night during Cúirt.

Poems should be less than 30 lines long and must be the entrant’s original work. The entry fee for one poem is €10. For two or more, the entry fee is €7.50 per poem. Payment should be made by cheque or postal order to Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust. The closing date is Friday, March 1.

The judge is Kevin Higgins author of several books of poetry and Writer-in-Residence with Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust.

Entries should be posted to Margaret Flannery, Arts Director, Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust, Galway University Hospitals, University Hospital, Newcastle Road, Galway. Entrants should put their names and contact details on a separate sheet.

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Archive News

The true story of the saint that the church wanted to airbrush

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Italian saint, Francis of Assisi will get a new lease of life in Francis, the Holy Jester, a free one-man show being performed at Muscailt Arts Festival on February 5.

The play about the renowned saint, who died in 1226 was written by Italian Nobel prize-winner Dario Fo, and this performance is by Mario Pirovano, a long-time collaborator with Fo, who translated the piece into English.

It embraces papal history, biblical stories, and controversial Italian politics while exploring the life of one of the Catholic Church’s most famous saints. It also shows how the medieval Church was so afraid of Francis and his relationship with ordinary people that it set about sanitising his legacy and elevating him above the reach of his followers.

Mario, who lives near to St Francis’s home of Assisi, speaks eloquently and passionately about the saint and the way that Dario Fo has brought the Francis’s message to modern audiences in a timeless, dramatic way, while casting new light on the famous Italian Franciscan monk.

But first, he explains why this was necessary.

Francis was born at the end of the 12th century and died at the age of 46. By then, he had created great embarrassment for the Church, simply because of the way he lived his life, explains Mario. He treated people in a genuinely Christian way and wanted to tell the Gospels in people’s own language rather than in Latin.

The Church hierarchy – what an awful word, he says – decided to rewrite the story of his life and, 50 years after his death, only one official account of his life was permitted by the authorities. That was written by a fellow Franciscan, St Bonaventure, who had been ordered to destroy many of Francis’s papers and write a sanitised biography. All other books on him were deemed heretical.

The Church was afraid of him, stresses Mario, and so decided to distance him from the ordinary people, by canonising him shortly after he died. Francis was the fastest saint ever produced in the history of the Church, being canonised within three years of passing on, says Mario. That took him away from ordinary people, as they felt they couldn’t aspire to such greatness.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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