LIGHTENING failed to strike twice for Connacht, whose attempt to win back-to-back victories in Belfast fell short after a tough and tense Pro 14 quarter-final battle on Saturday.
Having defeated the Ulster men 22-15 away in the league fixture back in October – a first triumph up North in 58 years – and having won the return fixture 21-12 at the Sportsground in December, the odds were stacked against the Westerners making it a record three wins on the trot against Dan McFarland’s resurgent charges.
Given all the off-field shenanigans that shrouded the club last year, Ulster were desperate for a win to salvage the season after losing to Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-final in March.
Exiting both competitions at the quarter-final stage to Irish rivals would have hurt, but losing at home again to Connacht would have been unconscionable.
That gave Ulster a bit of an edge. So too the fact that hooker and fans’ favourite Rory Best, and Darren Cave, were making their final appearance at Kingspan Stadium, having accumulated close to 450 caps for the province between them over two stellar careers.
Connacht were in bonus territory having already achieved qualification for next year’s Champions Cup, and yet it was the visitors who looked to be feeling the pressure with handling errors and jitters a feature of their play early-on.
There was a massive travelling support in attendance, with busloads of Connacht fans making the lengthy trip North, but the close-on 1,000 supporters infiltrating the West Terrace hadn’t much to cheer about in the opening exchanges as Ulster took a stranglehold on proceedings.
In fairness, Andy Friend’s men were dogged despite not enjoying the lions’ share of possession and their stubbornness meant they were right in the hunt in the final quarter.
Trailing by the minimum, 13-14, the momentum was with Connacht who looked poised to strike for another famous and unlikely victory but Ulster said ‘no’.
Jack Carty’s third converted penalty of the day in the 66th minute proved a timely wake-up call for the home team who went on to dominate the remaining exchanges.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.
College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.
Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.
“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.
In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.
“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.
“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.
Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.