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Connacht march on



Date Published: {J}

Connacht have secured a seat at the table for the business end of the season after completing a remarkable European campaign this weekend with a 66-0 victory over Madrid in Spain.

Top seeds in the Amlin European Challenge cup, unbeaten in the pool stages for the first time ever and preparing for a home quarter final at the Sportsground against French side Bourgoin on the second weekend in April.

Lets not disguise anything here. That’s a plum draw for the men in green. For sure, Bourgoin are a serious threat. They toppled London Irish in Reading last year at this stage and reached the final while their 18-9 victory in Leeds on Sunday demonstrates they don’t suffer travel sickness like many French sides.

That said, they offer a real chance of victory for Connacht. Newcastle or Saracens would have come all guns blazing with silverware very much the target, but Bourgoin have relegation issues at home and that will take precedent.

If Connacht can reach the last four, then a draw will be made for home advantage but should they face one of the three Heineken Cup sides that have entered the competition (Cardiff, Scarlets or Gloucester) then home advantage will be automatic.

The prospect of a move to Thomond and a huge Connacht crowd is too much for fans of the perennial strugglers to contemplate for now, but at least they can let themselves hope for a change – too often in the past four years, the season has been dead by January’s end but not now.

There are rumours of a St Patrick’s Day tussle with the Dragons in the pipeline. That game was postponed during the big freeze and the foresight for attempting to fix it for the Bank Holiday Wednesday must be commended.

There are games against Leinster home and away, Glasgow and the Ospreys all to come as well before the April quarter final showdown. That will be smack bang in the middle of home ties with Edinburgh the week before and Munster the week after. So much to look forward to.

Now, more than ever before, Connacht rugby have a chance to make a huge stride forward. Beyond the ever growing band of die-hard fans, the support has been intermittent at best from the people of the West in recent years and it is easy to understand why.

Many have got in their cars and headed south to watch Munster rather than follow their native province but that could all change should Connacht become genuine players on the big stage. A place in the last four will put Connacht amongst some of Europe’s elite sides and bring exposure like never before.

Off the field, the marketing of this will be as important as the on field performance and some big decisions will have to be made should a place in the last four be secured. All that might seem a little premature but it is worth considering. Connacht have got a seat at the table, it’s time to pick up the cards and start playing.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



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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