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Connacht must drive on after finally stopping the rot

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Date Published: {J}

THE remainder of Connacht’s season would have been a complete write off had they lost for the 11th consecutive time in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 at the Sportsground on Saturday night. And though such a fate was only avoided by the skin of their teeth thanks to Niall O’Connor’s magnificent last gasp penalty into the wind, the sharing of the spoils against Glasgow has managed to stop the rot and gives the squad a timely morale boost ahead of their final seven matches in the competition.

On the surface, Connacht have little left to play for – does it really matter whether they finish second or third from bottom in the league? – but the crowds who continue to flock to the Sportsground in good numbers will gradually lose patience (and their loyalty) if the results keep going against the home team. Even sponsors are not going to keep bankrolling a team indefinitely which is continually falling short inside the four white lines.

That’s why Saturday night’s draw against an admittedly severely weakened Glasgow outfit was important. The Connacht players have no time for pious platitudes or hard luck stories; they are here to win and though Gavin Duffy and company have been consistently competitive this season – notwithstanding their awful home effort against Treviso and that shocking away display against Aironi – the wins column is scarce.

We all know the odds remain stacked against Connacht in terms of funding which has an obvious ‘knock on’ effect on their playing resources, but there remains something heroic about their continued defiance. The marketing of the Connacht rugby brand remains exceptional; the Sportsground has got a badly needed revamp; and they weren’t blown away – as many pundits had predicted – in the Heineken Cup. Still, a lot of the same players are laying their bodies on the line week in, week out, and that punishing schedule tends to catch up on them towards the end of the campaign.

Even allowing for that background, Connacht were generally expected to topple a Glasgow outfit which was missing their seven Scottish internationals. Having defeated Harlequins in the Heineken Cup and since unlucky to have just collected a bonus point for their sterling efforts away to Cardiff Blues, the pressure was on Eric Elwood’s squad to follow through on those performances last Saturday night.

In a forgettable opening-half, however, Connacht had no shortage of territory or possession when backed by the strong wind, but their play lacked fluency, their passing was laboured and there were some critical unforced errors which all led to an unhealthy half-time predicament – trailing by 7-3.

O’Connor had missed his opening two penalties, but both were difficult opportunities – one near the sideline, the other from inside his own half – before splitting the posts just on the stroke of half-time. Glasgow had taken the lead from a softy conceded Jon Welsh try after he broke though a couple of flimsy tackles and the Scots must have thought they had the hard work done.

To Connacht’s credit, they rolled up their sleeves in the second-half and lifted the intensity of their display. A crossfield kick from O’Connor paved the way for the excellent Tiernan O’Halloran to just make the line after Gavin Duffy and Peter Murchie had contested the dropping ball. They were still three behind with time running out, but O’Connor held his nerve from out on the right wing to earn Connacht a draw that was far more precious than, perhaps, is generally presumed.

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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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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