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Connacht on cusp of quarter-finals

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 15-Dec-2009

ALL of a sudden, Connacht are on the cusp of something special. There is much work to be done yet, but Saturday’s forthright victory away to Worcester in the Amlin Challenge Cup has placed the men in green in pole position to top their pool and book themselves a home quarter final in April.

It is four years since the Sportsground has played host to a major European tie like that, so the incentive is obvious.

A second victory over Worcester this Friday is a must to maintain their progress, but even then the job won’t be completed as Montpellier are still lurking in the background ahead of a visit to Galway in January.

But why should either of those ties hold any fears for this current Connacht side? There is now ample evidence to suggest that the province might be about to break free of the shackles which have prohibited significant progress in recent seasons and make a real splash.

Connacht’s previous victory on English soil was way back in 1997 when they famously toppled Northampton under the guidance of Warren Gatland. Twelve years on and the Michael Bradley’s side repeated that feat with some style. The Connacht coach placed it high on his list of achievements with the province.

“It’s way up there,” said Bradley afterwards, “It’s important to put markers down. As far as I am concerned, it’s history in terms of my involvement with Connacht.

The Connacht coach shrugged off suggestions from his counterpart in Worcester, Mike Ruddock, that luck had favoured the western province. He suggested his side were due such breaks and switched the focus onto the officiating.

"We’ve struggled big time in the Magners and to be honest we feel a good deal of that is owing to the refereeing. The French referee today Jerome Garces had no inhibitions in terms of what team could do what. He refereed as he saw it, same as Chris White in Montpellier. On a weekly basis in the Magners League we have to face referees who have a pre-conception of us and that can be frustrating."

As in many of their victories this season, Connacht came from behind to claim the win and showed incredible character throughout. A tremendous combination of scrum and lineout superiority laid the foundation for a memorable victory. Worcester had drawn their previous three games in the Premiership, halting the progress of Bath and league leaders Saracens at home before picking up a well deserved draw away to London Irish.

It was clear they had the pedigree to beat Connacht and they also had the starting XV. They went with their strongest possible side knowing that back to back victories were needed over their Irish opponents if they were to remain in contention. An earlier home loss to Montpellier in the pool had left them in last chance saloon.

The defeat has shifted their focus considerably towards the Premiership now, as even if they were to win their final three games, qualification is unlikely and on Sunday Ruddock declared that he would be ‘freshening up his squad’ for this Friday’s clash with Connacht as their main focus is now on the Boxing Day Premiership clash with Northampton.

Those in the Connacht camp will be determined not to let that change their focus, however. Montpellier remain in contention in the pool having also won at Sixways. To remain in pole position for a home quarter final, a win is needed this weekend against a young Worcester side that will be in no mood to play safe.

Long standing Connacht hero Michael Swift marked the victory with his 162 appearance for the province when he came on as a replacement in the second half, that sees him take over from Eric Elwood as Connacht’s most capped player of all time.

New signing George Nauopu came through the game well and put in a superb defensive display throughout. His towering presence at the base of scrums and rucks could prove a valuable addition to the side in the coming months but his was just one of many high quality individual displays.

For the full match report see page 30 of this week’s Sentinel

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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