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Connacht’s Heineken Cup dream moves a step closer



Date Published: {J}

Keith Kelly

Connacht’s season took on a more promising look at the weekend – and it did so without Eric Elwood’s side even having to tog out.

The wins by Leinster in the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup, and Munster at the same stage in the Challenge Cup, means Connacht’s dream of playing in the Heineken Cup for the first-time ever has taken a step closer to becoming reality.

If either of the two Irish provinces win those respective competitions, then the IRFU will be entitled to an additional place in next season’s Heineken Cup, so Connacht fans will be in the blue and the red corners for the rest of the European campaigns.

Munster would appear to have the easier task, and have been installed as odds-on favourites to win the Challenge Cup for the first-time, after defeating Brive 42-37 in a rip-roaring contest at the weekend.

They have been handed a home semi-final against London Harlequins, who are sixth in the English Aviva Premiership, in Thomond Park on Saturday April 30. The winners will face the winners of the all-French affair in the other semi-final between Stade Francais and Clermot Auvergne, which will be played 24 hours earlier.

Connacht have two bites of the cherry for Heineken Cup qualification, and if Munster fail to justify their favourites’ tag, Elwood’s side will still qualify for the top European competition if Leinster land their second Heineken Cup in three years.

Their task looks more difficult than that of their southern counterparts as, while they will also enjoy a home semi-final, it is against the four-time winners and defending champions, Stade Toulousain, who defeated Biarritz in extra-time at the weekend in a thrilling rematch of last year’s Heineken Cup final.

The French club won the first-ever running of the competition, back in the 1995/96 season, and have contested five of the last eight finals, and will be looking to extend that run to six finals in nine years when they line-out at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday April 30.

If Leinster manage to see off the challenge of the French giants, they will face either Northampton or Perpignan in the final in Cardiff – both finals are being played in the Welsh capital this year.

That should all lead to a magical atmosphere in the Sportsground this Friday night when Elwood’s side host the Cardiff Blues in the Magners League in their last home game of the season, and Connacht have designated the event as a Family Fun Day.

The game kicks-off at 7.45pm, but gates will open at 6pm with people invited to turn up early and take part in the wide range of activities which will take place on the adjacent training pitch. There will be giant board games, bouncing castles and a range of other activities, and a marquee will be erected for parents.

Players who will not be involved in the game will be milling around in the crowd, and the fun continues after the game with an entertainment programme planned. A special family ticket will be available for the game costing €30, which will grant admission to two adults and two children. Tickets are available from Connacht’s offices at the Sportsground, or from Ticketmaster.

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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