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Connacht’s young guns called up for Ospreys clash

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Date Published: 18-Nov-2010

Dara Bradley

HEAD coach Eric Elwood has handed two young, up-and-coming local players their first home start in the Magners League for Connacht’s clash with reigning champions the Ospreys at the Sportsground tonight (Friday, 7.30pm).

Barna man Eoin Griffin, who was the official man-of-the-match in Connacht’s win over Samoa in a friendly match last week, has been named in Elwood’s starting XV in the centre alongside Keith Mathews.

The former Jes player started away to the Scarlets last season but tonight will be the first competitive Magners League start with the Connacht seniors at the Sportsground for Griffin, who graduated through the Connacht academy and the province’s underage structure.

Galwegians clubman Dermot Murphy of Furbo has been named as hooker in the absence of Seán Cronin, who wasn’t released from the Irish squad, and Robbie Morris, who this week formally announced his retirement due to injury.

It also the 21-year-old’s first home Magner’s League start. Murphy has played with Ireland U18 and Ireland Youths while Griffin has represented his country at U19 and U20 level.

Full-back Gavin Duffy will win his 100th cap for Connacht, after he was released from the Ireland squad this week. The former Mayo minor footballer made his Connacht debut against Cardiff in 2001.

Duffy moved to NEC Harlequins in 2003 and earned a Parker Pen European Challenge Cup medal in 2004 with them before returning to Connacht in 2007. Tonight he will join an elite group of Connacht centurions which includes Eric Elwood, John Muldoon, Michael Swift and Brett Wilkinson who have all represented the province 100 times or more.

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Support the name of the game as Dusty Banjos launch debut CD

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Date Published: {J}

A project which began in the Crane Bar in 2002 when three adult learner banjo players came together to offer each other some moral and musical support, has now evolved to become one of the biggest success stories in traditional music locally.

The Dusty Banjos, as the three banjo beginners called themselves, have grown over the years to become a forceful community group playing a wide variety of instruments including fiddle, flute, mandolin, whistle, concertina, guitar, harmonica, accordion, drums. . . and of course, banjo.

The members meet once a week in the city for a student session in the Western Hotel, Prospect Hill, while there are also open sessions on Thursdays in Rabbitts of Forster Street and in Áras na nGael on the first Saturday of the month. Several of the group also play regular sessions in Oliver’s Bar, Cleggan.

Next Monday, November 23, the Dusty Banjos enter a new phase when their debut CD, entitled Dusty Banjos Live at the Crane, will be launched by well-known Inisbofin musician and regular Crane performer Johnny O’Halloran. The recording, featuring 48 of the group’s members, was funded by a grant from the Arts Council under the Deis scheme for traditional arts, and was recorded at the well-known music venue in January, explains Mary Lovett, of the music organisation, Community Music Crew, who was a key figure in establishing the Dusty Banjos when she was beginning the banjo in 2002.

The original target audience was adult pupils who were coming back to music, she says.

“If you are learning an instrument as an adult there aren’t that many support structures, so the uptake has been great and it means that people don’t feel as though they are isolated.”

The membership is fairly diverse, she adds. “There are a lot of Irish adults and we’d also have people who have come to Galway for a few months and want to get involved.”

Membership of the Dusty Banjos is about being in a team and helping each other, says Mary. While it’s not for complete beginners, “we do try to make room for people at all levels”. As part of that, sheet music and recordings are available for members.

The nature of the project means that membership of the Dusty Banjos changes regularly. Some people who join, get good very quickly, and move on from there. And, says Mary, the group gets a lot of people who are good on one instrument, but who want to learn another, and that makes for greater diversity.

The musicians on the CD are mostly the current members, although also some people from abroad, who were previously involved, returned for the recording in January.

That came about when the group applied a year ago to the Deis scheme in the Arts Council,” says Mary, explaining that the CD proposal was put together by group member, Heather Greer, a driving force behind the recording. “We wanted to do a CD because the group is good.”

She’s right about that. The album, which includes a selection of jigs, reels, hornpipes, and polkas, is high-energy stuff, and if you close your eyes, you could actually be in the middle of a lively session.“We picked a good selection of tunes and practised a lot of them and then selected the ones for the album that came out best on the night,” says Mary.

There are 14 tracks on the recording – all tunes. Despite the lack of songs on the CD – which was mostly for practical reasons – the Dusty Banjos welcome singers to their sessions and they don’t have to be strictly trad performers.

Stressing that the group is open to many influences Mary says, “there are lots of foreign instruments coming and going”, including everything from continental accordions to Japanese banjos and, occasionally jazz instruments.

“It’s non-competitive, about making people welcome and helping each other,” she emphasises. The album fulfilled a long-held dream for Mary, but making it was a more complex process than she or Heather Greer originally realised, she says. “It was an incredible amount of work. After the recording, there was the mixing and the mastering in studio. We had to find a company to produce it. Then we had to decide on the art work [for the sleeve], and there’s the whole promotion aspect.”

The musicians involved hope that, as well as being enjoyable to listen to, “it’ll also be a valuable learning tool for student musicians everywhere”.

Given the work involved in the production of the CD and the likelihood of cutbacks in Arts Council schemes, it looks like it could be a while before there’s another one in the pipeline. The Dusty Banjos invited melodeon and accordion player Johnny O’Halloran to perform the launch because so many of the learners like to play with him.

“He is very supportive – he understands about people learning and gives them a chance,” says Mary.

The group hope to target the Christmas market with this lively CD which costs €15. Admission to the launch is free to all, and an invite is extended to those learner musicians, who might like to participate in the session. Like the group and the album, this promises to be a real community event and is well worth checking out. Doors for the launch are at 8pm.

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Life in the frontline can be tough for trophy homeowners

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Date Published: {J}

When Pat Kenny told us that the Frontline would be a different sort of current affairs show, he wasn’t joking – but even he must be surprised to find his own financial situation under infinitely greater scrutiny than that of the nation at large.

First Jack O’Connor – a man who could hardly be deemed to be living anywhere near the breadline himself, despite his socialist credentials – raised the issue of Pat’s ‘trophy home’ in Dalkey before apologising for talking what Pat termed ‘crap’.

Funnily enough he never apologised for talking it so many times before.

But then Alan O’Brien broke loose from the Frontline audience to wade into Pat on his wages and his big house and how the nation might be able to get rid of Mary Hanafin but there’s no chance of shifting Mr Kenny because he’s not up for re-election.

He did seem to concede in the course of his rant that Pat was worth a salary of somewhere in the region of €300,000, which is not far off half of what Pat now takes home ever since he took a 35 per cent cut from his high of €950,000.

Pat, in fairness, let him rant to his heart’s content and came out smelling of roses after his retort that everyone’s opinion was welcome on the Frontline, proving that he remains the coolest head in the tightest of corners.

And maybe stony-broke Ireland can no longer afford the luxury of a €900,000 or €600,000 presenter, but this is a lot better than Questions & Answers where there was as much chance of a real good row as there would be of late drink at the DUP annual conference.

Alan O’Brien is clearly a man with issues, but he might feel a lot better in himself now that he got quite a bit off his chest. Certainly Mary Hanafin has reason to be grateful because suddenly the threat of cuts to social welfare was wiped off the Frontline agenda.

Pat Kenny is perfectly entitled to put the tough questions to whomsoever he feels like; the problem now is that he is having to answer a growing amount of his own. And sometimes shooting the messenger isn’t off limits after all.

Gerry Ryan – that voice of the working classes and idol of the bored housewives – found himself strangely out of touch with both when he refused for so long to take a wage cut. See, it’s not just politicians who can occasionally be accused of living life in an ivory tower.

We’d all love to be dropping in on Bono – preferably from a height and attached to a large boulder – or hanging out with Gerald and Lisa, if only to prove that money can’t buy you everything.

But we’re not Premiership footballers or rock stars – or hacks for the Sunday Independent for that matter – so we have a pint which we pay for in our local pub and go home to our houses that do not boast a €1 million strip of wasteland to one side of it.

Pat Kenny is a fine broadcaster and, despite the ratings to date, the Frontline is a massive improvement on Q&A – and not only because of the unique style of audience participation.

But it’s hard to align questions on social welfare cuts with life in a plush Dalkey pile, even if it was paid for through the good times on the back of blood, sweat and tears shed in the radio and television studios of Montrose.

Alan O’Brien may never become the poster boy of the recession generation – he’s more likely to end up as a “Where Are They Now?” trivia question after his 15 minutes is over – and his outburst may have been well over the top.

But if you’re going to deliver the punches, you must learn to roll with a few too – because in these straitened times, the messengers can be up for a bullet as well.

Customer service has had its chips

The Restaurants Association of Ireland has warned that over 20,000 jobs are at risk in the sector.

The Association says 80 per cent of its members are losing money and one in three restaurants could close in the next six months with a potential loss of €700m to the economy.

Well they better get the news fast to Basil Fawlty, who is alive and well as masquerading as a restaurant manager in the heart of Galway.

We’ll spare his blushes and those of his restaurant by not naming them (this time) but if he reads this, he’d do well to rethink his views on customer service.

A week or so ago, four of us were out for dinner and like many in these changing times, we opted for the Early Bird menu with two courses for €19 – not a fortune but hardly a giveaway either.

One of the menu choices was a steak with mash.

Asked how I’d like this steak, I was told I could either have it medium or well done. But my request for medium to well done was out of the question – it could only be medium or well done. A further brush off the grill to take one of the pre-cooked mediums up to the next level was a step too far.

As to the possibility of changing the mash for chips – hardly an astonishing request given that chips were on the menu as well, and are hardly an unusual accompaniment to steak – that was also a non-runner. The steak – either medium or well but nowhere in between – came with mash and not with chips. You could have chips if you paid for them, but then they came in addition to the mash as opposed to instead of it.

And it wasn’t that they didn’t have chips – it did come with a battered fish of unknown origin whose life look like it ended from natural causes, given the withered size of it.

This might seem like a personal rant but it’s more down to the sense of frustration that such appalling customer service is still to be found in a city that depends on tourists to survive.

In fairness, it was an isolated case and it also explained why this restaurant had six other customers while its adjoining neighbour – where we’d actually wanted to go, if the truth was known – had a minimum 30 minute wait for a table on a wet Sunday night.

The fact that the meal was the worst I’ve ever been served – and there have been some bad ones in the past – was, pardon the pun, the icing on the cake.

And it didn’t seem to come as a huge shock to the manager that I was refusing to pay for it. He looked like a man who’d been down this road once or twice before.

We won’t be going back there but I’m sure that won’t bother the management. What would worry me more is if we’d been visitors to Galway and that this shoddy approach was our first impression of the city.

Galway has many wonderful restaurants to suit every taste and pocket – a point in hand is that the friendliest, most efficient waitress in the entire country is Brid, who works in Rodeo on Quay Street – and it is not right for one bad egg to spoil it for the rest.

As Early Bird menus go, €19 for two courses is not a freebie – in most European cities that would constitute an average price for which you’d be entitled to expect good food and proper service.

We hear so much about how the hospitality business is being hurt by the downturn in our economic circumstances – but frankly service like this would bring the whole thing crashing down a whole lot faster than the property bubble could even dream of.

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Sports News Archive

Portumna in a different class to bitter rivals

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Date Published: {J}

MOYCULLEN MAN APPEARS IN COURT OVER ALLEGED CITY ATTACK

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