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Connacht up to the Challenge

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Dec-2009

THESE are heady days for rugby in the west, or at least they appear to be. After five wins in their last seven – including victories away in England and France – it looks as though this current group of Connacht players are finally beginning to reach their potential.

There is work to be done but Friday night’s comfortable home victory over an uninspired Worcester side suggests there is a focus to this current Connacht side which has been lacking in past seasons. Consistency is creeping into the vernacular of Connacht rugby.

From here Connacht will surely be targeting a semi final in this competition and some signs of progress in the Magners League, even second bottom would do there. Their best chance of reaching the last four and emulating their best ever season in Euorpe will be via a home quarter final.

First and foremost Connacht will have to beat Montpellier in round five on January 15 to guarantee progress to the last eight. Only the pool winners advance. If they do that then the inevitable bonus point win in Madrid will guarantee a home quarter final.

It might even see them take top seed and avoid one of the three Heineken Cup sides that enter the competition at that point. The prospect of Leeds or Bourgoin at home would offer a tastier route to the last four than say a possible clash with Sale, Northampton or even Leicester.

Judging by what we have seen in this pool already, there is no reason to doubt Michael Bradley’s side ahead of the Montpellier visit and there is every reason for Connacht to set their sights on lofty goals.

Gavin Duffy talked this week of targeting winning this competition, and why not with the possibility of a home draw all the way to the final very much in the pipeline? All that sets the tone and is by no means getting ahead of ourselves.

Connacht are rightly heavily favoured to advance having won in Worcester and Montpellier and their home form suggests no side will have it easy in the last eight. In fact, their overall form since a horrible September has been encouraging.

On Friday, they once again used a rock solid lineout and unyielding scrum to lay the platform for success. Almost all of Worcester’s set piece play was disrupted to some degree. Interestingly Worcester’s only score on 24 minutes, came on one of the few occasions where they managed some sort of a solid scrum, this merely served to highlight the importance of Connacht’s superiority over the two games.

Chris Pennell got the visitors only try off a canny move in midfield that was created by Callum Macrea. It was a bit of a body blow to the men in green who had dominated the early exchanges but had failed to register a score. Mathew Jones converted for a 7-0 lead.

The reaction from the home side was quick and impressive with a good chase on the restart and after a good attacking spell, Ian Keatley struck a penalty to narrow the gap. Connacht were showing signs of a real threat in the loose, They were also inventive in attack with Frank Murphy making darting breaks and John Muldoon covering good ground in open play.

It was the Portumna man who scored the opening try after a quick fire Connacht attack that saw a combination of quick passing, straight line barn door running from Sean Cronin and rapid recycling at the breakdown for Murphy to release his captain on the short side 15 metres out. The conversion was missed but Connacht led 8-7 at the break.

The Connacht pack were in their element for the second week running against a Worcester side that lacked bite. George Naoupu certainly looks the part at eight while Mike McCarthy and Bernie Upton are forming a fine lineout partnership.

The backline is working well too, Ian Keatley is proving a persistent menace in open play, making yards where he shouldn’t and keeping the defence honest, the service from Murphy is consistently good and on Friday, Aidan Wynne came of age at inside-centre with a brilliant effort.

But one man above all else is integral to that backline and it is Niva Ta’auso. his defence is rock solid but with ball in hand he has the potential to be a game breaker each week. His darting run from the 22 and extra scramble on the ground set up try number two, finished off by Gavin Duffy on 49 minutes to make it 13-7.

Duffy’s all round display was superb, time and again a Worcester side devoid of a plan B and seemingly making up plan A as they went along, kicked high balls at the Connacht back three and Duffy, in particular, dominated the air but Bibo and Carr didn’t let the side down either.

Ian Keatley’s second penalty of the contest stretched Connacht’s lead to 16-7 with 20 minutes left and although Worcester threatened briefly, the result wasn’t in doubt to the end. A late drop goal from Keatley neatly wrapped up proceedings.

There will be steeper tests in the coming weeks. Changes will likely be made for the trip to Thomond on Stephen’s Day as it comes smack bang in the middle of a eight week period of action. Watch for the recently injured duo of Johnny O’Connor, Andrew Browne to return and the likes of Adrian Flavin, Michael Swift and Mike McComish all to be drafted in for the clash with Munster.

Squad depth, consistent form, and top of a Challenge Cup pool, just who is this team and what have they done with Connacht?

 

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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Moment of truth for Galway U21s

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 01-May-2013

 Dara Bradley

FOUR matches, four victories, one after extra-time, a Connacht title, four goals and 56 points scored, four goals and 30 points conceded, a heap of wides from their opponents, sinews strained, buckets of sweat and blood spilled.

It’s been one hell of a roller coaster campaign for the Galway U21 footballers but all that will be forgotten come 7pm on Saturday evening at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick when they cross swords with Cork for the honour of being crowned Cadbury’s All-Ireland champions.

Six weeks ago as Galway set out on their 2013 U21 journey against Sligo in Tuam, the May Bank Holiday weekend final was always the target. They took each game as it came and now it has come down to this – 60 minutes of football to decide who the best U21 team in the land is.

And while there were times along the way when Alan Flynn’s charges looked like they’d fall off the wagon, against Mayo, against Roscommon and again against Kildare, Galway showed resilience and mental strength to time and again bounce back and defy the odds. Often down, never out. It is that perseverance that will stand to Galway in the heat of battle this weekend.

Cork has won an All-Ireland at this grade more times than any other county since the competition’s inception in the 1960s. The most recent of their 11 titles was won in 2009, and they’ve claimed a three-in-a-row of Munster titles with a defeat of Tipperary last month.

Interestingly, five players – Alan Cronin, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Tom Clancy and Damien Cahalene, the son of former inter-county player Niall – that are expected to start this Saturday lined out in each of the last three Munster finals, so they have experience of playing in the pressure cauldrons.

Galway aren’t as experienced. True, a couple of players already have a All-Ireland medal from 2011 – a year Galway beat Cork in the semi-final – but there are a lot of young guns in the panel. Of the squad of 33, about 19 of them are young enough to play U21 next year as well, while eight or nine of the starting 15 will be eligible next year, although you wouldn’t think it given the levelheadedness they’ve displayed throughout the past six weeks.

Galway had plenty to spare over a hapless Sligo outfit in Tuam the first day out, winning by 16 points, which didn’t flatter them, but old rivals Mayo in the following game at the same venue was a different story. After a tense and tight hour of fare, Galway took the spoils after showing immense character to dig it out by two points in a dogfight, 0-9 to 0-7.

Fighting qualities were needed again in the Connacht final in Hyde Park against Roscommon – Galway were minutes from being knocked out of the championship when a heroic comeback, three points in as many minutes from Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s Shane Walsh, rescued extra-time, a period which Galway never looked like losing.

The Tribesmen took their chances when they presented themselves, a trait that also saw them knock-out Kieran McGeeney’s highly rated and much fancied Kildare outfit in a thriller at Tullamore a fortnight ago.

The Lilywhites were wasteful, true, but that’s their problem, and Galway just had too much natural footballing class to take their chances and emerge with a deserved five points, 2-10 to 2-5 victory, despite 19 wides from the vanquished.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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GalwayÕs U-13 and U-16 sides both through to national finals

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 14-May-2013

Mike Rafferty

It proved to be a very successful weekend for Galway Schoolboy soccer as two representative sides qualified for national finals at the end of the month.

It was drama all the way in Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday afternoon as the U-13 side drew 1-1 with the Midlands League, but came through the dreaded penalty shootout to prevail by 5-4.

 

Meanwhile the U-16 side had to travel to Cork, where they emerged 2-1 winners following a very impressive performance. For the second game in succession, it was the goals of the Connolly brothers that proved crucial to both team’s success.

Andrew lines out with the U-16 side and he notched both their scores in terrific away win, while younger brother Aaron was on target for the U-13 side and also converted the winning spot kick.

Mervue United captured a third consecutive Connacht Youth Cup with an impressive 4-1 win over Castlebar Celtic in Milebush on Saturday.

SFAI U-13 INTER LEAGUE SEMI FINAL

Galway League 1

Midlands League 1

(AET-Galway won 5-4 on pens)

A low scoring contest might indicate few chances, but one has to credit two outstanding defences whose splendid covering and marshalling of the front men was a joy to watch.

Galway’s Oisin McDonagh and Adam Rooney never put a foot wrong in central defence, while full-backs Byron Lydon and Matthew Tierney were equally efficient in defence, and getting forward with regular forays.

Further afield, they matched the visitors in terms of intensity and creativity and in the second half in particular should have pulled away from a Midlands side that won the U-12 national title last year.

The visitors certainly offered the greater attacking threat in the opening half, but found home custodian Mark Greaney in top form. Galway’s best chance fell to Joshua Quinlivan, but he pulled an effort wide of the target.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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