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ConnachtÕs most capped player still going strong



Date Published: {J}

WHEN the Galway Sports Stars Award winners were announced recently, an extremely popular choice was Connacht’s energetic and long serving second row forward, Michael Swift.

On Saturday night, January 22, Swift will receive his accolade at a black-tie banquet at the Ardilaun Hotel and the big man is delighted to be honoured at Galway’s premier sports awards ceremony. “It’s fantastic,” beams Swift, “especially when it is judged by local people; people who know what they are talking about because week in, week out they watch us in action.”

Indeed, when it came to selecting the rugby recipient, it did not take the local press corps long to finalise the name of Michael Swift. Over the past 12 months, his displays have been nothing short of tremendous, with his magnificent try in the victory over Leinster at the Sportsground last April one of the sporting highlights of 2010.

London born to Irish parents, Swift, who is the most capped Connacht player of all time, moved to Galway 11 years ago and since then he has not looked back. Indeed, at a time when many players of his age – 33 years – might be considering winding down their playing careers, Swift continues to go from strength to strength.

So much so, the 6ft 5ins star has become a crowd favourite at the Sportsground – almost securing cult status – and he admits he gets an adrenalin boost when the name of ‘Swifty’ is shouted from the terraces. “I am probably not the most graceful rugby player in the world, but the fans do seem to appreciate the effort I put in,” says the affable giant.

“We always say it though – it has been said since Day One when I arrived in 2000 – whenever you stick a Connacht jersey on, that green jersey has to be honoured by endeavour and team spirit. It is those qualities that will get you through. We might not always have had the most talented squads in the past, but we won matches because of our endeavour. And, to be honest, if you don’t give 100% for Connacht, you will soon be found out, not only by the management but, more importantly, by the supporters. They will soon let you know,” he laughs.

If Connacht followers appreciate anything though, it is a good, honest effort and, really, Eric Elwood’s charges have not been all that far away in many of their games this season. Yes, they lie second from bottom in the Magners League, but just a couple of more wins would have seen them shoot up to mid-table by this stage.

In fact, underlining the competitiveness of the side this season is the fact that they have amassed seven bonus points from their 12 games to date. That’s three more bonus points than they claimed throughout their 18 games last season. “It just shows you how close we are. So, in that respect, there is progression, but obviously we would like to get a few more ‘W’s next to our column,” says Swift.

“The games this season have been coming thick and fast and we have had to just keep looking forward. Now, we have to trust ourselves that we will turn it around and I am confident that some team, sooner rather than later, is going to get it. Hopefully, it will be this weekend.”

However, it remains to be seen just how Connacht will fare away to French outfit Bayonne in the Amlin Cup this Saturday – particularly as the team’s race seems to be run in the European competition at this stage. “Qualification [for the knockout stages], now, is probably not going to happen,” concedes Swift.

“However, if you go away to France with the mentality of ‘well, we have nothing to play for’, then you are going to get an absolute hiding. I mean, there is not a more hostile place to travel to than an away game in France.

“Also, I think they were a bit aggrieved at the result here – a 16-13 home win for Connacht – so we are expecting a bit of a battle out there. We are also on a bit of a losing streak at the moment, so regardless of the competition, a win is a win and we need to get a ‘W’ beside our name.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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