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Crowd figures help Galway festival to survive testing time

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Date Published: 09-Aug-2012

 IF ever the popularity of the Galway summer festival was going to come under serious strain, it was bound to be the 2012 week-long meeting. The portents were ominous as bad weather and the continuing recession threatened to have a major negative impact on the crown jewel of the Irish racing calendar.

The prophets of doom were having a field day, but not alone has Galway’s enduring appeal remained intact, but on two days of the meeting – the Monday evening and Sunday cards – the crowds were up on 2011, while the attendance of 37,033 on Guinness Hurdle day will be, by some distance, the biggest attendance at a single racing fixture this year.

Naturally, the weather and the country’s economic woes did have some impact on the numbers of racegoers heading to Ballybrit – the overall crowd for the week was down over 15,000 – but Galway still remains the envy of all tracks around the country for its unique ability to get people through the turnstiles.

Even Irish Derby day at The Curragh or the Leopardstown Christmas and Punchestown festivals can’t come close to those figures, while this year’s Galway fixture also had to cope with the added attractions of Volvo Ocean Race and the London Olympic Games.

It is beyond doubt that some people who normally attend the Galway Races came to the city earlier this summer to sample the unique atmosphere of the Volvo Ocean extravaganza, while the blanket TV coverage of the Olympics would also have had some impact on numbers heading to Ballybrit.

In the build up to the festival, track manager John Moloney was aware of the influence of those counter attractions, together with poor weather forecasts, but those factors were outside of his control. He trusted the meeting’s pulling power and its continued ability to lure people from all different walks of life.

Moloney admits, however, that it was a ‘testing time’ in the build up to and during the festival.

“The bad weather made things difficult and there was a lot of rain, but Gerry Broderick and the course staff worked exceptionally hard in ensuring there was minimum disruption. We had to do a lot of moving around, but the island hurdles were a great help.”

It was Moloney’s 23rd festival to oversee in Galway and even he was taken aback by the crowd of over 20,000 for Friday night’s card.

“It was a great turn out given that it rained all evening. The festival is still a massive institution, especially when you see over 37,000 people here for the Guinness Hurdle, while maybe the best ever racehorse Frankel only attracted 21,000 to Goodwood the previous afternoon.”

For full details of each day and more reviews of the Festival see this week’s Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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

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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

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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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