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Doing ballet gave past UCG football teams a leg up!

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

FORMER GAA President Dr. Mick Loftus has fond memories of the Sigerson Cup, the semi-finals and finals of which will be hosted by NUI Galway this weekend. And why wouldn’t he? With three medals won with UCG (NUIG) in his back pocket. Those ballet lessons really did pay off!

If ever an ‘old timer’ in the local club sits down and starts bemoaning the state of the game – be it Gaelic football or hurling or whatever – and launches into a tirade about the ‘good old days’ when ‘men were men’, just ask him were those the days when UCG won three Sigerson Cups on the back of the ballet lessons they took.

Even now, Loftus, who won Sigerson Cup medals in 1948, ’50 and ’54, chuckles at the thought of it, but insists their mentor Paddy Higgins was a man ahead of his times when it came to exploring new training methods to get the very best out of his teams.

That said, ballet? “That’s a fact,” smiles the affable Loftus, who sits relaxing in the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway after launching the Sigerson Cup weekend recently. “Paddy was into the ballet with us. He would have us here, in this very hall, in the Aula, doing ballet sessions. He had some lady who would come in and he said this is for your agility and balance. He also said it would keep the mind thinking. Paddy was very much into that.

“So, we would be up on our toes and all that sort of stuff. Really, though, if anyone saw us, they would say we should be in the ‘big house’. But, we used to have great fun at it. We also did the press-ups here and all that sort of training because we hadn’t any other facilities at that time.”

Certainly, it has stood to the Crossmolina native who will turn 83 later this year. Indeed, the day before this thoroughly enjoyable interview, Loftus had been out for a leisurely run. “I ran five miles yesterday,” says Loftus, who continues to compete in veteran events.


“I went to the World Senior Games in Utah last October. There were 22 countries participating and there were 27 events, but you had to be over 50 to participate. I came home with two gold (3,000m and 200m) medals and a silver (1,500m) out of it. I competed in the 3,000m, 1,500m, 200m and the 100m.”

Then again, Loftus is no stranger to running and, again, he looks back to his days of Sigerson when he would leave his digs on Fr. Griffin Road on those cold winter evenings and, on the command of the management, walk, jog or run to the training session out at Fahy’s Field.

“Other times you were allowed bring the bike,” he says, “but it was all part of your training. I also remember the cold showers out there, although, then again, we were glad to get a shower! When you’d come in after training, you would be all muck, so you wouldn’t mind what sort of a shower it was.”

However, from that gruelling training regime – ballet aside! – the bonds of friendship between the players grew stronger and stronger. “You couldn’t believe the friendships and I don’t know why it is peculiar to Sigerson,” ponders Loftus.

“When I was involved – and I was involved with the Mayo teams in the ’50s and various other teams – there seemed to be a greater bond. Maybe it was because we were here in college and it was our first time out in the world. I was a relatively shy fellow but Sigerson broke down all the barriers straight away.”

He remembers all those who gave their time to prepare the students for the Sigerson Cup. The likes of Billy Kenny, Mick Raftery, Mick and Paddy Higgins and Professor Owen McKenna, who was “such an outstanding person”, are just a few he mentions.

“They were all great men and we had great times with them. Mick Higgins, you couldn’t believe what he gave. Paddy Higgins also gave us so much time, particularly when it came to our fitness. I tell you, we were like greyhounds. They talk about fitness and so on nowadays but I think we did the natural thing, with the running and weights and so on. It gave you great confidence.”

Indeed, during his six years as a medical student in the College, which has won 22 Sigerson Cups in the 101 years of the competition, Loftus claimed three. Although he has great memories of each of those wins, the first, understandably, will always be the most cherished.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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

BallinasloeÕs young squad aiming to floor Armagh junior champs

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

A new chapter in the history of Ballinasloe football will be written at Breffni Park, Cavan, on Sunday when Sean Riddell’s young side take on Ulster champions An Port Mor of Armagh in the All-Ireland Junior semi-final (2pm).

It’s the first competitive game outside the province of Connacht in 33 years for Galway football’s ‘sleeping giant’ with the enticing prospect of an appearance at Croke Park on February 9 on offer for the winners of what should be a competitive tie.

Ballinasloe have romped through Connacht since overcoming a couple of tricky hurdles on their way to collecting the Galway junior title, which was their target for the campaign this time last year.

With a return to Intermediate football secured, Riddell’s youngsters really have nothing to lose – while their triumphant march to county and provincial titles has revived memories of the club’s glory days when they contested three Galway senior finals in a row between 1979 and ’81.

Intriguingly, the seniors of St Grellan’s never got to play in Croke Park when they reached the All-Ireland final back in 1980 – they lost by 3-9 to 0-8 to St Finbarr’s of Cork in Tipperary Town.

This team’s progression has provided rich rewards for an abundance of hard work at underage levels in the past ten to 15 years and the current side’s ‘do or die’ attitude was very much in evidence in the cliffhanger wins over Tuam and Clifden in the domestic championship.


They are a well-balanced side who really never know when they are beaten and have an inspirational leader in county panelist Keith Kelly, whose exploits at centre back have been among the key components in their dramatic run to reach the All-Ireland series.

Riddell, who recalls playing senior football with the club during their heyday, is determined to get Ballinasloe back among the county’s leading clubs but, for the moment, he is delighted just to have a shot at getting to Croke Park in a bid to emulate Clonbur’s achievement in winning the title outright last year.

Riddell went to Newry on a ‘spying mission’ to see the Armagh champions overcome Brackaville of Tyrone by 2-9 to 0-11 in November – and was impressed by the quality of the football produced by An Port Mor in the Ulster final.

“They are a nicely balanced side who play good football,” he said. “There was a bit of the physical stuff you’d expect from two Ulster side, but I was impressed by their performance.”

An Port Mor became the first Armagh side to win the provincial junior decider. First half goals from Shane Nugent and Christopher Lennon sent them on the road to victory, before a red card for Brackaville captain Cahir McGuinness eased their progress to the All-Ireland series.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Coalition promised an ocean of reform Ð but the wind has gone out of its sails

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013


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