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Elwood ready to take Connacht to the next level



Date Published: {J}


DESCRIBED “as one of the worst kept secrets in Irish rugby”, fan favourite and Galway native Eric Elwood was finally unveiled as Michael Bradley’s successor as Connacht coach for the 2010/2011 season.

In many respects, Wednesday’s press conference announcing Elwood’s elevation at the Sportsground was akin to knowing the gift before you opened the bow and wrapping. As Assistant Coach at the club, and the supporters’ choice on the terraces, the popular Galwegian was always firm favourite to land the position.

However, Elwood – on just a one-year contract – has done so at a time when uncertainty once again shrouds Connacht Rugby. At present, a governance and operations review is taking place of the professional game in the West of Ireland, with some pundits speculating that the IRFU may rescind the province’s professional status to make a saving of an estimated €2.5 million. This, though, has been rejected by both in-coming coach Elwood and Connacht Rugby CEO Gerry Kelly.

“When this (review) was mentioned first, I got a bit scared, but I now genuinely feel it is a positive thing because it was the Branch who went to the Union,” said Elwood at wednesday’s press conference. “They instigated this, and the Union and the Branch are now working hard together.

“I firmly believe after this review is done, positive things will come out of it because we want to be one of four (provinces), not three plus one. So, I genuinely believe it will be positive, but we do have to work with the Union. Simple as that.”

However, the former Ireland out-half believed the future of Connacht Rugby did not solely rest in the hands of the IRFU, noting that the Branch, itself, had to grow its support base. He said he also had a role in this respect. “I think it is very important that I get people walking up that road to support Connacht because of what we are doing on the park. That is the ideal scenario.

“Obviously, Leinster, Munster, good luck to them, they have a great brand. I know there are people in Galway going down to support Munster, good luck to them. That is their prerogative, that’s fine. Their mother or father may have been originally from there. It is my job, though, to get people to embrace this team, to show that we do want a professional team in Connacht.”

He praised the 1,500 to 2,000 die-hard fans that follow the team religiously, but stressed more people had to show their support by coming to matches or buying a season ticket. “For any team to survive in a professional environment it is down to money, be it soccer or whatever. The winners are people with money. People who have money are competitive and we need to get there. We need to challenge ourselves and we need to show ambition, but we need the help of the community and the [local] clubs. It all ties in.”

These were sentiments also expressed by the Connacht CEO. Kelly, who had referred to Elwood’s appointment “as one of the worst kept secrets in Irish rugby”, said the aim of the IRFU review was “to provide a sustainable future for Connacht Rugby” because it accepted the benefits of having four strong provinces had for the Irish national squad.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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