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Connacht Tribune

Emigration-hit Galway GAA moves club social to Boston

Dara Bradley

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A Connemara GAA club ravaged by emigration is taking a novel approach to marking a significant milestone – by partying with its Disapora in Boston!

Carna/Caiseal GAA will celebrate its 30th birthday later this year with a trip Stateside, where many of its members were forced to emigrate to in search of work. The logic is that there are as many members abroad, as there are at home.

“Sure, half the Carna parish is over there, it’s the natural place to have it. We thought about London but decided on Boston,” said club chairman Éamonn Ó Cualáin.

It helps, too, that the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, is the son of County Galway immigrants.

His mother Mary Walsh – formerly Mary O’Malley – is from Ros Cide in Ros Muc and his late father John Walsh was from Callowfeenish in Carna; two of the thousands of Connemara people who have emigrated to Boston through the centuries.

In the past number of years Carna/Caiseal has struggled to field Gaelic football teams due to declining population.

They were relegated from senior last season, and are in trouble again this year in intermediate, having lost two of their opening championship games.

Immigration is a factor in their decline. And that’s one of the reasons the club is planning a six-day trip to Boston to mark 30 years since its founding in 1987 – to reach out to its Diaspora.

“We had five or six players tog out for the Boston Gaels yesterday. We have two or three lads playing in London. And we have three or four lads injured. It’s hard to cope with that many lads out,” said Mr Ó Cualáin.

 

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Building for the future on a foundation of youth

Stephen Glennon

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Fr. Griffin's / Eire Og U.12 players, from left: Darragh Forde, Josh O'Reilly, Harry Collins, Sam McNena and Paddy McGuinness

By STEPHEN GLENNON

With the Government indicating children’s outdoor sports may return on April 26, City outfit Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg will launch their 2021 juvenile season with fun games and activities at Crestwood on Saturday, May 1.

These are exciting times for the Gaelic football club. Adopting a “fresh approach” to their underage structure, Juvenile Chairman Benny Lawless says that there has been a genuine surge in interest in Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg since they began to advertise within the schools and build strong links with them.

The May 1st launch will take place between 11am and 12:30pm, with all registered children receiving a full kit, and Lawless and the club will be hoping for a fine turnout.

After a number of years of juvenile stagnation, Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg, whose catchment area includes Menlo, Tirellan, Ballinfoile, Castlegar, Terryland and The Claddagh, has sought to rejuvenate their underage structure in the past two seasons.

Up to this point, too many players from their catchment area were joining neighbouring clubs – usually following a classmate or friend – and the club realised that if they were to sustain their adult set-up and advance it in the years to come, they would have to nurture and bring through young players.

“So, we made a conscious decision to work down the way from the age of 12 because it was too much hard work to try and attract them (players over that age) back to the club. We wanted a fresh start and that was the strategy we took at the time.

“Since we made that conscious decision to concentrate on the lower age groups – the oldest age we have at the moment is 12 – we have been putting in a very good plan,” says the Juvenile Chairman.

Despite a string of storms forcing the club to cancel sessions in early 2020, they did get in a number of work-outs before the Covid pandemic hit. “We squeezed two or three sessions in during February in Ballinfoile Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre and 85 children turned up. We knew straightaway then that we were doing the right things and that there was interest.

“There was nothing then until we had the Cúl Camps in Crestwood last August. They were a huge success. We had 65 children attend them and, then, on the back of that, we kept the training sessions going until the end of October when Covid stopped us again. By that time, we had up to 100 children turning up on a Saturday morning in Crestwood.”

Club juvenile chairman, Benny Lawless; club chairman Tom Cox and underage head coach Alan Campbell.

Lawless says it “was a great time for the club” and for Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg this represented significant progress. “You could see the future taking off and that kind of set the foundation for this year,” he says. “There is a genuine interest there of building up a club for the community and it is really joining the whole community together.”

As with any amalgamation, establishing a new sense of identity can take time, particularly when Fr. Griffins, once a powerhouse of Galway football, and Éire Óg had both invested many years in cultivating their own traditions.

Formed in 1947, Fr. Griffin’s, based in the Claddagh, won seven county senior titles. Éire Óg, meanwhile, was founded in 1972 by local men Willie Keane and Tom Small and it won Junior ‘A’ titles in 1975 and ’80, in addition to numerous underage titles in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s.

However, the demographic of their primary catchment areas was aging and in 2007 the two clubs agreed to amalgamate. Fr. Griffins stalwarts Myles McHugh, Tom Cox and Vincent Gilmore and Éire Óg’s Mike Burke, Johanna Downes and Tom Costello led the negotiations.

Yet, progress on the field was slow over the next decade, with one of the few highlights an U16 (Division 2) campaign in which they defeated Oughterard in the West Board final before accounting for Glenamaddy in the county decider.

Senior players Adrian McPhilbin, Sean O Faharta and Darren Moylan

In early 2017, the adult players met and pledged to get their team back up to a level they felt it should be competing at. Within 18 months, they won back-to-back leagues and, captained by Adrian McPhilbin, they also claimed the County Junior ‘A’ Championship.

A club on the move, the focus then became about how to sustain this progress.

“I know the angle I am coming at this is from underage, but you can’t forget about the adult side of it,” says Lawless. “You have two clubs who have come together and it has gained a lot of traction in the last two or three years, especially.

“The adult team is going from strength to strength – Gay O’Brien from Barna is managing them – and we now also have a second adult team in Junior ‘C’ and we are well on the way there. Those two adult teams have about 10 subs on each. So, there is a huge amount of adults involved and there is a huge amount of interest.

“We also had Enda Concannon representing the club on the Galway juniors (in 2019). So, bit by bit, we are gaining momentum,” says Lawless, who credits Club Chairman Tom Cox for a lot of this good work.

“Tom is a stalwart; he has been the constant there from when they amalgamated. He is a very positive person and he is driving it from an adult perspective while I am working with him on the underage side.”

With numbers swelling at juvenile level, the aim now is to increase their participation at underage by a grade year-on-year. That’s our goal,” says Lawless. “We have an U12 team there and we are looking at building on that, building on those young lads.

“Our target is to field an U15 Féile team in three years’ time. I have no doubt we will do it. Would I love to see a few more lads down with us at that age? Absolutely, and at the minute we are working at building that. As I said, the numbers are going one way at the moment, and that is up. That is really positive to see.”

Under Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg Coaching Officer Alan Campbell, who has experience of working in the county underage set-up, the club is ensuring the coaching that the children receive is “as good as anywhere in the country”.

“We are working on achieving a high level and maintaining that standard of coaching is probably our number one priority,” continues the Juvenile Chairman. “That is what we are hoping will segregate us from the rest. That is what we are aiming for.

“Dennis Carr (Galway GAA Games Development Administrator) has been very much in touch with us as well and is there to help us to develop. So, from a City point of view, it is positive. We are trying to keep up with the standards set by the other clubs: St. James’, St. Michael’s and Salthill/Knocknacarra.”

This body of child coaching fits into the club’s overall strategy, led by Myles McHugh, who is developing a five to 10-year plan to support the growth of Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg.

“If you came up to Crestwood last September and October, all you would have seen is 80 to 100 children on the pitch, beautiful weather, and it was a really good vibe and a real positive outlet for a Saturday morning. That is what we want to continue,” says Lawless.

“I suppose, our biggest challenge at the moment is getting the word out to the whole community that this football club is here and people are more than welcome to come up. We are an open and diverse club, everybody is more than welcome, regardless of ability, be they boys or girls.”

Clubman Enda Concannon in action for Galway in 2019 All Ireland Junior Gaelic football final against Kerry.

Indeed, Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg has many girls also involved and Lawless says the club intends to build on this going forward. “We want to be a fully-fledged club, like any other club, male and female, at all levels. That is the goal.

“We have plenty of girls coming up to us and we have two female coaches at the minute. It is a side we are working on and it is very much part and parcel of the plan. The plan is to have a girls U12 team in the next couple of years and roll it on from there. We are going to have a ‘Mothers & Others’ team in the summer as well.”

If the club grows its playing base, as it intends, Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg will also need to expand its facilities. Already, the club uses Ballinfoile Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre, which Lawless describes as “a fantastic facility”, but he acknowledges they will have to further develop their outdoor amenities at Crestwood and, possibly down the line, at South Park.

In this respect, he notes that discussions are already underway to improve Crestwood, which is owned by Galway City Council, under the City Development Plan. He would love to see it become a mini “Cappagh Park”, particularly given Hibs also operate out the facility.

“We are trying to get the dressing-rooms upgraded and this is all part and parcel of this City Development Plan. The City Council has been very good to us, in fairness to them, but now we are asking for more.

CATCHMENT AREA

“We are not asking for two floodlit pitches with Astroturf or anything like that, although you could have two GAA pitches and two soccer pitches because there is that much land up there. So, there is an opportunity to expand the facilities and the club is working on that in the background. I think the City Development Plan has come at the right time for us.”

For now, though, he says the objective is to get the word out there that Fr. Griffins/Éire Óg, which also has the use of Fr. Griffins old stomping ground at South Park (The Swamp), “are here – and here to stay”.

He praises PRO Luke Murray for the work he has done while he notes the signposting they have erected to their pitch in Crestwood has also been crucial. “The signs have given us a visibility to let people know where we are, that we are as good as any other club around, that everyone is more than welcome, and that we are a community-based club.”

“So, there is a lot happening in the background at the minute and we also have a new website, we have the Clubforce app and, as I said, we have our registration and launch day on May 1. Obviously, that is dependent on Covid announcements,” stresses Lawless.

  • For further information, check out the club’s website: fgeo.ie. Registration for 2021 is currently available on Clubforce: Fr. Griffin’s Éire Óg.
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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash

Enda Cunningham

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A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.

At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.

The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Salthill Garda Station (091) 514 720 the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.

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Connacht Tribune

Wake-up call as United are pummelled by lively Athlone

Keith Kelly

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Galway United substitute Wilson Waweru who scored a consolation goal in their 3-1 First Division defeat to Athlone Town on Friday night.

Athlone Town 3

Galway United 1

IT turned out to be a Bad Friday for Galway United in Athlone as they were outthought, outfought and outplayed by a home side that deserved a far greater reward than a two-goal victory.

All the damage was done in the first-half, with the home side scoring three goals without reply in a 14-minute spell that left the visitors visibly shell-shocked and in danger of shipping an absolute hammering.

United manager, John Caufield, described the first-half as the worst United display since he took charge at the club midway through last season, but it was worse than that: this was 2011 Sean Connor bad (one win in 40 matches), it was 2001 Dave Connell bad (one win in 13).

Both of those seasons ended in United dropping to the First Division, and the First Division is where they will find themselves against next season unless there is an immediate improvement in performance and attitude, starting with this Friday’s trip to Stradbrook to take on Cabinteely.

The post-mortem examination on last Friday should not solely focus on United’s wretchedness: Athlone Town were hugely impressive in recording a first win over United since May 2006, though it should be noted the sides have met just 13 times since the Town dumped United out of the FAI Cup thanks to a 2-1 win in May 2006, a game that saw the end of Stephen Lally’s reign as United manager.

“Galway playing with three at the back, you know, they’re almost three centre-backs really rather than full-backs and we just knew that would be an opportunity for our players to get at them and take them on and I thought James Doona and Adam Wixted did that very well tonight,” Athlone manager Adrian Carberry told the website www.extratime.ie after the game.

In truth, that was something of an understatement – Wixted and Doona ravished the United back-three in the opening 45 minutes, with all three of the home side’s goals coming from out wide.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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