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Football championship is turned on its head

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Date Published: 04-Aug-2010

THERE are only four teams left now, but just one of them was expected to get so far. Reliable Cork, that is until they come up against Kerry, have managed to reach the business end of the All-Ireland football championship again, but few envisaged that Down, Kildare or Dublin would make it to the semi-finals giving the extent of their respective early summer struggles.

In a title race which has featured no amount of shock results, it probably should have came as no surprise that the trend continued in last weekend’s All-Ireland quarter-finals. Yet, it is still hard to credit, that both Kerry and Tyrone – the two teams which have shared every title since 2002 – were sensationally sent packing on the same day in Croke Park.

Admittedly, depleted Kerry were vulnerable against a county that they have never beaten in championship football despite four previous attempts. Without the retired Dara O Sé, his suspended brother Tomás and Paul Galvin (what’s new!), together with the unavailability of Tadgh Kennelly and Tommy Walsh, the champions were always going to have their work cut out against a Down outfit which had flattered to deceive against Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final.

Not alone that, but James McCartan’s men were no great shakes either in their opening two matches of the qualifiers against Longford (1-14 to 1-10) and Offaly (1-12 to 1-10) before running riot against a battle weary and deflated Sligo outfit in the All-Ireland quarter-final. It was hardly the level of form which would normally have perturbed the Kerry camp except for that damning championship statistic of having yet to succeed against Down.

If you just landed in front of the TV in time to see Kerry substitute David Moran finding the net from a late penalty, you would have automatically assumed that Jack O’Connor’s squad were merely wrapping up their passage to the All-Ireland semi-finals rather than bringing their margin of defeat to a somewhat more respectable six points.

Kerry were out-battled and out-manoeuvred by hungrier and sharper opponents who possessed top class performers in goal scorer Mark Poland, centre back Kevin McKernan, Martin Clarke, goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh, Paul McComiskey, and, eventually, Benny Coulter.

Of course, it didn’t help Kerry’s cause that wing forward Donncha Walsh was lost to a second yellow card early in the second-half, but apart from Colm Cooper up front, they just never looked like unhinging Down’s tenacious defence with McVeigh twice denying Kieran Donaghy from point-blank range. The Ulster men were utterly deserving winners on a day Kerry could only manage a mere three points from play.

If Down’s triumph over Kerry was a turn up, Dublin’s eclipse of Tyrone comes into the bombshell category. Remember, Pat Gilroy’s team had stuttered their way past Wexford in the opening round of the Leinster championship before being ransacked for five goals by Meath. Their passionate followers began to desert them in droves as they headed off on the qualifiers where they recorded unconvincing wins over Tipperary, Armagh and Louth. Sure, Dublin were gradually improving but off a low base.

Few neutrals gave them a chance against Tyrone last Saturday, but the in-form Bernard Brogan and his team-mates stood up to the challenge, both physically and mentally, while their tightened up defensive system, carefully honed during the National League, finally began to yield results in the championship. The Dubs were honest and determined, while the turnaround in their fortunes is a great tribute to Gilroy who appeared a dead manager walking less than two months ago.

Only Owen Mulligan really threatened to unhinge Dublin at the back but, significantly, when the game was there to be won in the final five minutes, it was the younger legs of the sky blues which were to prove decisive, with Eoghan O’Gara’s late goal the killer blow. This was a mighty win for the Dubs and they won’t be backing away from Cork in the upcoming All-Ireland semi-final either.

Sunday’s doubleheader at Croke Park didn’t have the same earth-shattering potential, but it was still a mild surprise that Kildare eventually ran Meath ragged, having found themselves 1-3 to no score down after the opening salvos of the match. All summer, it has been a feature of the Lilywhites, starting slowly only to come with a withering second-half surge. Meath had no answer and few will feel sorry for them after the manner in which they ‘won’ the Leinster final against Louth.

Ironically, Kildare had come up badly short when facing the Wee county in the provincial championship and even had to dig deep to force a replay against Antrim in the qualifiers, but they haven’t looked back since as Kieran McGeeney’s super-fit troops continue on a hectic schedule which saw them face into their sixth consecutive weekend of action against Meath last Sunday.

First-half goals from James Kavanagh, who showed admirable composure, and Alan Smith had dragged them firmly back into the contest by half-time despite losing Dermot Earley to injury early in the match. With Johnny Doyle again leading by example up front, Kildare gradually began to pull away and, on this evidence, have arguably the greatest momentum of the four counties left in contention.

Of all the quarter-finals, Cork’s meeting with Roscommon was the driest-cut in terms of the expected result and though the Rebels sauntered home by nine points in the end, the spirited Connacht champions did have the audacity to take a narrow lead early in the second-half following points from Ger Heneghan, who really ought to have found the net, Michael Finneran and Karol Mannion. Their tiring bodies, however, ensured that Cork virtually took over the final quarter with Pearse O’Neill’s goal opening clear daylight between the teams.

It’s hard to credit that not one team which contested a provincial final has managed to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals. Kerry, Limerick, Roscommon, Sligo, Meath, Louth, Tyrone and Monaghan have all fallen by the wayside as counties which have come through the qualifiers comprise the last four.

Though Cork remain as favourites to atone for recent disappointments, the Inside Track’s loyalty will be to Kildare as they go chasing their first All-Ireland title since 1928.

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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Archive News

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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