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Forgettable stuff in Ballybofey floors football purists

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

IT was nearly the worst form of sporting penance. The All-Ireland Gaelic football championship may have finally kicked off on home soil last Sunday, but the first round Ulster clash between Donegal and Antrim in Ballybofey turned out to be a dreadful affair as the rival teams took negative tactics to the extreme. It was a forgettable match in every sense of the word.

The statistics back up that analysis. Neither team could manage a score from play in the opening 21 minutes until Donegal wing forward Ryan Bradley split the posts, while Antrim appeared even more clueless up front as it took until the 33rd minute for Paddy Cunningham to finally open their account outside of frees. An interval scoreline of 0-6 to 0-3 in the home side’s favour perfectly reflected the frustrating over-commitment to defence.

The game was a shocking spectacle as Donegal, in particular, were determined to get as many players behind the ball as possible and though the county achieved its first Ulster championship victory in four years, their failure to be more ambitious against a team of Antrim’s modest ability does not bode well for their prospects of a protracted summer campaign.

All through the game, Donegal flooded their own half of the field and while their ‘swarm defence’ ultimately delivered a winning outcome last Sunday, Jim McGuinness’ squad will need to be far more adventurous and positive against the better teams. A total return of 1-10 summed up their priorities against Antrim, but as an advertisement for Gaelic football, this offering was in dire need of censorship.

Despite the woeful nature of Antrim’s challenge, Donegal were still only four points ahead nearing the end of the match and it took a neatly taken goal from wing forward MarkMcHugh to wrap up the contest. The failure of the much hyped Michael Murphy to register a single score from play is an additional worry for the Glenties men who will, no doubt, justify their tactics in the context of getting the right result.

Unfortunately, Gaelic football these days is nearly all about curtailing the opposition instead of focussing on attack. At least, the better teams like Kerry and Cork have never lost sight of the fact that if you don’t score enough, it doesn’t matter how well you defend. There is no point in having quality forwards like Colm Copper or Donncha O’Connor in your ranks, if they are back in their own half of the field defending.

Galway, to their credit, have rarely resorted to the massed defence strategy even under Tomas Ó Flathárta’s brief reign so far – the Kerry native wasn’t shy about utilising the tactic when over Westmeath – and the manner in which the county U-21s stormed to the All-Ireland title recently was a sharp and timely reminder of the benefits of traditional, direct football.. Alan Mulholland’s charges simply played on the front foot with their ‘have a go nature’ proving critical to a title triumph which must bode well for football in the county.

If Donegal had resorted to an all out attacking policy against Antrim, they would surely have carried the day by at least ten points, but they simply took no chances in a performance which bore all the hallmarks of a team determined not to lose. From that perspective alone, the end justified the means for McGuinness and his mentors last Sunday even if the watching TV audience were given little or nothing to enthuse about. Donegal may have stopped their rot in Ulster, but their tactics left the rest of us utterly deflated.

In a broader sense, the GAA championship season has again started with a whimper rather than a bang. Two weeks earlier a forewarned Roscommon made short work of the New York exiles – a result which appears to have slipped under the radar – but these low key fixtures don’t excite the neutral or help to generate much debate. Maybe, it’s time for the GAA to condense their championship season from June to September as there are still no shortage of big rugby and soccer (cross channel) going ahead in May.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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