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French aristocrats for Sportsground debut in November

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

Keith Kelly

CONNACHT have the privilege of getting the 2011/12 Heineken Cup underway in November when Eric Elwood’s side travel to The Stoop to take on London Harlequins on Friday, November 11 (8pm), and fans won’t have long to wait for the ‘big one’ with Toulouse travelling to the Sportsground the following weekend.

A capacity crowd is expected in the Sportsground on Saturday, November 19 when Guy Noves brings the aristocrats of European rugby to the College Road venue for what will be a historic first-ever Heineken Cup match played in the province (6pm).

Connacht then face a double-header against Gloucester in December, hosting the 2006 Challenge Cup winners on Saturday, December 10 (1.30pm), and then travelling to Kingsholm the following Saturday for the reverse fixture (3.40pm).

While exact times and dates have not been set for the remaining two fixtures, Connacht will travel to France to take on Toulouse on the weekend of January 13-15, and their final pool game will be the following weekend at home to Harlequins.

“To have your very first home game in the Heineken Cup against Toulouse, you can’t get much better than that,” was Connacht coach Eric Elwood’s reaction on Wednesday.

“Obviously we’d have loved if we were at home on the first weekend, but you’d have to be delighted that Toulouse will be our first opponents in the Sportsground. It will be a cracking atmosphere, the place will be packed and it should make for a great buzz around Galway,” he told Tribune Sport.

While Connacht make their bow on that opening weekend, Harlequins will be playing their 50th game in the competition, but that is still a long way short of the figure of Stade Toulousain – to give them their full title – who will be playing in the competition for the 120th time when they line out at the Sportsground the following weekend, more than any other team in the history of the competition.

All four of Connacht’s games prior to Christmas will be televised live on Sky Sports, but that is not expected to take affect attendances, which should be at capacity, especially for the visit of Toulouse.


“It will be a full house, and it is great to get Toulouse so early. It would have been a tough game if it was Gloucester or Harlequins – we’re playing with the ‘big boys’ now, so there are no easy games – but it is fantastic to get Toulouse for that first game.

“I’ve just come from training now and all the lads are talking about it. Pre-season training is going well, there are the usual ups and downs with fellas picking up knocks, but that is all part of pre-season training. It’s all about hard work, and the body eventually gets used to those bangs and bruises.

“Obviously we are all looking forward to the new season, and that first game, a friendly against Exeter on August 13 in the Sportsground. It is all about a gradual build-up and putting in the hard work now for the year ahead, so apart from the few injuries, things are going well.

“I have finalised my squad, and it is a great group of players. Brett Wilkinson will be out for another six or seven weeks through injury, while Gavin Duffy, John Muldoon and Mike McCarthy are all away training with the national squad. It would be great to have the whole squad together, but listen, I’m not complaining, every team goes through those kind of things,” he said.

Connacht will have eight competitive games under their belt in the RaboDirect Pro12 league by the time they make their Heineken Cup debut in The Stoop. According to a draft fixture list for what was known as the Magners League last season, Connacht open their campaign with a trip to Italy to take on Benetton Treviso on Friday, September 2, followed a week later by the visit of the Scarlets to the Sportsground.

There is the proposed usual double header against Irish sides around the Christmas period, with Connacht scheduled away to Munster on December 23, and hosting Leinster in the Sportsground on December 30.

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

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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