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French aristocrats for Sportsground debut in November



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



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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