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Galway hurling’s new force

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Date Published: 21-Nov-2012

CIARAN TIERNEY

A new force has risen from the South and, on the basis of their thoroughly deserved county final victory over a battle-hardened Loughrea side on Sunday, the boys of St Thomas’ look set to become major players on the Galway club scene for years to come as youth is very much on the side of the new champions.

Perhaps this first senior success has come earlier than expected for a side who started with nine players who overcame the same opponents in last year’s U-21 decider, but there is no denying that the men in red are worthy title-holders.

Questions have been asked of them by both 2011 champions Gort, who took them to a semi-final replay, and Loughrea in recent weeks but John Burke’s youngsters have responded with the class and composure of true champions.

They were singing in the rain long into the night around the villages of Kilchreest, Castledaly, and Peterswell on Sunday, and rightly so, as county final wins hardly come sweeter for a small rural club than a gritty, close battle against more experienced ‘big town’ rivals.

Not since the last title success of a legendary, but fading, Sarsfields side back in 1997 has a club as small as St Thomas’ been crowned top dogs in Galway hurling and the genuine joy among their supporters was infectious as full-back and captain Robbie Murray stepped forward to collect the Tom Callanan Cup at Pearse Stadium.

 

When the driving wind and rain arrived into Salthill hours before Met Eireann’s predictions, the feeling on the way to the ground was that the awful conditions would suit their more physical, more experienced rivals in grinding out only a second title success from their sixth county final appearance in 11 seasons.

To their credit, Loughrea never gave up the fight. They staged a spirited fightback, scoring 1-3 without reply to close the gap to just one goal in the final nine minutes, but a St Thomas’ victory was sweet justice for the younger side, who looked craftier, slicker, full of energy, and showed absolutely no big day nerves.

The final scoreline of 3-11 to 2-11 might suggest that it was a thriller in the driving rain, but the youthful men in red were the superior side throughout. When they led by 3-11 to 1-8 with just ten minutes left on the clock, quite a few neutrals in the 6,500-plus crowd must have considered making an early exit in the awful conditions.

It is a credit to both sides that they served up such a cracking mid-November county final, with hardly an unsavoury pull until the tension filled closing minutes when a Johnny Maher penalty – which should have been disallowed – gave Loughrea a scarcely deserved lifeline.

 

Loughrea fielded with seven players who were featuring in their sixth county final and this latest defeat is bound to cause considerable soul-searching in the Town camp, given that they have only managed one title success (2006) since reaching their first modern decider in 2003.

Their record in reaching so many finals in over a decade of hurling shows wonderful consistency, but this was a bleak day for Vinnie and Johnny Maher, Damien McClearn, Gavin Keary, Brian Mahony and Johnny O’Loughlin, who each have only one county medal to show for those six final appearances.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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