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Galway hurling’s new force



Date Published: 21-Nov-2012


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



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

Little margin for error as footballers host Wexford in a critical league tie



Date Published: 21-Mar-2013

IN the context of the championship season ahead there is a bigger picture to look at, but for now, Galway footballers will be concentrating solely on getting a result from their Division 2 National Football League clash against Wexford at Pearse Stadium on Sunday (12.45).


Promotion is a mathematical possibility but realistically Galway will have an eye on avoiding the trapdoor to Division 3, as they are one of four mid-table teams locked on five points.

With Armagh (away on April 7) left after next Sunday, a home win in Pearse Stadium is an absolute essential for Alan Mulholland’s charges, but there has to be anxieties in the camp after the heavy defeat they suffered last weekend at the hands of Laois.

Galway struggled badly in a lot of key positions at Portlaoise and despite Wexford going down to Westmeath in Wexford Park last Monday, the visitors will have survival on their minds too on Sunday.

Wexford apparently did not get the ‘rub of the green’ last Sunday against Westmeath. They were going ‘great guns’ early in the second half, leading by 0-13 to 1-6, when midfielder Daithi Waters controversially got sent off.

The decision, by all accounts, changed the course of the match with Westmeath dominating possession from there on, before eventually winning by a 4-12 to 0-16 scoreline.

Wexford centre forward Ben Brosnan proved to be a real thorn in the Westmeath defence, kicking seven points from play and frees, so he will be a man to watch for the Galway defence on Sunday.

Galway report a clean bill of health for the Wexford match, but management may be considering at least some changes in the wake of the Laois defeat.

Selector Donal Ó Fatharta said that while Galway were very disappointed at the defeat in Portlaoise, it was a matter of re-grouping for what was a critical league tie against Wexford.

“After last weekend’s defeat, our priority must be to maintain our Division 2 league status and home wins in the league are vital.

“Laois were very strong on Saturday evening but Wexford too have put in some strong performances in the league – there are no easy games in this division.

“All our long term focus is on the May 19 championship clash with Mayo, and we are looking at a lot of players, but for the moment it really is a case of picking up two points on home soil against Wexford,” said Donal Ó Fatharta.

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Archive News

Love and violence in new play that explores troubled history



Date Published: 27-Mar-2013

 Days of Darkness, the latest drama from city based community theatre group, Alâ will be staged at An Taibhdhearc Theatre from April 3-5.

It follows their success last November with a re-imagining of the story of the pirate queen, Gráinne Mhaol, which was presented in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church.

With this new play, the company, which was set up to address social issues, again takes Ireland and its mythologies as subject matter and again the piece is being written and directed by Gerry Conneely.

“The idea was to do a series of four new plays and we started with Granuaile and The Pages of History to explore the mother/woman myth,” Gerry explains on a break from rehearsals.

“We are a forum theatre group, so we take on issues from contemporary life and we deal with them,” he adds.

Days of Darkness is set in the 1970s and its subject is darker than Granuaile and the Pages of History. It examines the development of a revolutionary republican group from its inception to its eventual disintegration through betrayal and fragmentation.

“We are exploring republicanism, nationalism and Marxism through a young couple who get tied up with the Troubles in a small left-wing group like the INLA. Both their lives are negatively impacted by their involvement,” Gerry says.

Days of Darkness explores a range of issues, including identity, religion, socialism and nationalism in the context of the Northern Ireland conflict. It also analyses the devastating impact of violence on the lives of its two central characters. Its message to the audience is not to forget the past because if when that happens, people are destined to repeat it.

That message is particularly relevant at present, with the rise of splinter republican groups following the Northern Ireland peace agreement. Many of these have formed relationships with criminal gangs in Dublin and in other cities and towns and, as the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising looms these groups are, to paraphrase Gerry Adams, “not going away”.

Given that there are so many young people out there who have no memory of the dark days of the 1970s, it’s important to inform them of how these paramilitary groups affected society in Ireland, both North and South, says Gerry.

The subject matter is undoubtedly serious, but it is treated humorously and lightly, according to Kinvara man, Gerry, who has extensive experience working with community theatre groups in Ireland.

“It’s as much a play about love as it is about politics,” he observes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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