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Galway inventors use their heads for sports safety!



A Galway couple has created the world’s first rugby head guard to be approved as a medical device which they claim will prove crucial in the battle against concussion and brain injury.

After six years of research, Sandra and Mark Ganly have launched the €150 N-Pro that has been proven in extensive tests to reduce impact force on players by up to 75%.

Through its multi-layer construction, the head guard reduces the G-Force energy transferred to a player’s head during impact which is one of the major factors in sports-induced brain injuries.

The couple, from Ballindereen but living in Kinvara with their three children, drew on their different professional backgrounds to come up with a better device to protect rugby players.

Mark Ganly set up Marc Sports in 2005 and his hurling helmets become only the second brand of helmet in the country to receive endorsement from the GAA following the introduction of compulsory protective headgear for all levels of hurling from January 2010.

Sandra Ganly is a biomedical engineer at NUIG who works in the medical device sector with a particular focus on addressing unmet clinical needs.

The pair decided to work on this innovation after hearing former Ireland rugby player John Fogarty talk about the impact of brain injuries on his career.

He announced his retirement in November 2010 on the advice of his doctors after suffering repeated concussions.

“He was one of the first rugby players to talk about the issue of concussion publicly. Over the past number of years, players are bigger, faster, stronger so the number of impacts has been increasing. That interview sowed the seeds for us,” recalled Mark.

They started out creating prototypes which were lab tested and bench tested. They spent a long time in research and development to come up with the defentex technology which would satisfy three main criteria – safety, usability and effectiveness. The models were then used by players in the Ulster Academy in Northern Ireland where the feedback was extremely positive.

“The thing about brain damage and concussion is it’s very difficult to recognise, it’s often asymptomatic – only time will tell. We can only talk about the risk factors,” explains Sandra.

“Most neurological experts agree one of the main risk factors for head injuries is related to impact – both linear or direct impact or rotational impact, which is like a glancing blow.

“Our bench tests prove the N-Pro reduces both of those – by 75% for linear impact and 55% for rotational impact.”

After creating the Neuro-Protection (N-Pro), they then succeeded in securing a CE marked Medical Device classification, the world’s first and only sports head guard to be certified as a medical device.

They are launching the device in Ireland and the UK this week and would ultimately like to see it as a compulsory piece of equipment for all rugby players, particularly underage players.

But will ordinary club players cough up the €150 price at a time when hurling helmets are sold through GAA clubs for €35.

“Ours is a totally different product to hurling helmets in terms of brain injury. This is the most tested and most researched head guard in the world,” insisted Mark.

Sandra points out that people were asked in focus groups how much they would pay for a head guard that would protect the brain and they replied they would pay more than they would for boots – which cost in the region of €200.

“R&D [research and development] is going to be a constant part of our product. We’re by no means finished,” remarked Sandra.

The head guard will only be available through their company, Contego Sports Ltd, rather than retailers as they want to receive feedback on the product from those who are wearing it.

The company is based in Oranmore while the product is manufactured in the UK.

“We can see the potential for this in other sports where facial protection is not required – such as boxing and MMA. But this specific product is designed for rugby. We really excited about its potential.”

Connacht Tribune

Record crowds pack Ballinasloe to celebrate Fair’s 300th anniversary



Crowds flock to the Fairgreen at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair.

RECORD crowds packed into Ballinasloe last weekend for the return of the famous October Fair – but it turned to be a ‘dry day’ for the punters with most of the pubs in the town taking the decision to close their doors on Sunday.

Hotels in the town also adopted either a ‘food only’ or ‘residents only’ policy through Sunday but Gardaí reported a trouble-free weekend in the town.

“There were huge crowds around and especially so on Sunday, but we had no reports of any trouble – it was practically an incident free weekend,” said a Garda spokesperson.

Many visitors to the Fair on Sunday expressed disappointment at the decision of the pubs to close  – although a few establishments did open their doors with special security arrangements in place.

The last ‘official fair’ took place in October, 2019, and while there was an unofficial event last year, it was only a small gathering due to the Covid restrictions.

An estimated 3,000 people turned out for the free open-air country music concert with Mike Denver in the Square on Sunday afternoon and Fair organisers also reported a very busy sales day with many horses changing hands.

Trustee of the Ballinasloe Showgrounds, Gerry Stronge, told the Connacht Tribune, that after a three-year break, the crowds had really thronged back into the town on Sunday.

“Most people I know that have been attending the Fair for years said that it was biggest crowd they had ever seen there on the first Sunday of the event.

“It was an incredible day – the streets were absolutely jammed with people – and it was most enjoyable with no trouble whatsoever,” he said.

Get the full story with loads of photos in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Compo can keep sex abuse dad out of jail



Galway Courthouse.

An estranged father who sexually assaulted his then-ten-year-old daughter seven years ago will escape a two-year jail term – if he pays her €12,000 within the next twelve months.

Counsel for the 51-year-old man, who cannot be identified in order to protect the identity of the victim, indicated at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week that his client would avail of Judge Brian O’Callaghan’s offer and would sell off some of his assets to raise the €12,000.

Earlier in the sentence hearing, the now-17-year-old victim told the court the seven-year delay in bringing her father to justice had caused her and her mother untold grief and suffering.

“It’s been seven years, dealing with court dates and adjournments and only now, seven years later, have I got the closure I needed,” she said.

The judge apologised to her and everyone else involved for the delay in finalising the case.

“Even allowing for Covid, it is without question that the judicial, legal, criminal system has failed all parties in this case and it’s appropriate I should give that apology,” Judge O’Callaghan said.

Prosecuting state counsel, Conall MacCarthy, said the man maintained his innocence when arrested and interviewed in April 2016.

He had been due to stand trial on two occasions in the last few years but each time his trial was adjourned for various reasons, including Covid.

He then pleaded guilty, moments before his trial was eventually due to get underway last November, to a charge of sexually assaulting the girl on August 15, 2015, at the family home near a Co. Galway village.

Sentence was adjourned on four occasions since to await the results of a probation report before it was finalised this week.

Resd the full court report in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Hero’s welcome for king of the high seas



Atlantic rower Damian Browne holds a flare as he enters Galway Docks to a hero’s reception. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

“I just had a deep belief I was going to complete it – and nothing was going to stop me.”

Those were the words of former Connacht rugby player and now transatlantic rower Damian Browne who returned to a hero’s welcome at Galway Docks on Tuesday, just hours after his mammoth journey came to an end on the rocks at Furbo.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, 42-year-old Browne’s vessel, the Cushlamachree, came ashore just down from Pádraicín’s – not the ending the Renmore man wanted for his epic trip from New York to Galway.

The journey was due to end at the Docks at 11am on Tuesday morning, but as it turned out, Browne had a few hours at home before being met by huge crowds who, despite the rain, came out in their hundreds to welcome the extreme adventurer back.

Children from schools across the city were among the hoards of people who lined the Harbour, including those from his alma mater, St Joseph’s (The Bish) who formed a guard of honour with oars to greet Browne.

His arrival to the Docks, escorted by Galway Harbourmaster Brian Sheridan, was met with endless cheers as drumbeat and flares signalled the end of his four months at sea.

“The winds coming from the south were blowing me up through the Aran Islands and it was great to get me through the islands, but then they kept pushing me towards the north coast of Galway and nothing I could do would stop them,” says Browne of the final hours of his journey.

“Before I knew it, I was at Pádraicín’s and heading for Barna, trying to get into Barna Pier to anchor down . . . it was very tense. I saw two rocks that I knew were there, but I thought I was further out, and then I had to whip the boat around.

“I had about two seconds to whip it around, 270 degrees, and head straight out to sea, but as I did, I got hit by a massive wave.”

The boat capsized, one of his oars broke and it was at that moment he knew it was time to get up on the rocks and call for assistance.

Get the full dramatic story – and full coverage of the welcome home – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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