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Galway native behind huge sports website

Dara Bradley

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It started as an amateur internet sports blog written to pass time in college, and had fewer viewers than your average junior C club hurling match played in November.

But it has swelled into a successful, professional sports website, which receives thousands of hits a day, and has attracted advertising from the ‘big boys’ such as betting giant Paddy Power.

The London-based website, www.thesportreview.com, was developed by Galway man Kieran Beckles and his business partner, West Londoner, Martin Caparrotta.

From humble beginnings back in 2009, the duo wrote sports reports and comment pieces on a blog, which at best attracted a few hundred ‘hits’.

The lads broke the psychologically important 1,000-hits with their first ‘big’ story – the signing of Andrei Arshavin for Arsenal – and it has grown exponentially since.

That gave them an indication of the potential a sports site had. And when they started to dedicate their time full-time to the project, in 2012, the popularity of it exploded.

“We were getting 30,000 or 40,000 unique users a month. It was around the time of Wimbledon and the London Olympics. Again with the World Cup this year we’ve continued to grow and we currently have between 800,000 and one million unique users a month,” says Kieran, who was born in London but lived in Claddagh for years, the home of his mother.

Kieran (25), who won national and international titles while rowing with St Joseph’s ‘The Bish’, is an NUI Galway Legal Science and Italian graduate.

It was while on an Erasmus year studying in Bologna where Kieran and Martin met. They played five-a-side soccer together, watched the Premier League together and had a general interest in sport.

They combined their love of sport, an interest in journalism, with Martin’s knowledge of website design.

It started as a blog, “just to pass the time in college really,” says Kieran. “We were only doing four or five articles a day. But we gradually started growing it to where we are now,” he says.

The website business depends heavily on traffic – unless a certain amount of ‘eyes’ are directed to the site, and unless the ‘hits’ don’t keep coming, advertisers won’t part with their money.

Kieran admits that aspect of it is “pretty depressing at times” if the site isn’t reaching its daily targets for hits. But, they know their audience, and “we commit so many hours to it that we know how to get the users and to generate the traffic.”

Tapping into a global audience, hungry for sports news and constant updates on sports, through search engine Google is the fastest way to divert traffic; while the website has also had articles linked to popular websites such as the BBC, which also attracts new users and traffic.

At the moment, the website has a team of freelance and agency writers who contribute to the site, including students.

But as the website expands, Kieran says they are anxious to hire a team of full-time paid-for writers.

“The plan is to continue to grow the site. We’re on course to have our best ever month this August. We always wanted to work for ourselves but our social lives have taken a bit of a back seat. In the longer term the plan is to grow a team of writers.

“We’ve found it is the comment pieces and the player ratings, rather than the match reports, that do well. We want to attract more advertisers. We built it up slowly over the years and we just want to continue to let it grow,” adds Kieran.

CITY TRIBUNE

Work set to start next year on €60m student accommodation scheme

Dara Bradley

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More than 600 new student bed spaces will come on stream at NUIG in time for the start of the semester in September 2022 – bringing welcome relief to the high demand in the student housing market.

The university this week invited tenders for the design and construction contract to develop a new apartment complex at Corrib Village, the existing student accommodation village.

The estimated value of the contract is €60 million, excluding VAT, and its duration is for 38 months.

The plan is to develop a “commercially viable, modern, appealing and environmentally friendly student accommodation on campus”.

According to the tenders, it will be delivered on a phased basis.

The first phase requires immediate fit-out on July 1, 2021 for the start of the term that September. The second phase will be required for immediate fit-out on the June 1, 2022 to allow for adequate setup in advance of the new semester in September 2022.

The greenfield site for the development is north of the existing Corrib Village, between the Bioscience Research Building and the Park and Ride facility.

It will have 674 bed spaces in 125 apartments, in clusters of four to six en suite bedrooms with a communal living area in each apartment.

There will also be more communal areas, and facilities, service rooms, refuse storage and covered cycling storage facilities. It will be built in four blocks, with one block ranging from four to eight storeys tall, two blocks six storeys tall, and the remaining block four storeys.

The plan is for the development of courtyards, pedestrian access, vehicular access and drop-off and parking facilities for the less mobile. Vehicular access is through the existing Corrib Village access road.

The deadline for submission of interest in the tender is November 1, with a contractor to be appointed in the new year.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council records high rate of planning appeals

Enda Cunningham

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Galway City Council had one of the highest rates of appealed planning decisions in the country last year, according to a new report from An Bord Pleanála.

According to the Board’s Annual Report for 2018, there were 378 planning decisions made last year by the City Council.

Of these, 42 were appealed (11.1%), which was the fourth-highest rate of challenged decisions in the country.

The highest rate was in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area with 15.9% of decisions appealed; Dublin City Council at 15.4% and Cork City Council at 12.6%.

The report also shows that in Galway City, there were 37 decisions made by the Board last year – 12 Council decisions were upheld, 16 had planning conditions varied and nine were overturned.

The 42 appeals lodged represented 2.7% of all appeals nationally.

Meanwhile, more than one third of rulings by An Bord Pleanala last year on appeals in County Galway resulted in the Council’s decision being overturned.

The Board’s report shows that 21 decisions from the County Council were overturned.

In 2018, the County Council made 1,626 planning decisions – 81 of these were appealed (5%), which equated to 4% of all local authority planning decisions nationally which were appealed.

Decisions were reached on 60 cases (there may have been a carry-over of decisions pending from 2017, and some from 2018 may not have been made until this year).

A breakdown of the decided cases shows that 14 had the local authority decisions upheld; 25 had decisions varied and 21 had decisions overturned.

According to the Board, appeals were dealt with in an average of 19.5 weeks last year, down from 23.3 weeks recorded in 2017. The Board has an objective of deciding appeals within 18 weeks.

Nationally, there were 28,785 planning decisions, of which 2,028 were appealed (a rate of 7%). A total of 1,806 decisions were reached, of which 434 were upheld, 957 had conditions varied and 415 overturned.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Bus pervert facing jail term

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Athlone Courthouse: Galwayman facing jail for offensive sexual behaviour on a bus.

A 52-year-old man who asked a female passenger on a bus to perform a sex act on him, and then proceeded to masturbate during the journey, has been told he may face a prison sentence.

Eamon McCoy of 20 Beachmount Road, Highfield Park, appeared before Athlone District Court.

BY ADRIAN CUSACK

He entered a guilty plea to a charge of intentionally engaging in offensive conduct of a sexual nature during a bus journey on the M6 at Ardagowna, Athlone, on February 15 last.

Outlining the details of the incident, Sergeant Paul McNally said Gardai received a complaint from a woman at 2.15pm on that date. She told them that she was on a bus heading towards Galway when a male passenger asked her to perform oral sex. He then proceeded to masturbate under his clothing.

The woman took a photo of the man, McCoy, on her phone and contacted the Gardai.

Solicitor Dara Hayden, representing McCoy, said his client was “reluctantly” entering a guilty plea to the charge, as “he tells me that he doesn’t recall the incident” and was “appalled” by the details that were outlined. He said the defendant had bipolar disorder and was on a lot of medication at the time of the offence.

McCoy, who wore a sports headband and dark glasses during the hearing, had worked as a nurse’s aide in an old folks’ home up until 15 or 20 years ago, but he had not worked since then and was on disability benefit, his solicitor said.

Judge Seamus Hughes asked McCoy why he had been travelling on the bus on the date of the incident, and he replied that he was heading back to Galway from Dublin airport.

The judge asked him why he had been in the airport, and whether he had been returning from a trip overseas, but McCoy said he hadn’t.

“I go up [to the airport] from time to time . . . I just went up there for the day,” he said.

Judge Hughes said that, as a first step, he wanted to see McCoy come up with “€2,000, payable in cash, for the girl.”

Mr Hayden replied that his client would find it very difficult to come up with that sum of money, and he was willing to engage in preventative measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“Don’t tempt me to say it,” replied the judge. “I know in some countries what the preventative measure would be.”

The judge said he regarded McCoy as “a very creepy type of character” who had said something “extremely vulgar” to the female passenger.

“All of the signs point to this having been caused by a mental health issue,” replied Mr Hayden, but the judge said this was pure speculation on the solicitor’s part.

Mr Hayden asked for some time to come up with a medical report on his client, and Judge Hughes agreed to adjourn the case for two months.

The judge said he wanted to see a medical explanation for how any mental illness McCoy might have would have caused him to behave the way he did on the bus.

He also said he wanted assurances that the defendant wouldn’t do this “creepy, filthy, dirty, rotten thing again.”

Adjourning the case to December 11 next, Judge Hughes said he would deal with the issues of compensation and custodial sentence length on that date.

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