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Galway’s U21 heroes defy the odds to claim All-Ireland crown

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 08-May-2013

THERE was nothing soft about this All-Ireland. Nothing soft about it at all. No matter what way you look at it, Galway took the hard route and deservedly emerged as the top team in the country.

Aside, perhaps, from the opening round of the Connacht Championship against Sligo, the Galway U21 footballers were tipped to lose each and every one of the subsequent four games they played, against Mayo, against Roscommon, against Kildare and again on Saturday against Cork in the final at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.

And in each and every one of them matches, Galway defied the odds, defied the critics – at times even defied logic and maybe defied even their own expectations about their abilities – and won all of the games they were ‘supposed to’ lose.

Galway the giant slayers – that’s how the campaign will be remembered.

Mayo was being tipped as the emerging team in Connacht in 2013 yet Galway dug out a two points win against them in Tuam Stadium. Roscommon, who were the reigning Connacht champions and who were tipped to go all the way this year after a narrow defeat in the All-Ireland final against Dublin last year, were big favourites to retain their crown in the Connacht Final at Hyde Park.

For long periods of that game, there looked like being no other result than a Roscommon win. But out of nowhere, with three minutes to go, Galway caught fire, and scored three quick points to force extra-time, a period in which they romped home. Houdini would have been proud of such a ‘great escape’.

Galway effectively came back from the dead that day; it defined them as a team in the All-Ireland series to follow. It gave the necessary confidence and character to go on and topple Kildare, who were odds on certainties to not only swat aside the Connacht champions, but to also win the competition outright.

And even when Galway shocked Kieran McGeeney’s much-vaunted Kildare outfit, still there were disbelievers, still the naysayers installed Cork, the three-times Munster champions, as the most likely to lift the title.

You can’t doubt it, Galway ploughed the path of most resistance, and somehow made the breakthrough. It could be their greatest All-Ireland U21 title yet.

The Roscommon match – coming back to win when they were dead and buried – was the turning point of the season, and it stood to them when Cork were blitzing them and fighting back in the second half in Limerick.

Galway had built a 1-14 to 0-8 advantage, 11 minutes after the break, carving out a nine points lead that normally you’d describe as unassailable. But the likes of Tom Flynn and Fintán Ó Curraoin had been in a similar situation three years ago, against Cork, nine points up, ten minutes to go, in the All-Ireland minor semi-final at Croke Park. They lost after crazy closing stages.

On Saturday, Cork hit Galway for six (1-3) in the space of minutes, and all of a sudden it was only natural that that horrid day in 2010 was playing on the minds of the Tribesmen.

There were hairy moments as Galway sat back and protected their lead – none least when substitute ‘keeper James Healy had to grab a dangerous high ball late on – but the bottle from the Roscommon battle saw Galway through.

As did their impressive defence, which has been solid all year, but really exceeded itself in the opening 20 or 25 minutes, when they sent out a statement to Cork: ‘You might be favourites but you’re not getting anything easy’.

Galway’s young lions fought valiantly ‘til the end to earn Galway’s second U21 title in three years, fourth since 2002, and fifth title in all. A combination of devastatingly clinical accuracy in front of the posts, coupled with midfield dominance, especially in the aerial battle, and non-stop Duracell Bunny style work-rate of the defence and forwards that tracked back, ensured Galway were crowned champions.

For full and unrivalled coverage see this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

Galway girls make a splash on Irish U-15 water polo side

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 18-Feb-2013

The Irish U-15 girls’ water polo team, which was backboned by eight Galway players, made history in Birmingham made history last weekend when they reached the final of the British Regional Water Polo Championships.

All the girls are members of Galway’s Tribes Water Polo Club, formed only two years ago by Deborah Heery and Amanda Mooney. To get eight members from one club onto a National squad of 13 was an achievement in itself for this new club, but to be part of an Irish team – which was captained by Galway’s Róisín Cunningham, Smyth – to reach a final at such a high International level exceeded all expectations.

Competing against Scotland and Wales, Ireland made it out of their group to a semi-final place against the much fancied North West A England team. The semi-final proved to be the game of the tournament with nothing to separate the teams.

After goals from Carmel Heery, Aisling Dempsey, Eleanor O’Byrne, Roisin Cunningham Smyth and a dramatic penalty save by goalie Ailbhe Colleran, the Irish girls ran out 7-6 winners to become the first Irish side to make a final.

In the final on Sunday afternoon, they met tournament favourites, London, who they had previously beaten in the Group stages. With excellent performances from Eva Dill, Ailbhe Keady and Laoise Smyth, Ireland held the experienced English team to a 4-4 scoreline at half-time, but the English team, with their stronger and more experienced panel pulled away to win the tournament in the second half.

The success of the Irish team in reaching their first ever British Regional Finals was enhanced even further when Tribes member, Carmel Heery, was nominated Most Valuable Player of the Irish Team

In addition to their recent International success these girls were also members of the Tribes Water Polo team that won the U-14 & U-16 National Water Polo Cups this year and the Grads invitational U-15 tournament.

The success of this young Galway Water Polo Club nationally and internationally is in no small way due to the exceptional ability of their talented coaches, Padraig Smyth, Amanda Mooney, Jeremy Pagden, Carol O’Neill, Roisin Sweeney, Cathal Treacy.

The Irish team was coached by Aideen Conway (IWPA) and managed by Tribes founder, Deborah Heery.

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Archive News

Feast of folk at An Taibhdhearc

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 21-Feb-2013

Galway group We Banjo 3, comprising Enda and Fergal Scahill with Martin and David Howley, will team up with Dublin band I Draw Slow for a unique concert at An Taibhdhearc, on Thursday next, February 28, 8pm.

Featuring banjos, fiddle, mandolins, guitars, banjolin and vocals We Banjo 3 combine Irish music with old-time American, ragtime and bluegrass influences, revealing the banjo’s rich legacy from its roots in African and minstrel music through to the Irish traditional sound pioneered by Barney McKenna.

Their début album, Roots of the Banjo Tree, was voted best trad album in The Irish Times in December 2012.

The roots band I Draw Slow perform a blend of old time Appalachian and Irish traditional material that has been described as a fully natural evolution of American and Irish traditional styles.

Their top 10-selling second album, Redhills was named RTÉ’s album of the week in 2011 and it frequently features on playlists of stations in Ireland, the UK and the US.

Next Thursday’s concert in An Taibhdhearc is presented by Music Network and An Taibhdhearc and starts at 8pm. Tickets are €15. Booking at 091-562024.

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