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

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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

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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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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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