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Getting rugby league off the ground in Galway



Date Published: 11-Apr-2013

 IT may go unnoticed by many but this week there is a very special guest in Galway, namely the Rugby League World Cup trophy.

The silverware’s rare appearance on this island is all part of a promotional tour ahead of the World Cup tournament which will, by and large, be hosted by England in October and November of this year although one pool game between kingpins Australia and Ireland will take place in Thomond Park on Saturday, November 9.

How the trophy has ended up in Galway is down, one suspects, to the influence of coordinator of Galway City Sports Partnership Jason Craughwell, an international Rugby League referee who is also Chairman of the West of Ireland’s only Rugby League club, the Galway Tribesmen.

Seizing the opportunity, Craughwell and club secretary and player Thomas Hynes hope the arrival of the Rugby League World Cup trophy will boost the profile of the game locally and, perhaps, entice Rugby Union players to commit to the sport during their off-season in the summer.

2013 is Galway Tribesmen’s second season in existence, with the club competing in its inaugural campaign in the Munster League. “We wanted to put something together,” says Secretary Hynes, a born and bred Rugby League enthusiast from Leeds in Yorkshire.

“It is a Summer league we play – the league kicks off on May 11 and runs to mid August – and with all the (Union) clubs in the area, there should be an abundance of rugby players with not much to do during the Summer.

“So, it is basically a way for them to keep playing throughout the Summer. From my point of view, I want to see Rugby League played in Galway and Connacht and, hopefully, we can utilise all these guys who are not doing much over the Summer.”

Craughwell takes up the sales pitch. “From the Union’s lads’ point of view, it is a great way to get back into it and up-skill in a number of ways. Take the forwards. Forwards in Union, generally, don’t pass the ball or run with the ball as much as they would in the game of Rugby League.

“League also helps them improve their tackling and their spatial awareness and all that kind of thing. Rather than going into contact and going to ground, you are trying to break through. So, the game works on a number of different levels and it benefits both codes.”

Indeed, the vast majority of League teams in Ireland – of which there are approximately 24 – are affiliated to Union clubs, with the Tribesmen based in Galwegians. However, with pitch development proposed for Glenina, they may have to relocate for the coming season.

“Basically, almost all of the teams are based out of a Union club and they would have the backing of that club because they would see the benefit of it,” continues Craughwell. “Many Union clubs, particularly the AIL clubs, would have a deal with the Rugby League that if there are, say, U-20s coming up – or lads coming back from injury – they would play League during the Summer to get their fitness back up for the Rugby Union season. So, there is a great benefit to having the game.”

The seeds for Rugby League in Ireland were first sown in 1989 but the governing body RLI was not set up until 2000. “It started off really with a team in Dublin called Dublin Blues,” explains Craughwell. “Really, what they were set up to do was to play touring teams from England. There were very few outlets [for English teams] bar going to the likes of Australia or, maybe, some places in Europe. So, they set up a team in Dublin.”

Hynes was part of one such visiting tour himself as a sprightly 19-year-old many moons ago. Little did the 41-year-old, whose father hails from Headford, realise that one day he would become a driving force behind the game west of the Shannon.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Mervue United advance to the quarter-finals of U-17 FAI Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

On a weekend when the vast majority of the action fell by the wayside due to the inclement weather, Mervue United U-17 struck late to snatch a winner in Donegal as they qualified for the last eight of the FAI U-17 Cup following a success over Swilly Rovers.

Local League action saw just three games survive as OLBC notched a second half winner to defeat Hibernians to move into third position in the Premier League.

In the lower Divisions, table toppers Mervue United B and Moyne Villa continued on their merry ways with away wins over Bohemians and Naomh Briocain.

Swilly Rovers 0

Mervue United 1

In a game that was switched to a playable pitch in Fanad, Mervue United took a long time to assert their authority before striking late to give the home side no chance to respond.

The 89th minute winner was created by an Andrew Connolly flick on following a Ryan Manning thrown in and Schoolboy International Conor Melody made space for himself in the box before firing past Caolan Bolton.

It was no less than the visitors deserved against a young home side, but they had to work extremely hard for their victory.

While Anthoine O’Laoi missed a good first half opportunity, just a long range Manning free kick tested Bolton otherwise. Substitute John Migel Soler almost made an instant impact on the resumption, but was denied by a smart save.

Connolly, O’Laoi and Paul Healy all threatened a break though for the visitors, before a fine-tuned Melody eventually saved the day and secured the Mervue passage.

Mervue United: P Healy, Barry, Bailey, P Healy, Carroll, Melody, Assagbo, Manning, Cunningham (Soler), Connolly, O’Laoi.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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