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Gilligan in dreamland



Date Published: {J}

John McIntyre

HE had never taken a horse to the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival before; he only took one horse to the Cotswolds last week; he didn’t think any of the yard’s other inmates would be competitive enough; but he knew his horse was no 33/1 outsider.

In becoming the first Galway-based trainer to ever saddle a winner at the Olympics of National Hunt racing, Paul Gilligan had added to a burgeoning reputation in the sport and is now already firmly established as the top handler in the West of Ireland.

It’s only the Galway summer festival of 2007 that the 36-year-old first really came to racing prominence when saddling three winners, Tai Lass, Jadanli and Nintytwo Team, which landed the featured Freshways Handicap Hurdle on the penultimate day of the meeting.

Gilligan has maintained a reasonable strike-rate with his string in the interim with the Sligo track a particularly happy hunting ground.

Renowned as a hard worker in the business and someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, he is now moving to a different level with the obvious potential to expand his operation.

The horse which embellished Gilligan’s reputation in the sport at Cheltenham last Friday was Berties Dream in the three-mile Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. Significantly, it wasn’t the seven-year-old’s first visit to Prestbury Park as the previous November he had finished an honourable third to Tell Massini over three furlongs shorter.

Tony McCoy was on board that day and reckoned that Berties Dream would benefit from a step up in trip. He was only beaten about nine lengths that day, giving the winner seven lbs, and Tell Massini would end up 100/30 favourite last Friday. He was already tailing off when pulled up before the last.

Having finished an encouraging fourth behind War Of Attrition in his festival prep run at Navan in mid-February, Berties Dream was still largely ignored in the ante post betting. Afer all, what are the odds of a West of Ireland trainer saddling a Cheltenham festival winner with his first ever runner?

Sent off a largely unconsidered 33/1 chance, Berties Dream was always in touch and though coming under pressure approaching the second last where he was less than fluent, Andrew Lynch’s mount began to stay on powerfully up the hill on the rain-softened ground.

Drawing alongside the tiring Restless Harry, which soon came to grief, and Najaf, at the last, Berties Dream was clearly relishing the three-mile trip and there was no doubting his superiority in powering away for an emphatic six lengths win in the £100,000 novices contest for the Dublin-based Half A Keg Syndicate.

It represented a masterful training performance by Gilligan, who was saddling his fifth cross-channel winner of the campaign. He was naturally thrilled by the biggest success of his career in the unsaddling enclosure afterwards. “Money can’t but this feeling, I cannot believe it.”

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



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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