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Glory beckons for Galway champs



Date Published: 14-Mar-2013


They may be one of Galway’s youngest GAA clubs but St Thomas’s will be hoping that they can continue on the proud tradition of local teams in the All-Ireland club hurling series when they take on Kilcormac/Killoughey of Offaly in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day (2pm).

Formed in 1968, St Thomas’s – the amalgamation of Kilchreest and Peterswell – was only 12 years old when Castlegar claimed the county’s first All-Ireland club crown in 1980. Since then, Kiltormer (1992), Sarsfields (’93 and ’94), Athenry (1997, 2001 and 2001), Portumna (2006, ’08 and ’09) and Clarinbridge (2011) have all achieved club hurling’s highest honour and, now, St Thomas’ have the opportunity to do the same.

It’s amazing the voyage St Thomas’ have been on in recent years, winning county ‘A’ championships at U-16 and minor levels in 2006 and 2008 and translating these into U-21 and senior titles in 2011 and 2012 respectively. It’s as if the journey to this present moment in time has been planned with military precision.

In many respects, it probably has and you only have to take a look back at the team-sheets from those underage finals to see the process at work. Goalkeeper Patrick Skehill has been a constant while the likes of Cathal Burke, Sean Skehill and Donal Cooney – a long term injury victim going into the All-Ireland final – have emerged as top-class defenders.

All-Star David Burke has formed the midfield partnership with Cian Kelly on those underage teams while, in attack, Conor Cooney, James Regan, Bernard Burke and Anthony Kelly have all made the transition from underage to senior look seamless.

In addition, the conveyor belt of talent has continued with the emergence of the likes of brothers Darragh and Eanna Burke – two of the six Burke brothers in the set-up – and teenager Shane Cooney, who really has grown into a formidable young man over the Winter period.

Of course, this is all well and good but if you don’t have a solid foundation, then senior success can become as elusive as a feather on a gale force wind. In this respect, captain Robert Murray, veteran defender Enda Tannian and Sean Burke all offer a calming influence in the defence.

Further afield, St Thomas’s can boast of the experience of Kenneth Burke – who has recovered from a shoulder injury – in midfield and former Galway star Richard Murray in attack.

Great credit must go to the club – and, in particular, the management team of boss John Burke and selectors Justin Flannery and Jimmy Kelly, now in their sixth year – for gelling the inexperienced with the experienced into an impressive working unit in a relatively short period of time.

Aside from that U-21 success in 2011, when they accounted for Loughrea, the signs were already there that St Thomas’s were a coming force when they reached the county senior semi-final that same year and most felt it was just a matter of time before the breakthrough would come.

That it duly arrived in 2012 speaks volumes for the ambition of this group of players who laid the previous year’s ghost to rest with a 1-16 to 1-15 semi-final replay victory over Gort before disposing of Loughrea in their historic county decider.

Richard Murray netted all his side’s goals in the 3-11 to 2-11 win and it was just reward for the talented former Galway player who, to some extent, carried the club, along with brother Robert and the evergreen Enda Tannian, on their shoulders on route to winning the county intermediate title in 2004 and in the early years of the club’s subsequent promotion to the senior ranks.

However, this St Thomas’s side no longer depend on the few and with the emergence of such talented hurlers like the Skehills – Patrick and Sean – and the Burke brothers – all six of them – St Thomas’s have become a top class outfit in the mould of Sarsfields, Athenry and Portumna.

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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Sociability is key to Darragh’s success



Date Published: 18-Apr-2013

 Darragh Guinnane is a born salesman although had he followed in his parents’ footsteps he might have been in the hospitality business – but he’s not ruling that out if he ever gets tired of the insurance business.

He loves his job as an insurance broker and right now he is on a high having been elected as this year’s President of the Insurance Institute of Galway.

At 31 years, he is probably the youngest president they have ever had and by accounts he is a welcome choice because of his ‘can do’ attitude.

Within minutes of being in his company, it is also obvious that his warm personality and thirst for life draws people to him. If he has many of the traits of a salesman, he is also a born leader.

The eldest of three children born to Gerry and Martina, who used to run The Round Table restaurant in High Street in the 1980s, he is no stranger to business and remembers working there when he was still a schoolboy.

The restaurant attracted city centre workers who wanted a solid, home-cooked meal. In fact it was like a club as most of the customers got to know each other through the very hospitable Gerry and Martina and it was certainly a home away from home for workers.

It was also probably where Darragh first learned his own people skills as he can practically talk to just about anybody about anything.

“I do. I love people. One of the things I like best about this job is being on the road, meeting people, visiting clients. Some days I would have tea, scones and sandwiches in a few houses, one after the other.

Sure it would be rude to refuse,” says Darragh who admits he loves his food, quickly adding that he could do with getting fitter!

When he was still a teenager he helped run a family pub in Crusheen in County Clare for three summers in a row.

He tried college, studying Arts in NUIG, but dropped out after a year as it didn’t really float his boat. He preferred playing golf. He was a member of Athenry Golf Club for 17 years and did toy with the idea of going professional. While in college he organised a golf team which won the national inter-colleges title.

And like most of his peers, he thought about emigrating but he knew it would break his parents’ hearts, especially his mother’s so he got a job with Hibernian Insurance in Knocknacarra where he worked for three years in the claims department of Aviva.

A family friend who also worked in insurance told him he was wasted in claims and advised him to get into the brokerage side.

“Well, I did and I have never looked back. I love it here. I started first with Galway Hooper Dolan Insurance in 2004. I remember my first sale was to a publican in High Street and I was thrilled. I know a lot of businesses in the town from the time my parents ran their business there,” says Darragh and mischievously agrees that he does indeed have ‘the gift of the gab’.

Darragh now works as a commercial insurance broker with O’Leary Insurance based in Liosban. He joined that group five years ago and in December was made a director, one of four general directors in the company, led by Michael Tarpey, whom he describes as a mentor and whose experience in the field he respects.

“He has a great feel for the business because he has such experience. I have certainly learnt a lot from him and I do pride myself now on the fact that I seldom lose a client unless they go out of business. Once they are with us, they tend to stay with us because we believe in good service, a personal one.

“The business has certainly become very competitive, especially here in Galway and younger people coming into the business are finding it harder to get into it, as they have to sit exams and get accreditation. This is extremely onerous but it has to be done to regulate the business and ensure it is run professionally.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Disjointed hurlers all over the shop in Semple Stadium



Date Published: 24-Apr-2013

 IT was around this time last year that the Galway hurlers’ season took off in the league relegation play-off replay thumping of Dublin, but supporters travelling to Thurles last Sunday hoping that they would similarly ignite in the 2013 semi-final of the competition against Kilkenny were left bitterly disappointed after a poor and disorganised effort.

By the end of the match, Galway were, quite frankly, shapeless and many of the players appeared confused about their exact roles after a myriad of personal and positional switches – highlighted by the two starting midfielders, Joseph Cooney and Iarla Tannian, finishing in the half back line – clearly impacted on the fluency of the team and caused some understandable disruption in their ranks.

In mitigation, Galway had lost team captain Fergal Moore just ten minutes into the semi-final when he had to be stretchered off following a thunderous collision with Walter Walsh and, undoubtedly, the long hold up didn’t do his colleagues any favours. The departure of the Turloughmore player led to the introduction of Andy Smith at wing back, but before the restructured rearguard had even time to settle, the management bafflingly called Niall Donohue ashore, with young Paul Killeen coming into the last line of defence.

Donohue had admittedly fluffed one clearance and Galway did appear to be under some pressure down their left flank, but to make a change so quickly (about seven minutes) after Moore’s departure appeared a panic move and was hardly justified. Furthermore, Smith was only left stationed on the wing for a few minutes which begs the question why Tony Og Regan, a recognised half-back, wasn’t the first port of call for the mentors?

To be honest, there was also a strong case for having a look at Shane Kavanagh, who rejoined the panel in the Spring but has had no involvement in the league. Kevin Hynes was under serious pressure at full back last Sunday and, yet, despite all the tinkering the management did in Thurles, the one change which was obvious didn’t happen. In fairness to the combative Sarsfields player, the quality of ball put in front of Richie Hogan in the second-half was exceptional.

That immediately, of course, confirms suspicions that the Kilkenny outfield players were not being put under the kind of pressure you’d expect at this level. Between them, midfielders Michael Rice and Lester Ryan, landed five points from play and, occasionally, the Kilkenny men had so much room and time on the ball, you’d wonder were Galway short-staffed. Certainly, the team’s overall work-rate was a long way behind last Summer and the extent of Kilkenny’s dominance was reflected by people departing Semple Stadium less than ten minutes into the second-half.

The ‘where to play’ Joe Canning conundrum has also to be grasped. Having floated around on the wing, he was only moved to full forward when the game was over. Canning did thread some wonderfully precise passes to his inside men, but his failure to register a single score from play tells its own story. He must be restored to the edge of the square for the championship. In that attack, both Damien Hayes and Conor Cooney were taken off, while David Burke finished up at midfield, still arguably his most effective position.

No matter how you attempt to dress it up, this was a bad day at the office for Galway and the result won’t have done their confidence levels any good ahead of the Leinster championship. In retrospect, the convincing loss to Kilkenny shouldn’t really come as a surprise as the team hadn’t really sparked in the group campaign and could just as easily have ended up in relegation trouble as making the league semi-finals.

Few Galway players escaped the Thurles wreckage, but Colm Callanan, who made two brilliant reflex saves from Richie Power; Aidan Harte and Cyril Donnellan were notable exceptions. All three made major contributions, with Cooney very impressive in the opening 25 minutes and Moore typically hurtling into everything before paying the price for his own bravery. Now the management’s big job is to get the rest of the squad up to their level.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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