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Heroic Connacht men pull off their greatest ever win

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Date Published: {J}

Connacht 9

Harlequins 8

Rob Murphy at the Sportsground

THE moment came in the 14th minute. Connacht led by four, Harlequins countered a kick and Kyle Tonetti made the hit on Mike Brown. The recycle was loose, Tom Vallejos picked up but was grabbed by Tonetti who had a steam train on his tail. Mike McCarthy first, then John Muldoon, Adrian Flavin and George Naoupu all piled on through.

Turnover. Penalty. Ouch. The roar that followed embellished the moment. Self belief had descended on the Sportsground for this Friday night Heineken Cup tussle in the rain, and you could almost see, in the mind’s eye, the sight of Quins Coach John Kingston and Director of Rugby Conor O’Shea glancing at each other with a look of concern. They know what it’s like when a Connacht team is in that mood.

The search for a permanent, sustainable and lasting identity for Connacht rugby took a major step forward here. Victories like this one-point war of attrition are of the kind that can lay down markers and uncover new paths for teams looking for some sort of long-term direction.

Three Niall O’Connor penalties in the opening 15 minutes were enough for victory on a night of pure drama and enthralling entertainment. With so much at stake and all of European rugby watching, Connacht denied the English Premiership leaders a place in the quarter finals and saved Toulouse blushes in the process. They also helped Ulster for good measure.

All that is irrelevant to Eric Elwood and company, but the manner in which Connacht impacted on this tournament this season should not be lost on people. One win from five doesn’t begin to tell the tale of a first season that has seen the Westerners defy odds and some fairly sound logic to compete in a fashion that would suggest a lot more is possible in the future.

Almost without meaning too, Connacht produced a game-plan over the 80 minutes that seemed to play to the lazy stereotypes often spouted about rugby in the west. Tackle all day, honest as that day is long, full of energy and using the windy and wet Sportsground as a weapon.

They did all that and got their win, simple stuff really. Hassle, harry and frustrate was the plan and it was executed superbly well. Harlequins were aware what was coming and couldn’t resist getting down and dirty. Connacht’s back five in the scrum were ready.

 

Perhaps, that’s been the missing link during this long run of defeats, Connacht have being attempting to play an expansive game from the get go, one which may not suit a team that has no established foothold over any of their regular opponents.

While those who follow the game out west might get a little sensitive to the apparently condescending suggestion that the rovince’s best asset is their ability to frustrate, perhaps it’s time to embrace such a philosophy in the interest of first establishing a winning tradition.

Could this be the key to a brighter future? The game boiled down to a battle of the back five in each scrum and give anyone from Connacht a scenario like that and they’ll back their side on a regular basis, especially when your talking about Swift, McCarthy, Ofisa, Naoupu and Muldoon. Only the best sides in Europe will get through that scenario unscathed.

For more, read 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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