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Historic and memorable night but more to come



Date Published: {J}

Dara Bradley

BE honest: you didn’t expect this.

The Green Army filed out of Twickenham’s pubs shortly after teatime last Friday and walked briskly towards The Stoop, home of Harlequins, as the last of the South West London rush-hour traffic streamed by. They travelled to the backyard of English Premiership league leaders and seasoned Heineken Cup campaigners more in hope than in expectation.

For Connacht Rugby’s first foray in Europe’s elite club competition, there was a party atmosphere among the away supporters – like giddy teenagers joining their elders in a nightclub for the first time ever.

The air of excitement and anticipation was tinged with a fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being on the end of an unmerciful – and possibly embarrassing – hiding.

After all, Eric Elwood’s men flew to London on the back of four straight RaboDirect PRO 12 losses, including a comprehensive defeat at Ravenhill the previous weekend, which could have been worse had Ulster not turned butchering try opportunities into an art-form.

It wasn’t the sort of record that would inspire confidence; visiting fans still had faith but not much. A minute’s silence followed by the trumpet call of the Last Post, to mark the anniversary of the ending of World War One, Armistice Day, heightened the sense of occasion – and the tension.

Nerves were eased slightly when a long-range penalty from Connacht fly-half Miah Nikora cancelled out Quins’ dead-ball specialist, New Zealander Nick Evans’ early penalty.

Then came a moment of magic; the moment when Connacht signalled its arrival on European club rugby’s biggest stage: a powerful and aggressive Connacht scrum – it was solid all night – got a push on, and set the platform for the backline to sparkle, with Galway city native Eoin Griffin, linking with his fellow Connacht academy star, Tiernan O’Halloran, to put the Clifden native through to score the province’s first ever Heineken Cup try. Two young home grown talents making names for themselves with Europe’s rugby World watching.

The few hundred Connacht fans bunched together in the North Stand, behind the goal, perfectly positioned to view the touchdown, erupted. They went bananas. Rightly so.

The small pockets of Connacht resistance swamped by the home-crowd in the South, West and East stands, went wild, too. The celebrations were sparked as much out of relief as utter joy, and more than a fair share of pleasurable shock. Nikora added the extras to send Connacht into a surprise 10-6 lead.

Even when Connacht were under pressure,Fields of Athenry echoed around the ground; as did chants of Óle, Óle, Óle, although the latter probably had more to do with news filtering through of the national soccer side’s European play-off heroics in Estonia.

The Quins’ faithful were stunned into silence: this wasn’t in the script for the side that had 10 wins from 10 since the 2011/2012 got underway. It was evident Connacht came to play, not limit the damage. They unleashed their backline as often as possible, and though it didn’t always work – the home defence kept delivering the big hits, stifling forward momentum – it was encouraging to see the westerners play with ambition and with belief.

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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Archive News

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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