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Hurlers & footballers have nowhere to hide

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Date Published: 20-Jul-2007

THE point of no return has been reached by both the Galway hurlers and footballers.

It’s all or nothing now; win or bust. There are no more second chances; no more escape routes. Ger Loughnane and Peter Ford are in the knock out zone. Kilkenny and Meath bar their way respectively.

It could have been much easier only for Clare and Sligo surprisingly throwing a spanner in the works. It’s the hard way for both the county’s standard bearers now and, perhaps, the hurlers and footballers will be all the better for it. Playing safe is no longer an option.

Whatever is in them has to come out or its goodbye to championship glory in 2007. The fact that Galway are outsiders in this weekend’s two critical championship encounters will motivate and steel them on one hand, but highlights the magnitude of the task on the other.

The hurlers couldn’t face a more daunting assignment against the All-Ireland champions in Croke Park. Having wobbled early on against Antrim last Saturday evening, they cut loose in devastating fashion in cruising to a 25 points victory. It wouldn’t have been so big only for opposition full forward Kieran Kelly losing his head with a dangerous pull across Ger Mahon in the opening half, but Galway were already turning the game around with the in-form Alan Kerins helping himself to an outstanding tally of eight points from play.

Antrim, however, are hardly the ideal preparation for a showdown with Kilkenny even if Galway’s pace, movement and accuracy was heartening in their final All-Ireland qualifier. With no prematch indecision about who was lining out and with something to prove after their narrow loss to Clare, the home team were much livelier and Saturday’s big win will have helped to restore the squad’s confidence levels.

The team management had carried out significant surgery to the first fifteen from the Clare match and while not everything worked, notably David Tierney’s surprising deployment at wing back, the new midfield alliance and Mark Kerins’ return to the forty, it was clear what Loughnane and his selectors were up to — they were trying to exploit the natural pace in Galway’s ranks.

Damien Hayes, who fired home their first goal, was deployed at midfield, while Niall Healy and Kevin Broderick both came into the full forward line. In reality, utilising their natural speed is Galway’s only hope of flooring the All-Ireland champions.

True, they successfully took Kilkenny on physically in the 2001 semi-final, but such an approach wouldn’t have worked two years ago when the Westerners covered themselves in glory in an open, fast flowing and thrilling spectacle. Healy, in particular, will have fond memories of that encounter as he rattled the Cats’ net on three occasions.

It’s got to be more of the same from Galway on Sunday. Pace and movement is the only way to rattle the title holders who look as formidable as ever and are blessed with extraordinary physical power. They have again cruised through Leinster and you can be certain that they will be ready for Galway. Brian Cody doesn’t do complacency and with Loughnane in the opposition corner, it’s safe to assume the champions will be fired up against the one county which probably spook their team manager more than any other.

Few neutrals are giving Galway much of a chance but after what happened to Cork against supposedly battle weary and understrength opponents in Thurles last weekend, nothing can be discounted. Kilkenny are the benchmark in hurling these days and in the likes of Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney, Eddie Brennan, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Martin Comerford and Henry Shefflin, they possess some majestic players – but they are not invincible or unbeatable for that either.

Galway, however, can’t afford to start mixing it with them. Instead, they must try and open up the exchanges, avoid high puck outs raining down on the Kilkenny half-back line and maintain a high tempo throughout.

This is the game Loughnane has been waiting for; he admirably wants to test himself and his team against the best. He will be up for it — even if his untimely accusations about the Kilkenny backs being less than saints will surely antagonise the title holders — and one suspects that the players will be too. There may have been some doom in the county’s hurling strongholds last week, but every game is different. Galway go to Croke Park with a fighting chance. Nothing more; nothing less.

Though the Galway footballers have an impressive championship record against Meath and the Royal men were made to work hard for a two point win over Fermanagh last Saturday evening, there is no longer any great confidence behind Peter Ford’s squad. They were lucky to only escape with a one point defeat against Sligo and the decision to go ahead with a full round of domestic fixtures over the weekend was strange. Certainly, it could hardly be interpreted as vote of confidence in them by their own administrators. Perhaps, that change of environment will work to Galway’s advantage and give the players a fresh impetus, but the team management are going to have to bite the bullet and drop one or two of the old guard.

Sean Armstrong and Matthew Clancy, if fit, must be included in an attack which has faltered badly since the Mayo game. Galway’s defence has to get their house in order too and while Meath have a poor record in the All-Ireland qualifiers and are nothing exceptional, they will test the Tribesmen’s bottle. The Inside Track isn’t writing off Galway, but the odds are against them arresting what is looking like a serious decline.

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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