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In-form Galway jockeys sweeping all before them

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

ANY punters following Galway jockeys, both in Ireland and cross-channel, over the weekend must be on good terms with themselves over the past few days. Not alone did Paddy Brennan, Graham Lee and Alain Cawley all visit the winners’ enclosures at Cheltenham, Doncaster and Navan respectively, but they plundered some of the biggest races on the National Hunt scene so far this season.

It was a particularly memorable weekend for Brennan. The Ardrahan man was in superb form at Cheltenham last Saturday where his sparkling treble included one of the featured races on the card, the £150,000 International Hurdle, as 12/1 chance Khyber King threw a major spanner in the ante-post Champion Hurdle betting market when claiming the scalps of odds on favourite, Celestial Halo, and reigning champion, Punjabi.

A one-time useful flat-racer, Khyber King had become a largely disappointing sort over obstacles despite making an impressive debut in that sphere at Newbury two seasons back. The seven-year-old’s struggles were so marked that he was sent off a 33/1 chance in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last March and those odds proved realistic as he trailed in 47 lengths behind American Trilogy in 22nd place with only five behind him.

Connections were at a loss to explain Khyber King’s rapid decline over hurdles, but trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies persisted and, in conjunction with Brennan, decided on a change of tactics for the new season – switching the horse off towards the rear of the field. The net result has been a spectacular transformation in Khyber King’s fortunes as he swooped late on his seasonal debut in the Greetwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month to collar Harry Tricker in the final 100 yards.

But that was only a handicap. On Saturday, Brennan and Khyber King were up against the big boys. There was good reason for Celestial Halo, an heroic second in last season’s Champion Hurdle, being a heavily backed odds on chance as he had given lumps of weight all-round in thrashing his rivals in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in November, while trainer Paul Nicholls was bullish about his prospects of another Saturday big-race triumph.

Celestial Halo took over at the head of affairs after the third last as the in-form Ruby Walsh tried to grind the finish out of his rivals. Punjabi initially stayed in touch but, making his seasonal re-appearance, blew up before the last as the patiently ridden Khyber King and Medermit, only a neck second to the Galway owned Go Native in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last March, both moved into contention.

The odds still favoured Celestial Halo, but he ballooned the last and lost some momentum. In contrast, Brennan and Khyber King were still travelling ominously well and sneaking up the inside rail had far too much finishing toe for the favourite in winning going away by two and a quarter lengths. The horse is now a best priced 12/1 for the Champion Hurdle after putting the seal on a memorable day for Brennan.

The Galway jockey had earlier initiated his treble on the Tom George trained Olofi in the opening juvenile hurdle, while he also guided Massini to a comfortable success in the Albert Barlett Novices Hurdle for the same yard. And just to show that Brennan wasn’t sitting on his laurels over the following 24 hours as, the very next day, he guided King Stanley to victory in a handicap hurdle at Hereford.

Up in Doncaster last Saturday, Mervue man Graham Lee proved the jockey to follow. He switched off Watch My Back towards the rear of the field in the Betdaq Handicap Chase before gradually moving into contention up the long straight at Town Moor. By the last, Ferdy Murphy’s highly regarded eight-year-old was in command as the high flying Lee chalked up his tenth win in the space of two weeks.

Better was to come in the featured Betting Exchange Handicap Chase. Calgary Bay from the Henrietta Knight stable was once touted as a Gold Cup candidate, but the six-year-old had lost his way completely, highlighted by finishing last of the 13 finishers at Newbury last month, having being pulled up lame at Uttoxeter before that. In other words, it would have taken a giant leap of faith to back him last Saturday.

Once again, Lee kept his mount towards the rear before making eye-catching progress on the second circuit. Calgary Bay was throwing in some spectacular leaps and coming up the straight, it was clear – barring a mishap – that the 12/1 chance was home and hosed. Having conclusively proves he stays three miles, suddenly Calgary Bay looks a horse with a big future all over again after benefitting from a masterly tactical ride by Lee.

Now, young Alain Cawley has nothing of the experience of his cross-channel based Galway colleagues, but both Brennan and Lee would surely be joining the Craughwell native’s growing fan club if they had the opportunity to tune in to Sunday’s Barry & Sandra Kelly Memorial Novice Hurdle, the highlight of Navan’s card.

Just seven days previously, Cawley had landed his first ever Grade One prize on the Paul Nolan trained Joncol in the John Durkan Memorial Chase and the talented 22-year-old made it two in a week when his retaining stable also sent out Shinrock Paddy to upset three better-fancied market rivals in the two and a half mile contest, won last year by Mikael D’Haguenet.

The small but select field had been taken along by The Hurl, but Cawley made a decisive move approaching the long home straight when sending Shinrock Paddy to the front. He soon had his rivals toiling as the partnership powered home to a convincing success. Cawley’s growing tactical awareness and confidence was highlighted by utilising Shinrock Paddy’s stamina when another jockey might have been content to sit behind until nearer the last obstacle – and who knows what might have happened then? All in all, a magnificent couple of days for Galway jockeys.

For more read page 53 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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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Archive News

No time to sleep as singer Niall lives the dream

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 03-Apr-2013

 Niall Connolly celebrates the launch of Sound, his sixth studio album, with a show at The Crane Bar on Sunday, April 21. The Cork-born, New York-based songwriter recorded the album in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with his bass player Brandon Wilde taking on production duties.

“I deliberately took my time with it,” says Niall. “I wasn’t feeling under pressure with it timewise. All told, we probably started it a year ago. We were gigging the whole time as well, figuring out the songs in a live context and then being able to arrange them slowly and precisely in the studio as well. Which has not always been the case!

“I did a real sparse acoustic album with Brandon in 2011 that I recorded in three days,” Niall continues. "The album before that, in 2010, was done in very tiny studio, a lo-fi recording. I like these albums but they were done with constraints of time and recording equipment. I wanted to go back to doing a more full band production.”

One of the standout tracks on Sound is Lily of the Mohawks, which was inspired by a late-night stroll that took Niall past St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. On that quiet street, an engraving of Lily of the Mohawks captured his eye.

“I went home and did some research in my vast encyclopaedia – Google!” Niall says. “I found out that she was the first of the Mohawk family to be beatified by the Church. Surely the contrast of the Mohawk and the Catholic tradition couldn’t be any different?

“So I started thinking about the contrast of that, and also the Irish connection in St Patrick’s Cathedral. It made me think of the dream of the Celtic Tiger and the reality of it; the failed promise in both. So I wrote about 118 verses and I picked my favourite four!”

Niall Connolly lives in Brooklyn, which is seen as something of a creative hub. Being based in New York certainly has its upsides, he says.

“I love it – it’s great for music. Officially, there are eight million people in New York. The sheer population allows me to play all the time, reach a new audience, and go back to the same bed! Whereas when I was at home, you had to be touring all the time. I mean, I enjoy touring but I enjoy it more when I don’t have to do it!

“The other thing is the number of fantastic musicians,” he adds. “There are brilliant musicians at home of course, but people come here to try and achieve some sort of career. I know for some people it ends up being Plan B or C and they’re doing a load of other jobs, but the fact of the matter is there are world-class bass, players, drummers and guitar players here."

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Big cash boost to help Galway Utd rise from ashes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 04-Apr-2013

 Keith Kelly

Galway United is set to rise from the ashes and return to the League of Ireland next year after it emerged this week that a major financial boost – worth in the region of €100,000 a year for three years – is close to being delivered for soccer in Galway.

While the FAI has denied that any deal has been struck, a spokesperson admitted that discussions in relation to a three-year cash injection for a single Galway side were at “an advanced stage” and it was hopeful that everything would be in place for unified team in the 2014 League of Ireland season.

“It is very positive, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It is not true to say that anything has been agreed, there is a lot of devil in the detail yet, and it is disappointing that this has been reported with the deal yet to be finalised, but we are very happy with how matters are progressing,” the spokesperson said.

It is believed the deal is being brokered with the Comer brothers, who are originally from Glenamaddy and were approached by the CEO of the FAI, John Delaney, about backing a single Galway team to compete in the League of Ireland.

Discussions have been ongoing for a number of months, and it is believed some of the intricacies of the deal were hammered out at a meeting between Delaney and the Comers at last month’s Cheltenham Racing Festival.

While there has been senior soccer in the city in the past two seasons with Mervue United and Salthill Devon playing in the First Division, the failure to have a side representative of the whole of Galway has resulted in small attendances because of the ‘parochial’ nature of the clubs.

That prompted the FAI to order a review of the soccer situation in Galway last year, which culminated in the publication of the O’Connor Report last October.

The report was written after discussions with the main stakeholders in the game in Galway – the Galway FA, the Galway United Supporters’ Trust (GUST), Mervue United and Salthill Devon – and recommended that a single team should represent Galway City and County in the League of Ireland.

“The report notes the long term systematic weakness of having any more than one senior club in a city of Galway’s size on both sporting and commercial grounds and recommends a phased approach towards the resolution of this matter,” the FAI said at the time.

“This includes the eventual setting up a Connacht Senior League, and a Board for the single Galway club composed of a broad spectrum of football and business interests in the Galway area.”

That resulted in the FAI facilitating a series of meetings with the four main stakeholders in Galway, and a meeting held in the city last night was to hear the details of the proposed backing from the Comer brothers.

“If the reports are true, then there is something there for everyone to work with, and it is up to those who are interested to become involved in the new team,” said Joe Keating, Chairman of the Galway FA, on Wednesday.

“From a Galway FA point of view, we feel we have a wonderful facility in Eamonn Deacy Park, and would be anxious to have a Galway team playing there next season. There is nothing in writing yet, and until there is, we don’t want to comment much further. Any decisions we make have to have the backing of our 47 member clubs, but this is good news for a Galway team going forward,” he said.

A spokesperson for Salthill Devon said that, while they had heard some details of the reported deal, nothing was confirmed as of yet, and until it was, there was very little that could be said on the matter.

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

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