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Ireland are on a roll but Wales will take beating

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Date Published: {J}

THE rugby World Cup in New Zealand is starting to get really serious; and the Irish rugby team are starting to look really serious contenders.

Four wins out of four – including a rare unexpected triumph over Australia – on the team’s way to topping their group leaves no room for argument as Declan Kidney’s squad now focus on their huge showdown with Wales in Wellington on Saturday.

There hadn’t been a great deal of confidence behind the men in green after struggling for cohesion, confidence and results in their World Cup warm-up matches but, in hindsight, their pre-tournament difficulties may have been no bad thing as supporter expectations would have lowered, not forgetting the mounting criticism from newspaper and TV pundits.

Against that background, the Irish camp had no shortage of causes to help them prove that they weren’t a declining force and the players have looked reinvigorated since travelling Down Under. True, their debut performance against the USA in New Zealand was more workmanlike than breathtaking, but they got the job done and have been on a great roll since.

Despite the victories over Eddie O’Sullivan’s Eagles, Russia and Australia, Ireland still needed to beat Italy in their final group match to secure their passage to the World Cup quarter-finals and though Brian O’Driscoll and his team-mates were justifiable favourites to carry the day, an Irish success was not perceived as being inevitable, especially having only scrambled over the Azzurri – thanks to Ronan O’Gara’s late drop goal – in Rome last season.

Some of the pre-match debate had centred on the ongoing battle for the number 10 jersey. Jonny Sexton was in pole position before the tournament began, but a poor conversion rate from penalties and O’Gara’s better game management contributed to the Munster out-half getting the nod for the clash with the Italians. It must have a tough call for Kidney and his coaching staff, but as events proved in Dunedin, it was the right one.

Nick Mallet, the respected Italian coach, has been talking up the power of his pack, especially the front row, in the wake of their victory over the USA, but his bullish comments came back to haunt him as the formidable Irish eight won that battle convincingly, even if their superiority in the scrum was partially helped by the forced retirement of opposition prop Martin Castrogiovanni in the opening-half.

By that juncture, however, Ireland were already looking the better equipped team even if that situation was slow to be reflected on the scoreboard. They only led 9-6 at half-time after South African referee Jonathan Kaplan had erroneously disallowed a Tommy Bowe try for a ‘forward’ pass, but the match underwent a dramatic transformation early in the second-half and, within a few minutes, the Italians were a busted flush.

Two excellently created tries from Brian O’Driscoll and Keith Earls put Ireland in command in a bad tempered encounter and, frankly, they might have had a couple of more before lively replacement Andrew Trimble did the spadework for Earls’ second try near the end. Their 30 point margin of victory in no way flattered the Irish who have massive confidence and momentum now.

It was a terrific team display with both prop forwards Cian Healy, who was really in the wars, and Mike Ross again outstanding. Those long serving second rows, Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan, also put in a great shift, but it was the back three who broke the Italian hearts. Jamie Heaslip had his most vibrant 80 minutes of the World Cup so far, while magnificent flankers Sean O’Brien and Stephen Ferris were like human wreaking balls.

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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