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Jumping to a new level on Connacht Grand Prix circuit

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Date Published: {J}

THE Olympic Saddlery Connacht Grand Prix League 2011 kicks off at Claremorris Equitation Club this Sunday, with a host of Galway riders competing for the overall prize fund of €45,000 in the 11-leg series.

Charged with the smooth running of the competition – which is heading into its fifth year – are Connacht Coordinator, Tom Dixon and Chairman of the League, Mark Duffy. Both men believe this year’s Grand Prix League will be bigger and better than ever.

“It has proved to be a huge success over the last four years,” says Dixon. “The entries are getting bigger and bigger each year and there is more and more prizemoney going into it. The League, though, has certainly bridged a gap, in that there was nothing really there for riders five years ago and now they have a competition that has proved to be a huge success. It has given, I suppose, riders the opportunity to better themselves before they move on to the national scene.”

While the average competing at any one show is 50, larger events, such as the Galway County Show, would have over 100 riders vying for the honours. In the first three years of the competition, Claremorris’ Karl Hanley – who has since emigrated and is running a successful yard in Germany – took the overall accolade, while Mohill’s John McGuinness pipped Gabriel Slattery of Irishtown for the title last year.

Galway riders have also featured prominently, with Michael Duffy – Mark’s nephew – not only winning a round of the League but also claiming the junior section title in 2010. With two new horses this year, the 16-year-old, who has won two silver medals at the European Pony Championships already, should give the older competitors a run for their money for the overall prize.

Among the others the organisers expect to feature are Belclare’s Rachel Creaven; the Lee family and Evan Flynn from Headford; Gort’s Jessica Burke, who won a gold medal at the European Pony Championships; Clarinbridge’s Sinéad Conneely; Ardrahan’s Amanda Fahey; and Bohermore native Owen Horan.

Damien Griffin from Ballinasloe also receives special mention. “He has been very successful internationally, coming second in the Hickstead Speed Derby last year,” says Mark Duffy. “So, he would be well up there.

“There will also be a few new faces this year, such as Stephen Moore in Rockmount (Claregalway). He has three horses that have been upgraded and this year they are ready for the Connacht League. He has been gearing them up for it.”

Given the current economic climate, one would imagine that a sport generally regarded as an expensive endeavour would be suffering. Duffy, though, stresses this has not been the case. “We actually think it (the downturn) has helped the Connacht League. Because we have been able to keep the prize fund high, we believe we will attract more competitors.

“In fact, we have the same prizemoney on offer as the national league – and you have it all in your own region. So, it reduces the cost of travel and that, in turn, should galvanise the support for the Connacht League rather than take from it.”

This point is reiterated by Dixon. “Going to shows, people can see where the value for money is, particularly in relation to the prizemoney. The Connacht League has €45,000 on offer this year and, again, because of that, I think we will see a lot of extra interest from outside the region this year.”

Indeed, the minimum prize fund per show is an impressive €3,000, with prizes for the top eight competitors each day. Several of the 11 legs will take place locally, namely Headford (June 11), Galway County (June 18), Loughrea (July 16), Ballinasloe (July 24) and Duffy’s Equestrian Centre (July 31).

Once again, Olympic Saddlery (Briarhill Business Park) is the main sponsors, with Horse Sport Ireland, Gain Horse Feeds/Brooklands Bedding, Cavalor Horse Feeds & Supplements and Elite Rosettes on board as associate sponsors. “Sponsorship is so important these days; it is absolutely vital,” says Dixon. “We are very appreciative of the amount we have been getting and all the sponsorship we have.”

However, Duffy – a son the former internationally renowned course builder, Paul Senior – insists that the success of the Connacht League is not just down to sponsorship alone, noting that those associated with showjumping in the West of Ireland have really embraced the competition “as their own”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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Archive News

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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