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Kernan’s arrival in Galway won’t solve everything

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Date Published: 18-Sep-2009

GALWAY football has got its man. Joe Kernan arrives with an impressive managerial pedigree and the expectation is that the former Armagh player will orchestrate a significant improvement in the team’s fortunes compared to this year’s disappointing campaigns in both the National League and All-Ireland championship.
Kernan, an All Star in 1977, made his name initially with his home club, Crossmaglen, by steering them to their first All-Ireland Club title in 1997 before guiding Armagh to an historic championship triumph in 2002. Making that landmark occasion even more special was the fact that the Orchard County had beaten Kerry in the final.
Yet, as recently as last February and March, it was difficult to imagine that Liam Sammon would no longer be in charge the following Autumn. The Galway players had got a standing ovation coming off the field at half-time in their league encounter with Dublin such was the quality of their football and they were early pacesetters in Division One thanks also to wins over Westmeath, Tyrone, away, and Donegal.
Subsequently, Galway maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a battling if somewhat fortunate draw against Derry in Maghera, but then the wheels came off. In early April, they led arch provincial rivals Mayo by six points at half-time in Tuam Stadium and had one foot in the league final only to collapse in the second-half and end up narrowly losing the match. It was a turning point and a campaign which had begun so promisingly concluded disappointingly with a convincing loss to Kerry in Tralee.
Suddenly, Sammon and his management team were under pressure. Having produced some sensational football in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final when they pushed Kerry nearly to the limit in arguably the match of the year, Galway appeared to be losing their way. There was no great confidence behind them ahead of the championship and it took a late Sean Armstrong goal to finish off Sligo in a mediocre Connacht semi-final at Markievicz Park last June.
It was still hoped, however, that Galway would ‘lift it’ for the provincial final against Mayo in Pearse Stadium, but though only losing out to an injury time Peadar Gardiner point in the end, in reality the home team had been second best for most of the match with only Michael Meehan’s late scoring burst putting a flattering gloss on another moderate effort by the Tribesmen. Within a week they were out of the championship altogether after also falling by a point to a Donegal team which was subsequently cut to ribbons by Cork in Croke Park.
The Galway management had concentrated a lot on ball work during their training sessions and though the squad didn’t neglect their weights programmes either, the perception among the players was that they weren’t doing the physical grind of other leading counties. Certainly, Galway’s overall conditioning was a source of contention and, more than once, questions were posed about the panel’s fitness levels.
There were also selection and disciplinary issues too. Nicky Joyce was dropped and then recalled to the squad, while the continued omission of Kieran Fitzgerald and Alan Burke, admittedly injured earlier in the year, from the team’s defence raised eyebrows not to mention the placing of Gary Sice in the attack for the Connacht final. In fairness, most counties have these sort of problems, but there were also, reportedly, communication issues between the management and players.
Sammon, still one of the most poular figures in Galway football, remained open to the prospect of staying on for a third year, but some of the more senior players were not enthisiastic. Their preference was for a change of management not withstanding the fact that they themselves have now something to prove. The Football Board got wind of the prevailing mood and, within days, Sammon was gone. The Salthill man held his dignity at the time in what must have been difficult circumstances.
Quickly, the focus turned to Sammon’s successor. The Board’s indefatigable Chairman, John Joe Holleran, had one man in mind for the position and that was Kernan, who was sounded out before the search for a new manager began formally. It wouldn’t be quite fair to suggest that the subsequent nomination process was something of a charade – Tomas O Flatharta, Pete Warren, Kevin Walsh and Frank Doherty were also put forward by clubs – but the Football Board’s hierarchy were not for turning.
Even though O Flatharta ‘impressed’ in his interview – Walsh, Doherty and Warren had already withdrawn – Kernan was always going to be the chosen one after he had responded positively to the initial overtures. His late mother hailed from Ballinasloe and having been out of the inter-county scene for a couple of years, he was getting itchy feet. In short, Galway’s timing was perfect.
With former All-Ireland winning manager, Alan Mulholland, and ex-Corofin boss and Donegal footballer, Paul McGettigan, tipped to come on board in what would constitute a high profile backroom team, expectations will increase for the Galway footballers in 2010, but the big question remains – are they good enough? Time will tell.

MOUNTBELLEW
THEY may have been the outsiders of the four clubs left in contention for the Frank Fox Cup ahead of last Sunday’s county senior football semi-finals in Tuam Stadium, but Mountbellew/Moylough created the biggest stir of the day by romping to victory against their neighbours, Caltra. Out of the championship limelight since their previous county title triumph in 1986, Cyril Ryan’s charges fairly hit the ground running in putting Michael Meehan and company to the sword.
A Stephen Boyle goal after just four minutes showed their intent and though Caltra fought back to edge in front during the first-half, Mountbellew/Moylough were in no mood for compromise as they went on to lead again by 1-5 to 1-3 at the interval. Second-half goals from Sean Sweeney and Cathal Duffy put the issue beyond doubt, especially with Joe Bergin, who scored three points from play, becoming a growing influence. With Gary Sweeney and Patrick Gardiner to the fore in defence, they had too much of everything for a disappointing Caltra outfit.
The second semi-final between Corofin and Salthill/Knocknacarra had got the advance star billing, but this confrontation between the former All-Ireland Club winners never rose to any great heights. The title holders laid the foundation for another final appearance with first-half goals from Kieran and Michael Comer, who was making a welcome return from injury. Gerry Keane’s squad will be favourites to retain the county title, but don’t rule out a Mountbellew upset, particularly if they bring the same hard-hitting approach which knocked Caltra off their stride to the final.

THE BANNER
AFTER the agony they had endured in last year’s Munster final, no one will begrudge Clare their magnificent win in Sunday’s All-Ireland U-21 hurling final at Croke Park. Though their big guns up front, Darach Honan and Colin Ryan, whose accuracy from frees was critical to their historic triumph, didn’t manage to score from play, the Banner still edged out Kilkenny with centre forward John Conlon and matchwinner, midfielder Cormac O’Donovan, landing five points from play between them.
Given their senior struggles during 2009, this was a badly needed triumph for Clare, who also owe a huge debt of gratitude to goalkeeper Donal Tuohy – he pulled off the ‘Save of the Year’ from Richie Hogan in the second-half. Kilkenny may have kept their stranglehold on the senior crown, but have now lost the other three finals, including the minor and intermediate. It’s not often you see a Kilkenny team being beaten when leading by a point with two minutes remaining, while their wides total (13 to Clare’s five) wasn’t like them either.

KERRY TO FALL
IT is a measure of Cork’s performances this summer that they have been generally installed as favourites to lift the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time since 1990 when they face Kerry in Sunday’s All-Ireland final. Considering the Rebels poor track record against their arch rivals in Croke Park over recent seasons, it’s still represents a leap of faith for the layers to come down on the side of the Munster champions who admittedly have put together a physically imposing outfit.
Only Paul Carmody in PC Sports takes an alternative view and he quotes Cork at 6/5 to carry the day. It’s odds which must be availed of as Kerry are appearing in their sixth consecutive final and apart from the Dublin match haven’t really impressed in the championship. The bottom line is that Cork look primed to atone for their September disaster against the Kingdom in 2007. We don’t have a firm view about the minor decider, but will back Mayo (7/4) if only because on the law of averages the county is due to end its dreadful record in All-Ireland finals soon.

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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