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Kilkenny still reign supreme after epic showdown

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 11-Sep-2009

THERE can be no doubt about it now. This Kilkenny team is the greatest to have ever graced the hurling fields in the last 125 years. The champions withstood a fierce challenge from fired-up Tipperary in securing a record-equalling four-in-row and extending their unbeaten championship run to a staggering 18 matches at Croke Park last Sunday.
In terms of raw intensity and sheer commitment, I cannot recollect a more gruelling and compelling decider. It simply had everything. There was no place to hide; no compromise from either of these traditional arch rivals; and the crowd was treated to an epic showdown worthy of the occasion. Personal safety was repeatedly laid on the line in pursuit of the hard ball.
Tipperary threw everything at the title holders and in 20-year-old full back Padraig Maher, Declan Fanning, Conor O’Mahony, Lar Corbett and the revitalised Eoin Kelly, they had some of the outstanding players on the field, but still Kilkenny survived with the controversial penalty award by Diarmuid Kirwan and Benny Dunne’s justified dismissal ultimately swinging a magnificent battle their way.
At times, however, Kilkenny were scarcely hanging on. Tipperary had the legs on them and such was the challengers’ determination and quality of their hurling that the Munster champions looked in prime position to capture the county’s first All-Ireland title since 2001 when powering into a three point lead by the 57th minute in the wake of Dunne’s dismissal for a nasty pull across the brilliant Tommy Walsh.
Unfortunately, for Tipperary, their numericial disadvantage eventually caught up with them in the closing seven or eight minutes, but they might still have managed to protected that lead only for Kirwan taking central stage. In real time, it appeared that Richie Power had actually overcarried the ball as he drove towards the Tipperary posts in the 62nd minute and though he was eventually fouled, the free was committed outside the rectangle.
Kirwan ruled otherwise and up stepped Henry Shefflin to blast the sliothar to the net. It was the turning point of the match and in the context of what the Cork official had let go earlier – how Seamus Callanan, for instance, wasn’t awarded a free when floored by Jackie Tyrell in the opening minutes was beyond belief – the decision smacked of inconsistency. In fairness to Kirwan, his obvious desire to let the exchanges flow contributed significantly to a rousing battle, but Tipperary supporters weren’t happy with him.
For all that, Kilkenny once again underlined why they are impossible to beat these days. They had less possession and less territory than Tipperary for large tracts of the match, but still had the composure, belief and resilience to achieve an admittedly flattering five points victory margin in the end. It was just as well that two players stood apart for them. Wing back Walsh was simply heroic, especially in the opening-half, when the Tullaroan man was unbeatable. He cleared an ocean of ball and topped it off with a rousing long range point into the bargain.
Kilkenny’s other Man of the Match contender was goalkeeper PJ Ryan. Those outstanding reflex saves at the start of the second-half from Callanan, in particular and Kelly, desperately unlucky to lose his footing when about to strike, kept his team in the contest, and Ryan went on to embellish a great display with further stops from Kelly (free) and young Noel McGrath before the finish. The Cats would surely have fallen only for him.
After Shefflin converted the penalty with typical assurance, Kilkenny went for the jugular as only they can. Michael Kavanagh, now the loose man, did superbly to avoid carrying the ball over the sideline and from his clearance, the strong finishing Eoin Larkin set up substitute Martin Comerford for the champions’ second goal in little more than 60 seconds. They were mortal blows to Tipperary’s hopes and try as hard as they did to retrieve the situation, Kilkenny were never going to be caught.
Beating Tipperary in such an absorbing final will only add to the champions’ legendary status. It was also their seventh All-Ireland title over the past decade – an unparalleled achievement – and the squad’s astonishing consistency is a tribute to the commitment, dedication and quality of both the players and the Brian Cody led management. Once again, Kilkenny used their substitutes to devastating effect.
Apart from Ryan and Walsh, Kilkenny also had stirring contributions from Tyrell, Eddie Brennan, in the first-half, Eoin Larkin, late on, Kavanagh, and reserves Michael Fennelly and Comerford, while Shefflin, relatively subdued in general play, still held his nerve from a series of frees. Richie Power and John Tennyson had their moments too as hurling’s most powerful force once again underlined their greatness.
Tipperary supporters were proud of their team in defeat. Despite 12 players contesting their first All-Ireland senior final, they rose to the occasion in magnificent style and stood a great chance of ending Kilkenny’s long-standing dominance only for those two critical incidents in the closing quarter. Two of the survivors from the 2001 final, Corbett and Kelly, couldn’t have done anymore to inspire their team, while the likes of Padraig Maher, Paddy Stapleton, Fanning, O’Mahony, Shane McGrath, Callanan (second-half) and Noel McGrath, late on, typified Tipperary’s energy and class on the day. Substituted wing forward Pat Kerwick didn’t always use possession wisely, but he too highlighted their fearless approach.
It’s doubtful if ever a team has played so well in an All-Ireland and still ended up being beaten, but when Kilkenny are in the other corner, the normal rules of engagement don’t apply. It was some match and they are some team!

MINORS SPARKLE
THERE is always something special about beating Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final and the Galway minors got the opportunity to savour that achievement when deservedly claiming the county’s eighth championship in the grade after a stirring battle on Sunday. This was a high quality decider with the opening ten minutes producing a wonderful series of scores from both teams.
We were slightly worried beforehand that the hype surrounding Galway might affect their performance, but these young players didn’t take their eye off the ball in coping admirably with Kilkenny’s best efforts. Two first half goals from team captain Richie Cummins proved critical to the outcome while there were also top class displays from full back Daithi Burke and midfielder Davy Glennon.
In truth, Galway looked an above average outfit at this level. Corner backs, Johnny Coen and Conor Burke, are other players with bright futures too with the likes of Donie Fox, Shane Moloney, Joseph Cooney and Brian Flaherty also shaping with considerable promise. Ironically, two of Galway’s key players, James Regan and Niall Burke, were not at their best last Sunday, but both have already shown their inter-county pedigree.
Galway’s triumph is also a
testimony to the tireless pre-
paratory work of Mattie Murphy and his management team of Michael Haverty and Michael Fogarty. Putting together a minor squad takes a lot of time and effort, but the team’s mentors again weren’t found wanting in this regard. They made important changes and switches during the course of the final too which helped their team to turn the tables on Kilkenny for last year’s agonising defeat.
Murphy must be particularly lauded for again turning out another championhip winning outfit at this level. He has done it five times now and that represents an incredible record by any standards. He is the Brian Cody of the minor grade and for a man who hasn’t always been treated fairly by club delegates and Board officials over the years, you’d have to admire the way Murphy leaves the past in the past.

JAMIE KYNE
THOUGH only 18, Jamie Kyne was already being tipped for greatness in the saddle when his young life was cut short in tragic circumstances in Malton, North Yorkshire over the weekend. The Claregalway jockey had been making a big impression cross-channel since moving over to pursue his career early in 2008. Lying third in the UK apprentice championship with 29 winners so far this season – his last success was on Duchess Dora at Beverley on August 30 – Jamie was regarded as one of the most promising young riders around.
The outpouring of grief, both in Ireland and cross-channel, over his premature passing shows the high respect in which Jamie was held. He was also a talented hurler and boxer whose chirpy nature endeared him to many. Jamie Kyne was a young sportsman going places until tragedy intervened in the most needless fashion. To his heartbroken family, we offer our deepest condolences.

THE BANNER
ISN’T it great to see Clare contesting Sunday’s All-Ireland U-21 hurling final at Croke Park. The Banner boys had already proven their worth in claiming a first ever Munster title before going on to edge out Galway in a titanic semi-final battle. Champions Kilkenny missed nothing in their Leinster decider against Dublin and as a result might have looked better than they actually are. Clare go to Croke Park with a fighting chance and look a tempting bet at 6/4 to make history.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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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Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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