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Little bits of luck not falling Kernan’s way

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Date Published: 07-Jul-2010

FRANK FARRAGHER

When Joe Kernan reflects back on the 2010 season for Galway, he might be forgiven for ruefully concluding that those little bits of luck just haven’t gone his way.

 

Galway are a long way short of hacking it with the serious contenders for the All-Ireland title — but it’s not today or yesterday that we knew that.

 

Just a couple of minutes before half-time when Michael Meehan went in for a harmless enough looking tackle on a Sligo back and ended up writhing in pain, another blow had been dealt to Kernan’s side.

 

It was one of those incidents that nobody could do anything about, but two minutes into the second half when Gareth Bradshaw — in one moment of weakness — opted to try and backpass a sideline ball to Adrian Faherty, Kernan’s evening in Sligo was about to take a serious turn for the worse.

 

David Kelly said afterwards that he spotted Bradshaw looking back towards his own goal and gambled that he could intercept the kick. It was a defining moment of anticipation at Markievicz Park.

 

“I just gambled that he might kick it back towards his own goal and had that yard of a start on the Galway backs. You can make those runs 10 times and they might never work out, but there’s always the one time they will,” said Kelly.

 

Of course, it all made for painful video reflection on Tuesday evening at the Galway training session but after the match,Kernan had no intention of dwelling of Bradshaw’s misfortunes and gave full credit to Sligo for their battling qualities.

 

“We did improve a lot from the drawn match and I was delighted with the spirit and attitude of the side. But Sligo are a serious side and they scored some great points through the second half lwhen the pressure came on.

 

“They showed a lot of heart and deserve to be in the final but really from this evening on, we cannot look back. We have to focus on Wexford on Saturday and try to get a win under our belts,” said Kernan.

 

The mood in the Sligo camp last Saturday evening was ebullient to say the least and one could sense that Kevin Walsh — even within minutes of the final whistle — was a little worried that too many people were being carried away with the victory.

 

However Saturday evening was celebration time for Sligo, and a bit like Cinderalla, at least until the clock chimed for midnight everything was beautiful for the GAA family of Yeats county.

 

These are rich and verdant times for Sligo. League titles have been picked up over the past two years . . . they came withing inches of beating Kerry last year in the qualifiers last year . . . and now in the hay season of 2010, the championships scalps of Mayo and Galway have been claimed.

 

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Santa shows up early for î Brolch‡in as Greens wring concession from FF

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Date Published: {J}

Well, it just shows – you never know when your luck might turn in this game of politics. Last June, after a Local Elections defeat, the political future of Niall Ó Brolcháin looked bleak indeed, but now he is the Green Party nominee to fill a Seanad vacancy and the odds are stacked-up in his favour.

You see, only TDs and Senators can vote to fill two vacancies in the Seanad – and a deal was worked out between the Government parties (Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and former PDs), under which Fianna Fáil will take one of the vacancies, and the other will go to the Green Party nominee (in this case, the nominee chosen at the weekend is Ó Brolcháin).

All going according to plan, one seat will go to Fianna Fáil’s Councillor James Carroll, of Drogheda, who is being groomed as a possible FF candidate in Louth (to join Minister Dermot Ahern), now that Seamus Kirk TD has been elevated to Ceann Comhairle.

The plan is that the other Senate vacancy will go to Ó Brolcháin . . . it was the seat formerly held by Labour’s Alan Kelly, who had to resign the Seanad when he won a seat in the European Parliament in June.

The Greens wrung the deal from Fianna Fáil as part of the renegotiated Programme for Government, and, barring some extraordinary electoral accident, Ó Brolcháin should take his place in the Seanad after the vote by TDs and Senators on December 14.

Speaking to Ó Brolcháin at the weekend, he said he was delighted and honoured to be nominated for The Green Party. Understandably, he was a little bit cautious about any celebrations – just yet. After all, this was the man tipped widely to be a TD in 2007.

Ó Brolcháin had 10 years as a Green councillor on Galway City Council and stood in two General Elections in Galway West – where he got just over 2,000 first preferences in 2002 and over 3,000 in 2007. He was heavily tipped as a hot favourite to take a Dáil seat only a month prior to the 2007 General Election in an opinion poll produced by TG4.

That forecast he would be in the shake-up for the two final seats with Frank Fahey (FF), and Noel Grealish (PD).But, he survived to just the 9th count where he had 4,300 votes and was then eliminated.

At the time, it looked possible that, if he kept slogging away as a local councillor in Galway, he might be in with a shout as a potential Green TD. After all, Michael D Higgins (Labour) stood in the same constituency in 1969, ’73 and ’77 before he was first elected to the Dáil in 1981.

 Higgins lost that seat in 1982 and finally began a run of success as a TD for Galway West right from 1987 to the present day.

However, Ó Brolcháin suffered a colossal reverse for his political aspirations in the Local Elections last June when the Greens sustained an enormous defeat nationally in the Locals.

As a sitting councillor, Ó Brolcháin got just over 700 votes in the West Ward in Galway City. He was seventh in the first preferences but was a long way from the 1,400 quota and lost his elected base, the Galway City Council seat. He has been working since as a full-time official for The Green Party as a parliamentary secretary.

Ó Brolcháin has also been continuing with his constituency work and said at the weekend …. “in this politics business, you never know what’s around the corner. The party did badly in June but I believe it is still very much alive and active around the country and the issues just won’t go away. I would be honoured and delighted if I was elected a Senator.”

In the meantime, if this Government were to last another two years – who knows what changes there might be in Galway West. For instance, would Higgins be standing again? Would Fahey? Would Fine Gael’s Padraic McCormack?

INDEPENDENT MY AR**

Meanwhile, there was some ‘fighting talk’ in the background at that Fine Gael conference held in Galway last week – and one of the clear targets that emerged was that, as far as they’re concerned, Grealish may be standing as an Independent in the next General Election, but FG regard him as ‘a Government TD’.

Leading the attack was Fine Gael hopeful Councillor Padraig Conneely, who dismissed Grealish as “Independent my ar**”.

He said Grealish and Mary Harney, the last remnants of the Progressive Democrats, had consistently supported the Fianna Fáil-led Government which had led the country into the ruinous financial situation of the past year.

“When it comes to election time I have no doubt that Noel Grealish will have posters up around the place with lines like ‘keep an Independent voice in Galway West’. The fact is that he and Mary Harney have supported this ruinous Fianna Fáil-led administration in every single Dáil vote for years. He is Fianna Fáil in all but name and it is time that this lie was nailed,” Conneely said.

Conneely said that in the past week, for instance, Phil Hogan TD had put down a Fine Gael motion in the Dáil calling for a freeze on all commercial rates in a bid to give retail businesses around the country a chance of survival. But it had been voted down by the Government. So, the ex-PDs, who claimed to be Independents, were nothing of the sort.

“We in Fine Gael on Galway City Council – through people like myself and Councillor Brian Walsh – are involved in discussions here in Galway in a bid to freeze the rates for businesses. Involved in those talks as well are the three ex-PDs who now are supporting Grealish (Cllrs Declan McDonnell, Donal Lyons and Terry O’Flaherty), but in the Dáil, the ex-PDs can support a policy which is the precise opposite.

“It is time that Grealish came clean about precisely where he stands – we intend to make it clear to the electorate that he may call himself an Independent, but in fact he is a ‘Government TD’ like Frank Fahey or Éamon Ó Cuív and it is time he stopped this nonsense about being an Independent. Independent my ar**,” added Conneely.

Meantime, though Grealish has been playing his cards pretty close to his chest on precisely what ‘banner’ he plans to run under in the next General Election, it is quite clear that he plans to run as an Independent – and he has brushed off those approaches from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to join them.In the wake of the PD wipeout in the 2007 General Election, Grealish and Harney were the only two surviving PD Dáil Deputies. Harney kept her post as Minister for Health, while both herself and Grealish have proven rock-solid supporters of the Fianna Fáil-Green-Independents Government. Grealish has become a backbencher with an Independent label, and a considerable ability to get the ear of ministers.

It is hard to gauge precisely where his vote comes from, but Grealish with his 5,800 first preferences in 2007, must have looked carefully at the vote and analysed it when those approaches came to join Fianna Fáil (from Ministers Ó Cuív and Noel Dempsey), and then from some of the top people in Fine Gael who wanted him on their team.

The easier one to rule out must surely have been the approach from Fine Gael. For, though FG are on the up in the opinion polls, all of the Grealish family connections going back for years are in Fianna Fáil. Grealish himself started as a Fianna Fáil Cumann officer when he was in his teens, and, if he joined FG, he would lose a chunk of that support, plus whatever slice of FF support came to him when Bobby Molloy retired. Molloy, after all, had more than 20 years as a Fianna Fáil TD and then 16 years as a PD Dáil Deputy.

Grealish obviously gave a lot longer thought to those approaches to join Fianna Fáil . . . the word is that they would still like to have him on board, but, right now, does he really want to join a party which is running at just over 20% in the opinion polls and which is associated with the economic catastrophe of the past year? FF may be slightly less unpopular right now and they look like – with Green support – they could last a few years yet in office, but the memory of the Local and European Elections drubbing for FF is a little too fresh in the minds of many. Grealish has been keeping his powder dry but he won’t go to Fianna Fáil.

Anyway, they have enough problems in Fianna Fáil with the three likely candidates – Ó Cuív, Fahey and Cllr Michael Crowe – all battling for their own futures and wanting Grealish’s name on the FF ‘slate’ like a hole in the head.

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Maria Tecce’s seductive Vida for Town Hall

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Date Published: {J}

American jazz singer Maria Tecce brings her acclaimed show Viva, featuring Argentinian and Spanish songs, Italian arias, jazz, and the poetry of Pablo Neruda, to the Town Hall Theatre on Saturday, November 28.

The former Galway resident, who is now based in Dublin where she also has a busy acting career, has been singing from a very young age.

“When I was a kid my mom was always singing in the house,” says Boston born Maria. “She was a classical pianist. All of us played instruments – all the kids – and we all played and sang. It was a little Italian Von Trapp family! We were always playing at reunions and stuff like that.”

Despite this background, Maria didn’t plan a career as a professional musician.“To be honest with you I never thought of making my living through music, at all,” she explains. “I wanted to be a veterinarian; I wanted to ride horses, when I was a kid. I didn’t have any notions of becoming a professional musician; it just happened when I came over to Ireland.

“I came here about nine years ago now, “Maria continues. “And it was just a way of picking up extra money. I really like Irish music, the whole sitting down and playing and having jam sessions, which was very similar to what I grew up with in folk and blues.”

Returning to Galway with this show has a special resonance for Maria, who had her first paid work as a singer in the town.

“My first gig was the best gig, I think, I’ve ever had,” she recalls. “It was in Nimmo’s Wine Bar. It was every Sunday night, I played for an hour and I sat in the corner with my little Spanish guitar and sang songs. And I got 40 pounds and my dinner and as much wine as I could drink. Great gig!” With an accomplished band backing her up, the singer’s latest show was described by The Irish Times as “seductive”, and given that Maria is such a theatrical performer, this is a show that promises to enliven the senses.

“Viva was inspired by a poem by Pablo Neruda, called Me Gustas Cuando Callas,” Maria explains. “I’d studied Spanish when I was in high school; I loved the language. I started collecting songs in Italian and Spanish, and it was the music of the language that attracted me most; the sensuality, the fecundity and the stories of these songs.”

Maria is also influence by artists like Carmen McCrae, Joni Mitchell and Annie Lennox. Recently, she’s been expanding her tastes further.

“I’ve been influenced by opera lately too,” she says. “It’s all about telling stories, the drama and theatricality of opera. It’s about love and sex and death and all sorts of juicy stuff like that!”Maria Tecce’s other career as an actor means her schedule is pretty hectic, but it’s something she enjoys.

“This year was a great year for me as far as acting goes. I did a film with Jack L, which was great fun. That’s called I Love Musicals. Then I did an encore performance of [Hugh Leonard’s] Roman Fever, in Bewley’s Café theatre

.“The acting has been very good for me, and I learn a bit more each time I do it,” she adds. “I’m not a trained musician; I’m not a trained actor. The way I’ve learned is just by doing.”

Is juggling two busy careers not a strain?

“No, I don’t find it difficult at all,” she states. “I find they dovetail quite easily. There’s a conflict in projects coming up in March so we’ll see what see what happens. I tend to think that these things work themselves out, they go the way they’re supposed to go.”

Maria finds that the disciplines of acting and singing can complement each other.

“I do think it comes from a similar impulse,” she says. “For me the catalyst in singing is the music; in acting I have the text. In songs you have the text as well, but you also have the music as an extra catalyst. But I think there’s musicality in language as well; and if you’re lucky and you get a great writer, like Hugh Leonard, there’s so much musicality in his language that it’s a joy to play the role.”

So far this year Maria Tecce has had a month’s run in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as playing shows in Dubrovnik, Prague, Paris, Amsterdam, London and New York. Where do all these gigs come from?

“I do all my own booking,” explains the singer. “I don’t have a manager, I do everything myself. It’s a lot of administrative work; I’d be more than happy to hand it over to someone who wanted to do my bookings. That would be the best thing since sliced bread, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon that I see.”

Being your own boss allows a certain freedom but it can have its price artistically.

“It does take a lot of my energy and it does take a lot of hours,” says Maria. “If I had my way I’d devote more energy to the creative side of things, where I could develop more music or another show, or I could try to find money to record my next album. There are lots of little hats to be worn and the last thing I get to do sometimes is step on stage.

“I think it has its pros and cons, like any job,” Maria says about her career. “It is insecure, inconsistent – sometimes – but I’ve lots of friends who’ve lost their jobs recently. The benefit of it is to do something I love, something I have passion for. Once I step on stage all the problems, anything, it all falls away. I can lose myself in the music and that is a gift; it’s a gift I could never put a price tag on.”

Maria Tecce’s love for what she does comes through in her winning performances, and Viva is a show well worth catching.“I feel like the luckiest woman in the world some days, I really do,” she says. “It’s tough, and I wouldn’t recommend it anyone, but if it’s in your heart and you can’t live without it, you have to do it.”

Maria Tecce plays the Town Hall Theatre on Saturday, November 28 at 8pm. Tickets €18/€16 from www.tht.ie or 091-569777.

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Support the name of the game as Dusty Banjos launch debut CD

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Date Published: {J}

A project which began in the Crane Bar in 2002 when three adult learner banjo players came together to offer each other some moral and musical support, has now evolved to become one of the biggest success stories in traditional music locally.

The Dusty Banjos, as the three banjo beginners called themselves, have grown over the years to become a forceful community group playing a wide variety of instruments including fiddle, flute, mandolin, whistle, concertina, guitar, harmonica, accordion, drums. . . and of course, banjo.

The members meet once a week in the city for a student session in the Western Hotel, Prospect Hill, while there are also open sessions on Thursdays in Rabbitts of Forster Street and in Áras na nGael on the first Saturday of the month. Several of the group also play regular sessions in Oliver’s Bar, Cleggan.

Next Monday, November 23, the Dusty Banjos enter a new phase when their debut CD, entitled Dusty Banjos Live at the Crane, will be launched by well-known Inisbofin musician and regular Crane performer Johnny O’Halloran. The recording, featuring 48 of the group’s members, was funded by a grant from the Arts Council under the Deis scheme for traditional arts, and was recorded at the well-known music venue in January, explains Mary Lovett, of the music organisation, Community Music Crew, who was a key figure in establishing the Dusty Banjos when she was beginning the banjo in 2002.

The original target audience was adult pupils who were coming back to music, she says.

“If you are learning an instrument as an adult there aren’t that many support structures, so the uptake has been great and it means that people don’t feel as though they are isolated.”

The membership is fairly diverse, she adds. “There are a lot of Irish adults and we’d also have people who have come to Galway for a few months and want to get involved.”

Membership of the Dusty Banjos is about being in a team and helping each other, says Mary. While it’s not for complete beginners, “we do try to make room for people at all levels”. As part of that, sheet music and recordings are available for members.

The nature of the project means that membership of the Dusty Banjos changes regularly. Some people who join, get good very quickly, and move on from there. And, says Mary, the group gets a lot of people who are good on one instrument, but who want to learn another, and that makes for greater diversity.

The musicians on the CD are mostly the current members, although also some people from abroad, who were previously involved, returned for the recording in January.

That came about when the group applied a year ago to the Deis scheme in the Arts Council,” says Mary, explaining that the CD proposal was put together by group member, Heather Greer, a driving force behind the recording. “We wanted to do a CD because the group is good.”

She’s right about that. The album, which includes a selection of jigs, reels, hornpipes, and polkas, is high-energy stuff, and if you close your eyes, you could actually be in the middle of a lively session.“We picked a good selection of tunes and practised a lot of them and then selected the ones for the album that came out best on the night,” says Mary.

There are 14 tracks on the recording – all tunes. Despite the lack of songs on the CD – which was mostly for practical reasons – the Dusty Banjos welcome singers to their sessions and they don’t have to be strictly trad performers.

Stressing that the group is open to many influences Mary says, “there are lots of foreign instruments coming and going”, including everything from continental accordions to Japanese banjos and, occasionally jazz instruments.

“It’s non-competitive, about making people welcome and helping each other,” she emphasises. The album fulfilled a long-held dream for Mary, but making it was a more complex process than she or Heather Greer originally realised, she says. “It was an incredible amount of work. After the recording, there was the mixing and the mastering in studio. We had to find a company to produce it. Then we had to decide on the art work [for the sleeve], and there’s the whole promotion aspect.”

The musicians involved hope that, as well as being enjoyable to listen to, “it’ll also be a valuable learning tool for student musicians everywhere”.

Given the work involved in the production of the CD and the likelihood of cutbacks in Arts Council schemes, it looks like it could be a while before there’s another one in the pipeline. The Dusty Banjos invited melodeon and accordion player Johnny O’Halloran to perform the launch because so many of the learners like to play with him.

“He is very supportive – he understands about people learning and gives them a chance,” says Mary.

The group hope to target the Christmas market with this lively CD which costs €15. Admission to the launch is free to all, and an invite is extended to those learner musicians, who might like to participate in the session. Like the group and the album, this promises to be a real community event and is well worth checking out. Doors for the launch are at 8pm.

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