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Long-serving club stalwart Tom a cut above the rest

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Date Published: {J}

To GAA folk, Tom Nally’s would be a face most will recognise, be it through his lifetime associations with St Michael’s football or Rahoon/ Newcastle hurling clubs, as a long-serving Gaelic games referee, or, simply, as the affable barber based on Shop Street in Galway City.

In any event, Tom Nally is a man worth talking to, even if it is just to get his thoughts on a particular issue. He has a great interest in his locality and this is underlined by the many publications he has produced relating to his native Shantalla and his beloved St Michael’s Club, of which he is currently compiling a history.

As one of six children born to Frank and Molly Nally, Tom grew up in Shantalla, across from the local field where St Michael’s GAA Club was founded in 1956.

A young boy at that time, Nally does not remember those early days, or of the club’s minor teams winning the three-in-a-row of championships between 1958 and ’60.

“They used to train in Shantalla pitch just across the road from me, though, so it was always a familiar sight to me,” says Nally. “I always wanted to play for that club as a result.”

In 1967, Nally – who had played under Br James Moran and Br Hugh Costello at St Pat’s NS and later Jack Mahon at the vocational school on Fr Griffin Road – realised that childhood ambition when he lined out for the club’s juveniles.

“I played my first senior championship match with Michael’s in 1971,” recalls Nally. “Michael’s were senior that time and it was against Ballygar. We won that game by two points.

“Mattie McDonagh and Sean Cleary were playing with Ballygar at the time. I played corner forward that day, but I didn’t get on the scoresheet. We got beaten the next time out against Milltown. I would have been 19 in ’71.”

Although St Michael’s were relegated in the ensuing years, they did make a return to the top flight in the mid ’80s. “We came back up in ’85 – I was also chairman that year – and we won the intermediate championship and league double. It was the first adult county title we won.

“There were great celebrations afterwards; they went on for about three months! Hard to believe it is 25 years ago this year. So, that was a particular highlight of my career, because I was a player and chairman of the club that year. That said, I didn’t play in the final, even though I was a selector. I was dropped for the final,” he laughs. “It didn’t bother me really; I enjoyed the training.”

In the early 1990s, St Michael’s were relegated from the senior grade again. There they languished for nearly two decades . . . until they won the intermediate championship for a second time in 2008, so making their return to senior.

“We have a very good support base in the city at the moment, and the present crop of players is probably the best we have ever had in the club. So, the club is in great hands at the moment. I also have to praise the present management team of manager Paddy Regan, John Ruane and Peter Curran,” says Nally, who also lauds the contributions from dedicated servants like Joe Corcoran, Tommie Kelly, Pat Walsh, Frank Rice and Gerry Dooley over the years.

As for Nally, himself, he continued to play for Michael’s until 1998 – finishing his club career in the junior ranks. “My son Kenneth and myself actually played for Michael’s for three years on the one (junior) team,” says the Shop Street barber.

“The first time we ever played together was on Father’s Day. Kenneth played in the half-forward line. He was winning all the ball and giving it to me so I could get all the scores,” he grins.

“I also played a lot of hurling with Rahoon/Newcastle. We had not a lot of success, but that was certainly not Gerry Cloherty’s fault. He drove on the club for years, for a very long time.”

As it so happened, the end of Nally’s playing days coincided with his sojourn into refereeing. “Although I had been doing games before that, I refereed my first senior championship match in Galway in ’98,” continues the West Board Treasurer of 12 years standing. “That first senior game was in Inverin, between Killanin and An Cheathru Rua. I was very pleased with how it went.”

Since then, the St Michael’s club-man – who has travelled the length and breadth of the county with his umpires, men such as Frank Rice, Brendan Molloy, Gerry Creavin, Tom Kelly, Barry Cummins and Tom Burke – has refereed every major county decider, including the meeting of Corofin and Caltra in the 2006 senior championship final.

 

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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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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