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Loyal servant to Galway football at many levels

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

THERE are more strings to Ciarán Ó Fátharta’s bow than there are collectively in the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. A former All-Ireland winning minor footballer. A former All-Ireland minor winning selector. A former Galway senior selector. A successful club manager. A husband. A father. And, oh, and he is also a prominent broadcaster with Raidió na Gaeltachta.

Sitting down for a cup of coffee with the Leitir Mór native, it is difficult to know just where to begin, but this column being of a sporting persuasion, it is on one of his great loves, Gaelic football, with which we kick off the conversation.

It is a topic that Ó Fátharta could claim to be an authority on, but it is not in his nature. So, he tells his story as he remembers it, fondly returning to those early days as a young fellow, when the world was at his feet.

“I went to the [Galway minor] trials in ’75, but I didn’t make it. In ’76, I went again and I made the league panel, and then the championship panel,” says Ó Fátharta.

“I suppose, Leitir Mór had a fairly good minor team in ’76. We won the West Board final, but by the time the county semi-final came around, half of the team had emigrated, and we were beaten by Ballinasloe. Anyway, Padraig Conroy and I went on to play for the county minors and lucky enough we won the All-Ireland that year, under the guidance of Johnny Geraghty, the former Galway goalkeeper.”

Indeed, mention of Geraghty, and Ó Fátharta comes to life. “A fantastic man and a fantastic manager,” states the An Cheathrú Rua resident. “For the likes of me, I will never understand why he was never given the Galway senior reigns or why he was never in charge of Galway senior teams in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s? Because he was a genius. He was a great man manager, a great tactician.”

No doubt, Geraghty certainly got the best out of his young charges in ’76. “We beat Mayo in Hyde Park in the Connacht semi-final and I gave away two penalties that day!” smiles Ó Fátharta. “We beat Sligo handy enough in the final, actually we hammered them [6-16 to 3-3], and then we played Dublin in the semi-final. We were lucky to get away with that.”

A narrow victory for Galway against the Dubs set up a meeting against Munster champions Cork in the All-Ireland decider. “We didn’t really know anything about them because there were no videos to analyse in that time. Johnny, though, had this thing of playing to your own strengths and in fairness we trained hard for it. All Geraghty’s training was done with the ball, everything.

“The sessions were in Tuam and it was a fair spin from Leitir Mór to Tuam. We had a great fellow there who took care of us, Tom Griffin – or Tómas O’Griofa – and he was a Leitir Mór clubman. He stuck with us from our first day on the campaign, right to the end. Actually, he used to give Johnny Geraghty a lift from Salthill to Tuam as well. Tom was the only chauffeur, I’d say, who was ever in a dug-out for the All-Ireland final. He was a great man.”

In the end, Galway romped home to a comprehensive 1-10 to 0-6 victory and by the time the U-21 championship came around in the late ‘70s, hopes were high that the team could, once again, scale lofty heights. Unfortunately, though, Galway were beaten by Roscommon in the ’78 Connacht final and while the Tribesmen did secure the title in ’79, they subsequently fell to Down in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Ó Fátharta did line out at senior level for a couple of years, but an injury in the early ‘80s – and subsequent dip in form – curtailed his time and by ’82 he was no longer involved. However, his involvement with Galway did not end there and in ’86 he teamed up with John Tobin, Gerry Fahy and co. to mentor the minor team.

“We won the All-Ireland that year as well [coincidentally defeating Cork again in the decider]. John Tobin was manager and Gerry Fahy was also involved, along with Tommy Keenan and the late Mattie McDonagh. We had a savage team. We had Kevin Walsh, the late John Joyce – Lord have mercy on him – and, of course, Alan Mulholland [current Galway senior manager] was on that team.”

Indeed, Ó Fátharta believes Mulholland can, once again, return Galway to the top of the rankings, but he says the Salthill/Knocknacarra man will need time. “Alan was centre-back [on the minor team] and he always had leadership qualities. While John Joyce was the captain, Alan was a leader on the field.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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