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Masterminding a new vision for Galway hurling



Date Published: {J}

WHEN Joe Byrne decided to contest the election of Hurling Board Chairman late last year, he sat down and composed a comprehensive document outlining his vision for Galway hurling. Then, he printed it off and sent a copy to each and every club in the county. This was Byrne’s statement of intent.

It may still be the honeymoon period of his reign, but Byrne has already come across as a man with fresh ideas. A man who is organised and professional. A man full of energy and follow through. Simply, a man with innate leadership qualities.

No doubt, Galway has had its fair share of controversies in recent times – many dissected forensically in the national media – but Byrne is unperturbed. He is positive by nature and like any eternal optimist he looks to the future with a great deal of hope in his heart.

“There has to be trust and respect between every stakeholder in Galway hurling,” says Byrne. “That we all trust each other and respect each other. If you have that, you have a great chance of moving forward. If you don’t have those, you will never achieve anything. I think we are getting there at the moment. Everyone is working very hard together.”

One suspects, though, that was the manner in which Joe was raised. A son of the late Toddie Byrne – a true Gael, who held many positions in Galway GAA, including Hurling Board Treasurer – and Grainne Quinn, he comes from a selfless family seeped in GAA and volunteerism. Indeed, his uncle Mick Quinn has held a myriad of positions in Athenry GAA club over the years, while Byrne also has strong links with Ardrahan Hurling Club through his aunt Maura Fahy.

Byrne, himself, grew up in a house with five brothers – Anthony, Garrett, Francis, Ronan and Niall – and two sisters, Mary and Deirdre, both of whom live in France. Not surprisingly, hurling was not just the sport of choice, but a way of life. Still is, with Anthony lining out regularly in the club colours and Garrett holding the post of Club Treasurer. Francis is secretary of Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry’s Juvenile Club.

As for Joe, he has given as much on the hurling field as he has in the corridors of power. At the age of 15 – while still claiming provincial silverware with Our Lady’s College, Gort – he served as club secretary, before going on to hold a myriad of positions in later years. Indeed, in the five years previous to his current appointment, he held the post of Kinvara’s Club Chairman.

Meanwhile, on the field, Joe represented both club and county with distinction. He was selected on the Galway minor panel of ‘81 and lined out alongside the likes of Pete Finnerty, Pat Malone, Gerry McInerney and Anthony Cunningham on the side that lost the All-Ireland minor final to Kilkenny on a scoreline of 2-7 to 0-4 in ‘82.


He subsequently attended UCG and hurled three years in the Fitzgibbon Cup, losing finals to UCC in ’83 and ’85 – he was vice captain of the team in the latter – and a semi-final to the same opposition in ’84. This was an era when UCC dominated the competition, winning eight titles in a row (1981 and ’88). Byrne was delighted to be selected on the Combined Universities team of ’85.

As for senior hurling, Byrne never made it with the county. The centre-back stroke midfielder did wear the maroon and white on occasion – in tournament and challenge games – but this, of course, was the great Galway side of the late ‘80s, boasting of superb defenders like Finnerty, McInerney and the great Tony Keady. In any event, Byrne’s working career with Sisk, of which he is now Regional Director, took precedence.

Now, though, Byrne has the opportunity to play a key role in returning the county to the top table of hurling. He may not get to strike a ball out on the hallowed turf of Croke Park in anger, but his infectious enthusiasm will be a vital component in any future success at senior level.

As he wrote in his letter to the clubs prior to his election back in December: “We have excellent minors who must become excellent seniors; if we want to aspire to the success we all long for.”

To this end, one of the initiatives Byrne is spearheading is a hurling development programme that seeks to prepare potential inter-county players by offering them specified coaching. “I am every enthusiastic about that,” says the Chairman.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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

BallinasloeÕs young squad aiming to floor Armagh junior champs



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

A new chapter in the history of Ballinasloe football will be written at Breffni Park, Cavan, on Sunday when Sean Riddell’s young side take on Ulster champions An Port Mor of Armagh in the All-Ireland Junior semi-final (2pm).

It’s the first competitive game outside the province of Connacht in 33 years for Galway football’s ‘sleeping giant’ with the enticing prospect of an appearance at Croke Park on February 9 on offer for the winners of what should be a competitive tie.

Ballinasloe have romped through Connacht since overcoming a couple of tricky hurdles on their way to collecting the Galway junior title, which was their target for the campaign this time last year.

With a return to Intermediate football secured, Riddell’s youngsters really have nothing to lose – while their triumphant march to county and provincial titles has revived memories of the club’s glory days when they contested three Galway senior finals in a row between 1979 and ’81.

Intriguingly, the seniors of St Grellan’s never got to play in Croke Park when they reached the All-Ireland final back in 1980 – they lost by 3-9 to 0-8 to St Finbarr’s of Cork in Tipperary Town.

This team’s progression has provided rich rewards for an abundance of hard work at underage levels in the past ten to 15 years and the current side’s ‘do or die’ attitude was very much in evidence in the cliffhanger wins over Tuam and Clifden in the domestic championship.


They are a well-balanced side who really never know when they are beaten and have an inspirational leader in county panelist Keith Kelly, whose exploits at centre back have been among the key components in their dramatic run to reach the All-Ireland series.

Riddell, who recalls playing senior football with the club during their heyday, is determined to get Ballinasloe back among the county’s leading clubs but, for the moment, he is delighted just to have a shot at getting to Croke Park in a bid to emulate Clonbur’s achievement in winning the title outright last year.

Riddell went to Newry on a ‘spying mission’ to see the Armagh champions overcome Brackaville of Tyrone by 2-9 to 0-11 in November – and was impressed by the quality of the football produced by An Port Mor in the Ulster final.

“They are a nicely balanced side who play good football,” he said. “There was a bit of the physical stuff you’d expect from two Ulster side, but I was impressed by their performance.”

An Port Mor became the first Armagh side to win the provincial junior decider. First half goals from Shane Nugent and Christopher Lennon sent them on the road to victory, before a red card for Brackaville captain Cahir McGuinness eased their progress to the All-Ireland series.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Coalition promised an ocean of reform Ð but the wind has gone out of its sails



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013


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