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Mayo footballers pull off shock of the summer

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 05-Aug-2011

IT’S virtually 60 years since Mayo footballers last brought home the Sam Maguire Cup and when they stumbled to extra time

against the minnows of London in the opening round of the Connacht championship in Ruislip, even the county’s most dyed in the wool supporters must have been resigned to a short summer.

Under new manager James Horan, Mayo had managed to retain their Division One status in the National League, but their performances were nothing exceptional and having just about avoided an embarrassing championship exit to the Exiles, there was little or no confidence behind Alan Dillon and company. An average team with serious doubts about their character wasn’t expected to go places.

Having survived that major fright against London, Mayo hosted Galway in the provincial semifinal at McHale Park in late June.

It was a bad game between what looked two bad teams and the home fans were hardly overjoyed with the half-time situation – trailing by four points after Paul Conroy had grabbed an opportunist goal for the Tribesmen.

Mind you, Mayo would have the backing of the wind on the resumption and with Galway, incredibly, only managing a solitary point over the entire second-half, they gradually assumed control with an Alan Freeman goal helping them to a comfortable 1-12 to 1-6 victory.

Mayo were back in the Connacht final and though marginal favourites to beat title holders Roscommon in Hyde Park, nobody seemed to be too excited.

Again the weather intervened to impact on the standard of football and again Mayo had to come back from a four point interval deficit. The accuracy of Cillian O’Connor was to prove a vital plank in their eventual narrow victory and Mayo were the kings of Connacht again.

There was little hype, however, about the achievement with some neutral observers more interested in condemning the overall quality of the fare in the province.

As a result, Mayo had a low profile build up to last Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork.

The reigning champions appeared to be striking form at the right time following their convincing victory over Down and though injuries were taking their toll on the team’s forward division, nobody could envisage the new Connacht title holders pulling off to what has amounted as the GAA shock of the year.

Mayo could have been backed at 11/2 to come through their latest Croke Park date with the Rebels and when Cork stormed into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead, thanks chiefly to Donncha O’Connor’s early penalty, there were fears that they might suffer a hammering reminiscent of the 1993 All-Ireland semi-final between the teams – a day Cork amassed 5-15.

But Mayo didn’t wilt this time.

All over the field, they hung in there and with wing forward Kevin McLaughlin landing a priceless goal following a penetrating run,

they thundered back into the game.

Though Paul Kerrigan went on to raise another green flag for Cork before the interval, Mayo had survived their early crisis, only trailing by 2-5 to 1-6 at the interval.

Naturally, they still had it all or do – or so we thought – but, at least, the modest crowd of less than 23,000 in GAA headquarters were getting a competitive game.

Incredibly, Cork would only manage a solitary point in the second-half when John Miskella’s fisted effort in the 52nd minute brought the teams level after Enda Varley ( free), goalkeeper Robert Hennelly (45) and Dillon had all raised white flags to send Mayo to the front.

Fintan Goold then missed a great goal chance for a Cork team which looked flat and battle weary, and had no answer to the winners’ final quarter surge.

This was a marvellous achievement for Mayo and their team management, led by the low key Horan, and the fact that there was

so little hype about them in advance of the match was perfect.

The relatively small turn-out of Mayo fans in Croke Park tells its own story – some of them were even afraid that their team might lose heavily – but the underdogs tore up the script with a purposeful and confident effort.

For more see John McIntyre’s Inside Track in this week’s Tribune.


Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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

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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



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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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



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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