Date Published: 21-Oct-2009
KENNY Park, Athenry became a coliseum on Sunday afternoon when an incensed Mullagh mob descended on the gates of the famed hurling pitch to vent their anger at referee Christy Helebert for a controversial decision which, ultimately, handed 2006 champions Loughrea a one-point SHC semi-final victory.
With the outcome hanging in the balance, and both sides tied at 0-15 apiece, referee Helebert adjudged that Mullagh full-back Alan Gaynor had fouled the ball through an illegal handpass when emerging from defence in the first of two minutes of injury-time to be played. Loughrea’s minor starlet Neil Keary, as he had done all afternoon, made no mistake in converting the placed ball. Game over.
To most observers in the ground, it appeared Gaynor had been fouled, rather than fouled the ball, and, to be honest – technicalities aside – the fairest outcome on the day would have been a draw. If Helebert had not blown at this crucial stage, there would have been no questions asked.
Yet, let’s be fair. Referee Helebert had a job to do and, at the end of the day, he was charged to adjudicate this contest by applying the letter of the law of the game as he saw fit. In all good conscience, one has to believe he did that and the monumental decision he made in the dying minutes – if it was a wrong call – was down to nothing more than human error.
That will be of little comfort to the Mullagh players, who gave so much of themselves to this match, or their success starved supporters, all of whom have waited a long time to once again see their hurlers contest a county senior hurling final. In this respect, their anger was understandable, but the manner in which they vented this very raw emotion was more applicable to scenes from the coliseum in ancient Rome, rather than a venue like Kenny Park.
As it was, this semi-final was to begin as it was to end, with the referee in the thick of the action. A fractious opening period saw Johnny Maher and David Glennon both receive yellow cards in separate incidents, before Loughrea’s Nigel Shaughnessy and Mullagh’s Cathal Hardiman were given their marching orders for some extremely wild pulling on 11 minutes.
Credit to Helebert for taking decisive action so early in an effort to eradicate the unruly and unsightly element that had infected this contest, but one has to feel for Shaughnessy, who will now miss yet another county decider, having missed the previous county final triumph through injury in 2006. A rush of blood to the head has cost him dearly.
Thankfully, following the sending-offs, the game settled down and some good and honest hurling was played. By this time, Mullagh’s Cathal Dervan had already traded two superb points from play with Shaughnessy, a mighty long range free, and Loughrea’s dead ball specialist Keary (’65).
Tied at two points apiece, the dismissals did nothing to swing the balance of power one way or the other, with these fierce competitors continuing to trade scores at regular intervals. First, All-Ireland winning minor Keary and the impressive Niall Cahalan swapped frees, before another of September’s heroes, Johnny Coen traded an effort with Mullagh’s Alan Whyte.
Then, Cahalan cracked over a neat point from play on 18 minutes, but this was immediately cancelled out by another Keary free, following a foul on Johnny Maher, to tie up the game at five each after 21 minutes.
Points from Donal Reilly and Cahalan (free) subsequently edged Mullagh into a two-point lead, but they were unable to build on this further as Loughrea rattled off four unanswered points between the 26th minute and the second minute of injury-time. Neil Keary (three frees) and substitute Emmett Mahony were the victors’ providers.
Leading 0-9 to 0-7 at the break, Loughrea opened up a three-point advantage in the opening minute of the second period when Keary converted another free after the otherwise subdued Johnny O’Loughlin was fouled.
Now, it was Mullagh’s turn to respond, which they did quite emphatically, striking over three points through Cahalan (free), Kevin Briscoe and Conor Dervan in a productive five-minute period to tie up the contest for the seventh occasion. They could have – and should have – taken the lead again on 39 minutes, when Finian Coone broke through on goal, but full-back Damien McClearn bravely threw himself in front of the Mullagh attacker’s goal bound effort.
This was just one of a limited number of goal chances presented to both sides on the day, with O’Loughlin and Maher spurning opportunities in the first half and Coone (as outlined) and Cathal Dervan denied in the second half.
No doubt, the one that will stand out will be Dervan’s miss as it came from the penalty spot on 46 minutes. A long range free in from brother Conor had caused all sorts of problems for the Loughrea defence and referee Helebert was right up with the action to spot an indiscretion and award Mullagh a penalty. Up stepped Dervan, but Loughrea goalkeeper Stephen Morgan was steadfast in his duties, repelling the danger. Cahalan followed up to clip the rebound over the bar.
With the sides now level again, at 0-11 apiece, it was to be expected that the final quarter was to be tight and tense. Johnny Maher – after a relatively quiet afternoon – finally sprung to life when firing over two great points on 50 and 52 minutes but these were cancelled out through similar efforts from Mullagh duo Whyte and Francis Hardiman. Keary, then, traded two frees with Reilly and Cahalan (free) in the closing minutes to ensure that both sides were deadlocked at 0-15 each heading into injury-time.
If Helebert had blown the whistle prematurely, let the play go for Gaynor’s perceived infringement, or even given a free out for what looked like a foul on the Mullagh full-back, then not a word would be said … and everyone would have left Kenny Park quite happy to come back a week later for the replay.
As noted, though, referee Helebert saw a transgression, which his conscience felt obliged to punish in those frantic minutes of injury-time. In the cold light of day, he may have done things differently, but this man should not be demonised for doing what he believed was the honest thing to do in the heated cauldron of a county semi-final.
Granted, it is easy for a neutral – such as this reporter – to take the high moral ground but it does not help when incensed players and supporters are baying for blood, threatening to do the referee harm, or, indeed, roaring at the Gardaí that they can’t protect the referee every day. Enough said.
Meanwhile, Loughrea now advance to face their old nemesis Portumna in the county decider on November 8, with the meeting of these two – following the negative publicity their last county final meeting generated – sure to be widely anticipated for all the wrong reasons.
Certainly, Loughrea have no fear of Portumna, but they do have a great deal of soul searching to do in the next three weeks if they are to dethrone the All-Ireland club champions. For one, Loughrea did not fire on all cylinders on Sunday, with three of their starting forwards – including the usually prolific Johnny O’Loughlin – failing to find the target.
Indeed, Loughrea can thank the accuracy of their rising star Neil Keary for his immeasurable contribution of 11 points, 10 of which came from placed balls. It tells its own tale that Loughrea only scored five points from play throughout, while Mullagh tallied 11.
Secondly, manager Padraig Duddy has to go back to the drawing board following the loss of influential centre-half back Nigel Shaughnessy through suspension. Of course, Greg Kennedy would be the obvious replacement, but, at this stage, it is doubtful if he will be fit for the final.
That said, there are positives for Loughrea. Stephen Morgan proved more than capable in goal, while player of the match Damien McClearn – who held Mullagh’s Finian Coone scoreless for the afternoon – and captain Tom Regan led the defensive lines brilliantly.
Gavin Keary and Brian Mahony had their moments in midfield – more will be expected of them, though, in the final – while in attack Neil Keary was, undoubtedly, the pick of the forwards, although Emmett Mahony, before retiring through injury, made an instant impact when introduced in the first half. Still, there is a lot more in the likes of Johnny Maher and Johnny O’Loughlin and if they are to peak there is no better time to do so than in the final.
As for Mullagh, they truly didn’t deserve to lose this game the way they did. Eric Ward was outstanding between the posts, while Alan Gaynor and Conor Dervan were two rocks in the Mullagh defence. Niall Cahalan, particularly in the first half, ran the midfield area for extended periods, while Cathal Dervan, Alan Whyte and Donal Reilly posed the greatest threat in attack.
However, this game was all about fine lines, be it refereeing decisions or otherwise, and the fact that they hit seven wides to Loughrea’s four over the hour could also be seen as another contributing factor in their loss. All being equal, though, one would hope Mullagh will bounce back positively from this defeat and maybe even go a step or two further next year.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup
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.