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New deal puts different type of pressure on Connacht



Date Published: {J}

AT last, the Connacht rugby team have got some security in terms of their medium-term future. That’s the net result of a new structure for the professional game in the province which is also bound to boost on-field performances. No more looking over their shoulders; no more feeling like second class citizens; no more uncertainty – at least, for the next three years.

It represents a huge step forward for Connacht rugby and the increased IRFU backing follows on a high-powered review of the game out West. Clearly, the local branch, under its Chief Executive Gerry Kelly, made a compelling case for the province to be put on a more equal footing with Leinster, Munster and Ulster,

and lobbied hard for the necessary financial support to maximize the sport’s potential in Connacht.

A new independent Professional Game Board, under the Chairmanship of Jimmy Staunton, and which includes former Connacht and Irish scrum half, Conor McGuinness, has been established to drive the game forward locally, while the other three provinces have given a commitment to allow more movement of selected players to Connacht as part of the overall agreement. That scenario will see Connacht becoming less dependent on their overseas recruitment policy.

Though Irish coach Declan Kidney and IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne are understandably viewing Connacht’s improved circumstances from the national team’s perspective by offering “accelerated development” opportunities for players who cannot receive sufficient game time in their home provinces, the local priority was all about making the men in green more competitive and removing the long-standing threat to Connacht as a professional entity.

Yet, it’s arguable that the province wouldn’t have got an improved deal from the IRFU only for the team being far more competitive this season. Sure, the win ratio of John Muldoon and his colleagues remains poor – they have only been successful in two of their nine Magners League games so far – but the tonkings which were a regular feature of previous campaigns have been conspicuous by their absence.

Connacht may be second bottom in the league table, but Glasgow, Benetton Treviso and Newport Gwent Dragons are all within touching distance while, with a little more luck, Eric Elwood’s squad could easily have picked up a couple of more victories along the way. Still, they have been securing the bonus points and with their fan base increasing all the time, last Friday’s announcement of extended contracts is another big step in the right direction.

Elwood’s role in all of this shouldn’t be under-estimated either. Unlike his predecessor Michael Bradley, who wasn’t prepared to rock the boat of officialdom, the former Irish out-half has taken on the IRFU in relation to their treatment of Connacht. Elwood came out fighting when he was appointed to the position earlier this year and hasn’t been incline to slip quietly back into the trenches since.

He is passionate about Connacht, but quickly realised that they would always struggle unless granted more equal status with the other provinces. Elwood has no interest in going through the motions or keeping up appearances. He wants Connacht to develop a more consistent squad, capable of delivering more consistent results.

In some respects, there will now be extra pressure on Connacht in the weeks and months ahead, starting with this Sunday’s crunch away Amlin Cup battle with Harlequins, but it’s a far better situation to be in than persistently worrying about whether the Connacht professional brand even has a future. Hopefully, Munster, Leinster and Ulster will honour their part of the deal in moving players west and won’t start putting self-preservation first if Connacht are starting to become too competitive – wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony.

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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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.

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