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No contest on the cards for Portumna men

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

AT first glance, it appears that the bookmakers have suffered a collective bout of untypical generosity. Odds of 100/1 are freely available on Dunloy causing what would be, admittedly, a stunning upset in Sunday’s All-Ireland Club hurling semi-final at Parnell Park. Yet, the Antrim team are the only blemish on Portumna’s otherwise perfect championship record outside their county’s boundaries.

It was February, 2004, just a few months after Portumna’s historic first county title, when the Galway champions took on their Antrim counterparts in the All-Ireland semi-final at Clones. They were burdened with the mantle of strong favourites despite it being their maiden voyage in the competition and Dunloy having no shortage of experience of this level of hurling – 12 months earlier, the admirable Antrim men had shocked Mount Sion of Waterford in Mullingar.

In that match six years ago, Portumna probably didn’t do themselves justice though credit must be given to Dunloy for a really committed effort and no shortage of quality hurling which saw them carry the day on a 2-13 to 2-10 scoreline. Ollie Canning, thrown up front in a desperate late move to try and bail out the Galway title holders, came close to saving the day but his low effort flew just wide of the opposition posts.

At the time, it was a sickening reversal for Portumna and though again reaching the county final the following Autumn, they hadn’t overly impressed in that campaign and, ultimately, fell victim to a late Athenry surge at Pearse Stadium. Some local pundits were starting to wonder if the border men were a one-hit wonder but, incredibly, they have only lost a single championship game in the interim – the controversial showdown of 2006 against Loughrea.

That is phenomenal consistency by any standards and they have now amassed five county and three All-Ireland titles along the way. In fact, Portumna stand on the brink of hurling history as they are now just two matches away from doing what no other club has achieved before . . . capturing the Tommy Moore Cup for the third consecutive year. Johnny Kelly’s charges are overwhelming favourites to do it too despite the presence of recent All-Ireland champions, Ballyhale Shamrocks and Newtownshandrum in the other half of the draw.

Not alone are Portumna protecting a long unbeaten record, but no team has really troubled them over the past two seasons bar Clarinbridge in the knock out stages of the 2008 Galway championship. They have been routinely handing out hammerings – inside and outside the county – with Waterford’s outclassed De La Salle beaten out the gate at Croke Park almost 12 months ago. A few weeks earlier in Thurles, Portumna produced a magnificent opening half display in taking care of the considerable challenge of Henry Shefflin and Ballyhale.

In full flight, I have never seen a better club team. Their mix of pace, quality and work-rate has elevated them to a different level compared to all their adversaries and there are no indications whatsoever that Portumna’s squad is losing any of its motivation or ambition. If anything, they are more driven than ever at the prospect of achieving the three-in-a-row and with Joe Canning in tremendous physical shape at present, the champions are going to take some stopping.

That doesn’t mean they are the proverbial ‘good thing’, but the team’s winning pedigree is such these days that many opponents are already beaten psychologically before the ball is even thrown in.

Still, it wouldn’t be in Portumna’s psyche to get ahead of themselves. They will treat the Dunloy challenge with respect and having a score to settle with the Ulster title holders from six years ago should ensure that there will be no complacency in their ranks. Furthermore, Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry’s eclipse by St. Gall’s in the recent All-Ireland intermediate semi-final will also help to keep the Portumna players on their toes.

The fact Sunday’s semi-final is going ahead in the relatively tight confines of Parnell Park is possibly a plus for Dunloy, who have won 11 Antrim titles over the past 19 years with two players, Gregory O’Kane and Alastair Elliott, introduced as a substitute in their county final win over Cushendall (3-14 to 1-13), featuring in every one of those campaigns. Significantly, goalkeeper Gareth McGhee was the man of the match on that occasion with strong contributions too from Malachy Molloy, the Richmond brothers, Paddy and Liam, Darren Quinn and the long serving O’Kane. They subsequently beat Ballycran of Down in the Ulster final on a 2-16 to 2-11 scoreline.

The Antrim bush telegraph suggests Dunloy are not the force of old, but that they remain as enthusiastic as ever. Remember, this is a club which has contested four All-Ireland finals in the past and took Birr to a replay in 1995. Unfortunately, they were well beaten in that game and it was a similar story in their other three final appearances against Sixmilebridge (1996), Birr (2003) and Newtownshandrum the following year. Still, they keep coming back for more.

Portumna may be without the suspended Niall Hayes on Sunday, but his absence should only have a minimal impact on a proven attack, especially as Dunloy’s defence are not used to dealing with opponents which possess the title holders’ movement and mobility. It’s hard to see anything other than a clearcut Portumna victory, but Dunloy’s admirable pride alone is likely to ensure that they will have the odd moment to savour even if a heavy defeat looks unavoidable.

For more, read page 53 of this week’s Connacht 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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Moment of truth for Galway U21s

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 01-May-2013

 Dara Bradley

FOUR matches, four victories, one after extra-time, a Connacht title, four goals and 56 points scored, four goals and 30 points conceded, a heap of wides from their opponents, sinews strained, buckets of sweat and blood spilled.

It’s been one hell of a roller coaster campaign for the Galway U21 footballers but all that will be forgotten come 7pm on Saturday evening at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick when they cross swords with Cork for the honour of being crowned Cadbury’s All-Ireland champions.

Six weeks ago as Galway set out on their 2013 U21 journey against Sligo in Tuam, the May Bank Holiday weekend final was always the target. They took each game as it came and now it has come down to this – 60 minutes of football to decide who the best U21 team in the land is.

And while there were times along the way when Alan Flynn’s charges looked like they’d fall off the wagon, against Mayo, against Roscommon and again against Kildare, Galway showed resilience and mental strength to time and again bounce back and defy the odds. Often down, never out. It is that perseverance that will stand to Galway in the heat of battle this weekend.

Cork has won an All-Ireland at this grade more times than any other county since the competition’s inception in the 1960s. The most recent of their 11 titles was won in 2009, and they’ve claimed a three-in-a-row of Munster titles with a defeat of Tipperary last month.

Interestingly, five players – Alan Cronin, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Tom Clancy and Damien Cahalene, the son of former inter-county player Niall – that are expected to start this Saturday lined out in each of the last three Munster finals, so they have experience of playing in the pressure cauldrons.

Galway aren’t as experienced. True, a couple of players already have a All-Ireland medal from 2011 – a year Galway beat Cork in the semi-final – but there are a lot of young guns in the panel. Of the squad of 33, about 19 of them are young enough to play U21 next year as well, while eight or nine of the starting 15 will be eligible next year, although you wouldn’t think it given the levelheadedness they’ve displayed throughout the past six weeks.

Galway had plenty to spare over a hapless Sligo outfit in Tuam the first day out, winning by 16 points, which didn’t flatter them, but old rivals Mayo in the following game at the same venue was a different story. After a tense and tight hour of fare, Galway took the spoils after showing immense character to dig it out by two points in a dogfight, 0-9 to 0-7.

Fighting qualities were needed again in the Connacht final in Hyde Park against Roscommon – Galway were minutes from being knocked out of the championship when a heroic comeback, three points in as many minutes from Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s Shane Walsh, rescued extra-time, a period which Galway never looked like losing.

The Tribesmen took their chances when they presented themselves, a trait that also saw them knock-out Kieran McGeeney’s highly rated and much fancied Kildare outfit in a thriller at Tullamore a fortnight ago.

The Lilywhites were wasteful, true, but that’s their problem, and Galway just had too much natural footballing class to take their chances and emerge with a deserved five points, 2-10 to 2-5 victory, despite 19 wides from the vanquished.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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GalwayÕs U-13 and U-16 sides both through to national finals

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 14-May-2013

Mike Rafferty

It proved to be a very successful weekend for Galway Schoolboy soccer as two representative sides qualified for national finals at the end of the month.

It was drama all the way in Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday afternoon as the U-13 side drew 1-1 with the Midlands League, but came through the dreaded penalty shootout to prevail by 5-4.

 

Meanwhile the U-16 side had to travel to Cork, where they emerged 2-1 winners following a very impressive performance. For the second game in succession, it was the goals of the Connolly brothers that proved crucial to both team’s success.

Andrew lines out with the U-16 side and he notched both their scores in terrific away win, while younger brother Aaron was on target for the U-13 side and also converted the winning spot kick.

Mervue United captured a third consecutive Connacht Youth Cup with an impressive 4-1 win over Castlebar Celtic in Milebush on Saturday.

SFAI U-13 INTER LEAGUE SEMI FINAL

Galway League 1

Midlands League 1

(AET-Galway won 5-4 on pens)

A low scoring contest might indicate few chances, but one has to credit two outstanding defences whose splendid covering and marshalling of the front men was a joy to watch.

Galway’s Oisin McDonagh and Adam Rooney never put a foot wrong in central defence, while full-backs Byron Lydon and Matthew Tierney were equally efficient in defence, and getting forward with regular forays.

Further afield, they matched the visitors in terms of intensity and creativity and in the second half in particular should have pulled away from a Midlands side that won the U-12 national title last year.

The visitors certainly offered the greater attacking threat in the opening half, but found home custodian Mark Greaney in top form. Galway’s best chance fell to Joshua Quinlivan, but he pulled an effort wide of the target.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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