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No fairytale result, but what an occasion



Date Published: 22-Nov-2011

SO this is what we in the west have been missing for the last 16 seasons.

The result may have had a predictable feel to it but Saturday evening at the Sportsground was so far removed from anything ever seen at the home of Connacht Rugby.

Galway was abuzz, gripped by rugby fever.

The French aristocrats of Toulouse, Europe’s most successful club, rolled into town for the first ever Heineken Cup clash in the city, which lived up to its reputation of knowing how to throw a party. Garda escorts up the closed College Road, for guests of honour, President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. Satellite TV, Sky, was in town, adding to the hype; even the IRFU ‘bigwigs’ and ‘blazers’ made the trip down the M6 from Dublin.

Ticket touts on College Road; match programmes from the Clan Terrace booths sold out almost 20 minutes before kick-off. Seriously, who’d have thought it?

An official attendance of 9,120, a record for a rugby match in the city, thronged into the newly revamped venue.

The pre-match entertainment – five drummers thundering out beats accompanied by green-clothed warriors on stilts, massive Macnas Parade style prop-forward caricatures in Connacht jerseys, scores of youngsters holding two huge flags of both clubs, and of course Eddie the Eagle – rose in a crescendo until the climax, a firework display that greeted the Connacht team’s arrival on field.

Free Connacht flags widely distributed throughout the ground ensured an ocean of green – and a deafening roar – awaited them.

It was goose bump-inducing, lump-in-the-throat stuff. That feeling didn’t last long though.

True, a steal by Mike McCarthy on Toulouse’s first line-out, and two Gavin Duffy kicks to either corner for territory, pinning the visitors back early on, dared the Connacht crowd to dream, but it wasn’t long before Toulouse asserted dominance with a clinical professionalism.

The star-studded French champions fielded an international- standard outfit that was laced with quality and within the blink of an eye, they were 9-0 to the good, thanks to the boot of Lionel Beauxis, who kicked a further 12 points before the night ended to deservedly take the man-of-the-match accolade.

Toulouse approached ruck time with a ferociousness previously not experienced by this Connacht outfit; they attacked with frightening speed on the counter attack from turnovers, and brought an awesome offloading game. Their defence was watertight, scarcely missing a tackle.

They held their own at lineout, but Connacht were bullied and beaten up at scrum time, completely annihilated by the power and brawn of the French pack, although ironically it was an attacking scrum that led to a Connacht penalty try, which came when the match was over as a contest but was just reward for the home side’s commitment and graft and for not lying down.

The floodgates never opened. Despite dodging bullets all evening, Connacht denied the visitors a four-try bonus point, which under the circumstances was an achievement in itself. A final score of 36-10 was no disgrace.

The crowd responded to that tireless effort chanting ‘Connacht, Connacht’ and singing The Fields of Athenry, but perhaps the odd rendition of ‘Que Sera, Sera . . . Whatever will be will be’, summed up the mood.

No fairytale result but what a special, memorable occasion. The West’s awake, indeed.

We could get used to this.

For a full match report see this week’s Sentinel and get more reaction and analysis in the Tribune on Thursday

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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