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ÔHorseÕ sent flying high after heroic comeback

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Date Published: {J}

STEPHEN GLENNON

NOT often do you see a flying ‘Horse’, but in Pearse Stadium on Saturday this was just one of the remarkable images from the jubilant scenes that followed NUI Galway’s first Fitzgibbon Cup victory in 30 years.

 

When the Galway students went nine points down, 1-11 to 0-5, eight minutes into the second half, one was more likely to make a declaration that ‘pigs will fly’ in the same sentence as any forecast of a NUIG win. Simply, they were not playing well and their opponents WIT looked to be in total control of the contest.

But then Clare’s Caimin Morey bagged a 42nd minute goal, Tipp’s Seamus Hennessy hit the equaliser in the second minute of injury-time, and Clonlara’s John Conlon struck over the winner in time added-on of the second period of extra-time and, suddenly, Mullagh’s Finian Coone was lifting the cup and ‘Horse’ was being thrown into the crisp Spring air.

As most will know, ‘Horse’ is Tony Regan, the man who has dedicated the greater part of his life to the development of sport and young people at NUIG; the man who just recently retired from his post of Sports Administrator at the college; the man who finally had helped to land the Holy Grail of third-level colleges hurling, as a team selector, after three decades.

Lifted shoulder high by the NUIG players, arms and feet flaying in the air, the broad smile on Regan’s elevated body suggested his spirits were soaring a great deal higher. It gave new meaning to getting on your high horse! “That was a very sweet victory,” beamed Regan, now with his feet back firmly on the ground.

“It is tremendous. The character that they showed. The mentality that they had. The work that they put in during the course of the game. You can train all winter but you still have to produce it on the day. That team had enthusiasm and courage in bucketfuls. I don’t know how to define what those players went through, with extra-time both Friday and Saturday.”

Indeed, down those nine points with just over 20 minutes remaining in the decider, it was difficult to envisage the maroon and white ribbons being tied to the cup. “I never thought it was gone from us, though,” insisted Regan. “I always thought there was going to be a response in them. We made a few astute switches, moving forward Seamus Hennessy and John Lee. It gave us a more direct approach to their goal and it gave us a foothold in the game.

“The confidence of having won yesterday’s game [against LIT] in Dangan, against the odds, and after all the hits, they believed today that they were going to do it. They wouldn’t have done it otherwise. There is no way that a team nine points down, and the way they were playing, could bounce back like that unless there was an absolute belief in the depths of their soul that they could pull that one out of it.”

This was a sentiment echoed by team captain Coone, who acknowledged NUIG seemed to play their best hurling when their backs were to the wall. “We seem to be making a habit of doing it the hard way alright. We always seem to be coming back. The determination and heart of this team, though, is something else; I have never seen anything like it in my life. This team never gives up and we deserve this, to tell you the truth.”

Galway’s inter-county centre-half back John Lee – who had suffered six years of Fitzgibbon Cup heartache previously – also paid tribute to his team-mates. “To be honest, when we were nine points down, you would think it would be near impossible to come back, in a game where we were struggling, myself included, to get back into it. However, the lads really showed unbelievable character to lift us out of the hole.

“The character has been unbelievable. I wouldn’t mind if it was just one game, but it was every game this year. We were seven points down against CIT, came back and won it. We were down against UCD, came back and drew it. LIT, then, down again, but came back and won it in extra-time. That victory out there was no coincidence,” stated Lee.

“You know, after six years [of Fitzgibbon heartbreaks], I am nearly delighted I didn’t win one before this, because this is a sweet win,” concluded the Liam Mellows man.

Manager Vincent Mullins – who along with team trainer Mike Ryan also guided Galway U-21s to two All-Ireland titles – said the Fitzgibbon Cup win ranked up there with anything he had achieved previously. Still, having to face Joe Canning’s LIT in the semi-final, he maintained they could never look beyond the penultimate stages when preparing for the prestigious weekend.

“You could never look past the semi-finals on Friday. You couldn’t go planning. I mean LIT were odds on with the bookies, but as Davy Fitzgerald (LIT manager) said afterwards, NUIG wanted it more,” enthused Mullins.

“A lot of games, we should have won them by more but we continually left it very tight. We hit about 18 wides against LIT and something similar today. If those went over, we could be beating teams by eight or nine points. But look it, as it was, we are just delighted to win it.”

30 years was far too long to wait for a 10th Fitzgibbon Cup title. Regan, who was also part of Fitzgibbon Cup successes in 1970, ’77 and 1980, agreed: “Our trouble is that our victories are few and far between in the West, and particularly in Galway, so we should treasure every one that we get.”

 

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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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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