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Olympic Games dream is about to come true



Date Published: {J}

NATIONAL table tennis champion Rena McCarron Rooney has thought about nothing else other than securing a place on the Irish team for this Summer’s Paralympics Games in London over the past three-and-a-half-years. Indeed, at times, it all but consumed her.

Last week, the Barna woman had her qualification for the 2012 Games confirmed, so marking the end of one journey and the beginning of another. Hearing her story, though, it never ceases to amaze the lengths some people will go in the pursuit of a dream.

Yes, she has taken part in European and World Championships previously, but the Paralympics, which has eluded her up until now, is to McCarron Rooney what the Olympics has represented for Paul Hession and Olive Loughnane and others. For her, it is the greatest show on earth.

“I can’t stop smiling now, I really can’t,” beams the Slavery, Buncrana native as she sits in NUIG Kingfisher. “I qualified in ninth position and only the top 10 were selected. However, from position nine to 12, you can often get a wildcard slot or it is taken up by a team partner, so I was a bit nervous that I would lose the slot to the politics of it all. But I got a straight qualifier, so I really can’t believe it. It has been four gruelling years of on the road travelling.”

Indeed, both McCarron Rooney and her husband Ronan, who is also seeking qualification for the 2012 Games in the same discipline, have dedicated themselves wholly to this dream, with the Paralympics athlete herself giving up her full-time job of 15 years with the Students Union in NUI Galway to work towards her goal.

“This was my aim and I had to dedicate myself to this. I had been competing while I was working, but you can’t give the commitment you need to give when you are working full-time. You can’t do the weekly travel, you can’t do the competitions. I have been training twice a week in Dublin, along with travelling up there every second weekend, while I also did 11 international tournaments. You couldn’t do that if you were in a full-time job.”

At present, she works part-time as a Sports Development Officer for the Irish Wheelchair Association in the West of Ireland and McCarron Rooney notes “they have been great.” She adds: “They have given me great flexibility. Basically, my work is scheduled around my training and around my tournaments. So, that has been brilliant.”

An interesting facet of this work has been the Galway Speeders, a junior wheelchair club that plays table tennis, basketball, karate, kayaking, sailing, swimming and athletics. “We have 10 juniors and they are called the Galway Speeders. We train in the Kingfisher on a Saturday morning, from 10am to 12noon.

“We are based in the Kingfisher because it is so accessible and so open and so friendly and so central as well to the whole of Galway County. The children would be of all different abilities. Six years old would be the youngest to 18 years, which would be the oldest.”


In many respects, McCarron Rooney, who is the middle child in six, is the ideal person to spearhead the initiative. She, herself, was confined to a wheelchair at the age of 14 following a car accident in 1979. While such a horrific ordeal would eat away at the soul of a lesser person, McCarron Rooney’s positivity carried her through.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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