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Olympics’ legacy must be the funding of sport and leisure at all levels

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Date Published: 16-Aug-2012

 If the Olympic games – after all of its incredible highs over the last week – is to have a lasting legacy, it has to come in the form of investment in the future of Irish sport.

And that’s not just about ensuring that we don’t allow future generations of Olympians slip through the cracks; it is also about allowing all to enjoy a healthier lifestyle by providing access to leisure and sporting facilities in their towns and villages.

We saw from the Olympics how an investment in a high performance programme yielded such incredible results for the boxers in particular. And we saw how the growing use of the waters around our shores was reflected in the number of sailors able to compete at the highest level.

The British team did the same when they invested in cycling and swimming in particular – and in both codes, they reaped huge rewards to backbone their overall Olympic haul.

So there’s no secret to sporting success; you must invest in it at all levels, so that on one hand the stars of tomorrow are coached and trained to fulfil their potential, but also that the children who might never scale those lofty heights also have access to pursuits that will give them a healthier lifestyle.

And the reality is that, if we are to shine on the international stage, we must have the best facilities, the top coaches and international standard back-up on lifestyle and diet to leave nothing to chance.

Of course there are those who will point out that we have enjoyed huge success in the past – on the track, for example – but the foundations for the medals won on the international stage by Ronnie Delaney and John Treacy and Sonia O’Sullivan were laid on sports scholarships in the US.

And when our soccer team heads for World Cups or European Championships, they do so having refined their skills at their English clubs, because they have long left these shores in pursuit of their dream.

That’s not to undermine or disrespect the coaches and trainers who nurtured them from childhood at home, but the real work – the elite coaches, the world-class facilities – was in Villanova or providence, or in the case of our footballers on the training grounds of clubs across the UK.

Equally it is important to acknowledge that, without the tireless voluntary work of thousands of coaches and kit men and trainers and officials, there would be no raw material to mould into champions. And they are utterly entitled to claim their share of the glory too.

But to get to the next level – the highest level – you must create high performance programmes. And that costs money.

However, Sports Minister Michael Ring told Galway Bay FM last week that – while he entirely accepted the importance of financial support for sport – nothing could be guaranteed in the current climate, and that at least was an honest response.

But even with the purse strings tightened to breaking point, the government must find the money to promote sport and recreation at all levels.

A slice of it can come from the health budget because, on one level, this is about a healthier lifestyle for all and, on the other, creating heroes to inspire a generation – and the government could do worse than earmark a portion of the admittedly declined education budget to sport on the same basis.

This is about creating role models for a better future; young men and women who inspire a generation, who lift the hearts of a nation and restore a sense of national pride during the darkest economic period in our country’s history.

And ensuring that is one of the things that differentiates a country from a mere economy – because even when times are tough, a nation must invest in its people, be they international athletes who bring glory to their shores or youngsters who need the facilities to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

It should be seen as an investment in our future as well as a legacy of our past achievements – and both of those make it a price worth paying.

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

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Archive News

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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