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Paraic calls for more recognition for development league



Date Published: {J}

It may not be the most prestigious competition in the GAA calendar, but the substantial work the Suck Valley League has done to promote hurling in East Galway – and, indeed Connacht – has to be commended.

Without a doubt, the League has not only raised the standard of hurling in this geographical area, but, in some instances, it has dragged the game back from the brink of extinction.

Outside the top tier clubs, there are those who face a constant uphill battle to develop hurling in their locality, be it due to a low player base or to the dominance of Gaelic football or another sport. Yet, through the Suck Valley League, hurling clubs in East Galway, Roscommon and Mayo have been able to fight the good fight and, more importantly, break new boundaries.

The proof was in the pudding in 2011. Of the six national Féile finals hosted in Galway in June, Suck Valley teams won three of them . . . and of those three deciders, five of the finalists hailed from the Suck Valley pocket. According to Paraic Gavin, founder of the competition, it was no coincidence.

“The success of the League was proven in the Féile,” stated Gavin, who decided to start such a competition in early 2005 after he saw, at first hand, the positive impact the Galway City League was having west of the county.

“Out of six finals, comprising of teams from both North and South, we had teams contesting three of them. I am not saying it was just the Suck Valley League – it was as much down to the clubs themselves – but it proves that the League is working. That it is improving clubs hurling. You can even see it in the Mayo teams that have come in; you can see Mayo hurling is getting stronger.”

Those Suck Valley teams who took honours at Féile were Padraig Pearses, who beat another Suck Valley rivals, Abbeyknockmoy in the Division 4 final; Mountbellew/Moylough, who accounted for Naomh Eoin of Sligo in the Division 5 decider; and Sylane, which edged by Padraig Pearses of Roscommon by 3-1 to 0-6 in the Division 6 final.

“Sylane came in last year and they are delighted with the progress they have made,” beamed Gavin.

In many respects, the Suck Valley Hurling League, which begins in mid January and runs until March, has already achieved the objective set out when it was founded almost seven years ago . . . to raise the standard of hurling in East Galway and beyond. As the Ballinasloe man explained, though, it has been a rocky road.

For one, he does not believe the League gets the recognition it deserves. Although originally supported – financially and otherwise – by the powers-that-be, in recent years the relationship between the League and, in particular, the Connacht Council has become strained.

Gavin felt the provincial body was constantly putting obstacles in the League’s way, while he said the support it has received from the County Boards has been negligible. He believed that these bodies should be giving recognition to what the League was trying to achieve, embracing it as an asset rather than viewing it with a certain degree of disdain.

“Why do we always have to be going against the grain when this is something that is doing some good for hurling in Galway and Connacht?” sighed Gavin.

“I don’t know, is it because we are successful? It certainly has improved the weaker teams, while it is also promoting hurling in the weaker counties.

“We always start the League early in the year when there is nothing on and when teams are getting ready for the championship. The competition is ‘no solo’ and that has huge benefits in that it brings all players into the game . . . the games are not dominated by the stronger players.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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