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Parks pays his way as ConnachtÕs young guns thrive

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Date Published: 13-Dec-2012

THERE’S a hackneyed old sports cliché that refers to a team’s ideal blend of youth and experience. Just where the balance should fall, however, is often the conundrum that defies those charged with the task of selecting the personnel to do duty. Too much or too little of either ingredient can leave a side fatally compromised.

Whether by accident or design, Connacht came up with the perfect amalgam on Friday when an infusion of the exuberance of youth combined with the wisdom and cunning of some of the older generation contrived to produce the shock of the Heineken Cup season and one of the most glorious occasions in the history of rugby in the province.

And, lest the word has not gone out, there was not the slightest element of a fluke about the defeat of once-mighty Biarritz. This was no slugfest in the wind and rain like when Connacht outbattled Harlequins last season, rather it was a clinical demolition in dry conditions of a team with vastly more resources through superior skills and a commendable gameplan.

In fact, it was the visitors who were flattered through their proximity at the finish courtesy of a dubious Harinordoquy try at the death, some less than competent refereeing, and the intervention of the half-time whistle at a stage when Connacht pressure had forced a five-metre scrum.

There’s no denying Connacht’s investment in youth from the start of the season, but with a plethora of injuries to some stalwart players even the most optimistic among us could never have envisaged this outcome, particularly with the hardcore of the pack missing, players of the proven calibre of Nathan White, Michael Swift, John Muldoon and George Naupuo were all out.

Equally, we could never have foreseen the profound impact of their replacements as Michael Kearney, Andrew Browne and Eoin McKeon, and young hooker Jason Harris Wright, proceeded to reveal levels of ability only previously hinted at to assist Connacht assume a crucial dominance up front, and not just in the set piece but also in the loose through the added mobility introduced to the equation by this livewire quartet.

Although not exactly rookies, none had accumulated any extended gametime in the provincial shirt, so the scale of their performances was astounding against battle-hardened big earners from the South of France who could not match the passion or the obduracy of Connacht’s young tyros.

And with props Brett Wilkinson and Ronan Loughney equally having a great deal to prove, having gone from Ireland summer tourists to Connacht bench warmers in the space of a few months, it all manifested itself in a ferocious hunger that left the visitors gasping for air whether the forward contest was in the tight or around the field.

All that was required then was astute leadership and it came in abundance from Mike McCarthy, whose ball-playing skills are a considerable asset for a second row, and Willy Faloon, who has brought an admirable work ethic down from Ulster. His loss for Friday’s return game with a fractured eye socket is enormous and leaves Connacht’s back row options even more depleted. McCarthy’s departure to Leinster at the end of the season is hugely disappointing but entirely understandable from the player’s own point of view in terms of security and ambitions.

What it all amounted to was a marked supremacy in the scrum with each of the props imposing themselves on their vaunted opposite numbers, an exemplary lineout where McCarthy called the shots with impressive shrewdness, and a dogged competitiveness at the breakdown, all ensuring some quality ball for an equally-youthful backline.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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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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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