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Portumna close in on club hurling history

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

JOB done. We have become used to Portumna hurlers producing awesome displays in All-Ireland Club semi-finals, but last Sunday in Parnell Park wasn’t one of them. Of course, there is no arguing with a comprehensive 12 points victory over a battling Dunloy outfit, but the reigning champions certainly weren’t as slick or as sharp as we have come to expect of them at this time of year.

In reality, it’s probably a good thing. Portumna knew they didn’t have to peak for their clash with the admirable Antrim men and have probably kept something in the locker for next month’s mouth-watering All-Ireland final against Ballyhale Shamrocks.

That March 17 showdown has all the ingredients to be an epic as Johnny Kelly’s men close in on hurling history and a third consecutive Tommy Moore Cup.

That’s a challenge for another day and Portumna’s less than spectacular effort against Dunloy could be a blessing in disguise in the build up to the decider. There may be no obvious signs of any significant wear and tear in their ranks having been virtually hurling all-year around over the past seven seasons, but Portumna can’t be going out and blowing teams away every day. Serving up consistent high intensity performances do eventually take their toll and the title holders are probably aware of it.

Mind you, when it was put up to them in the second-half at Parnell Park, Portumna’s response will have assured their supporters that the hunger and ambition remains intact. Four unanswered points, including a spectacular effort from wing back Kevin McKeague, had brought Dunloy to within 1-11 to 0-9 on the scoreboard and it also took a piece of smart goalkeeping from Ivan Canning and superb defending by Ollie Canning in the same incident subsequently to maintain that advantage.

With Dunloy deploying wing forward Paul Shields as an extra defender, Portumna were finding it difficult to open up the opposition rearguard though the tactical bunching couldn’t prevent Joe Canning from expertly putting Ciaran Ryan in the clear for a tonic goal in the second quarter. They led 1-10 to 0-5 at the interval with Kevin ‘Chunky’ Hayes and half-back Peter Smith landing excellent points despite the very bare surface which would hardly have suited the long-time unbeaten champions.

A pointed Canning free stretched Portumna’s advantage early in the second-half, but Dunloy proceeded to enjoy their best period of the match and having paired back the lead to five points and backed by the elements, it briefly appeared that Leo Smith and company were in trouble. Typically, they upped the ante and with Joe Canning’s switch to the forty causing a bit of panic in Dunloy’s ranks, allied to Andy Smith neat point-taking on the left wing, they began to pull away again.

Overall, a rock-solid effort from Portumna with centre back Micheal Ryan again emerging as one of the team’s most influential performers. Behind him, Ollie Canning never put a foot wrong and the squad have clearly left something to work on ahead of the final. The re-availability of Niall Hayes will increase their options and it is only reasonable to assume a far more vigorous effort in Croke Park.

As anticipated, Ballyhale came through – just about – their semi-final clash with Newtownshandrum in Thurles on a day the rival goalkeepers excelled. Initially, it looked like the Kilkenny men were going to comfortably justify their favourites’ tag with Henry Shefflin doing a fair bit of damage up front. They led 0-13 to 0-10 at the interval, but the Cork champions came roaring back into the contest on the resumption.

The repeated sight of Cathal Naughton, admittedly hurling’s answer to Usain Bolt, careering through the Ballyhale defence will not have gone unnoticed by Portumna whose pace and movement had bewildered the same opposition in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. There is no doubt that Ballyhale are dangerous in attack, but a big question mark still hangs over their rearguard. In short, Portumna have the better balanced team.

DEFINING GAME

IRELAND’S horrendous record against the French in Paris – now one win in 39 years – took a turn turn for the worse last Saturday. Not alone were the reigning Six Nations champions beaten, but they were beaten out of sight. There is no arguing with a 33-10 scoreline and several of the team’s great servants looked tired men long before the finish.

There is absolutely no doubt that this Ireland squad hit their peak performance level last season and a first Grand Slam triumph in over 60 years was no more than Brian O’Driscoll and his team-mates deserved. This squad of players have given us many great days, but they can’t go on forever. Hayes, O’Connell and Wallace are starting to wilt in the pack while O’Gara’s best years are behind him too.

Sure, they will lift it for their upcoming confrontation against England at Twickenham, but we can forget about Ireland becoming World champions. Frankly, the mercurial French could have won by more as tries from Servat, Jauzion and Poitrenaud, not forgetting quality drop goals from Parra and Michalak, were the high points of a devastating performance. Ireland simply couldn’t cope with France’s aggression and brute force – the only consolation is that they won’t be running into such high quality opposition for the rest of the tournament.

For more, read page 53 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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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Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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