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Portumna hold all the aces ahead of delayed final

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 11-Nov-2009

THREE weeks after the county hurling final was supposed to have been done and dusted, arch rivals Portumna and Loughrea will square up to each other for the fourth time in six years at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Once more – and for a variety of reasons – Galway is lagging way behind in getting its championships wrapped up, and supporters are wondering why.

It’s been a bad few months for Galway hurling, but we are not going into that now except to say that there is now an overdue burden on the clubs of the county to put vested interests and politics aside and, hopefully, the upcoming annual Hurling Board Convention will mark a turning point in how local GAA business is done. It’s hard enough to win when everyone is pulling together, but when there are factions working to their own agendas, onfield results can be seriously compromised.

Back to the playing fields. Amid expectations of another bruising showdown, there is an onus on both Portumna and Loughrea to behave responsibly in what is traditionally Galway’s showpiece sporting event. Their 2006 decider made headlines for all the wrong reasons as a tempestuous battle ended with Johnny Maher’s late pointed free ending over 60 years in the championship wilderness for Loughrea.

It was the clubs’ third final meeting in four years and against general expectations, Loughrea pulled off a major surprise after falling to Portumna in 2003 (2-13 to 2-9) and 2005 (3-21 to 3-14) – on the latter occasion, they actually stormed into a big first-half lead and it would have been even greater only for Kenneth Colleran failing to finish off another great goal scoring opportunity.

Though Loughrea are perceived as having fallen back since 2006, they are still notoriously difficult to beat as both Beagh and Mullagh discovered in the knock-out rounds of the championship. Though the suspended Nigel Shaughnessy is ruled out of another county final and Greg Kennedy remains sidelined with a shoulder injury, the promotion of county minors, Neil Keary and Johnny Coen, has given their attack a fresh dimension.

Having already secured a notable title double at minor and junior A level, Loughrea will not lack for ambition on Sunday and they have no shortage of battle-hardened players in the likes of Damien McClearn, Tom Regan, Johnny Dooley, Gavin Keary, Brian O’Mahony, the Mahers, Vinny and Johnny, and Johnny O’Loughlin. They will relish another crack at Portumna and, unlike most other teams, won’t have a defeatist mindset ahead of the ball being thrown in.In reality, nearly all the pressure is on Portumna. They desperately want to become the first team ever to win the All-Ireland Club title three years in a row and with Antrim winners, Dunloy, awaiting the Galway champions next February, Johnny Kelly’s squad must have a great chance of making hurling history if they come through Sunday’s test.

Significantly, Portumna haven’t been beaten in championship hurling since losing to Loughrea in the 2006 final and though untypically leaking goals in the closing stages of their semi-final clash against Gort, they have experienced little hardship in reaching a record-breaking seventh consecutive county final. It’s some consistency by any standards and their players remain as committed and focussed as ever.

Of course, the border men have been out of competitive action for nearly five weeks now through no fault of their own, but they are so experienced and battle-hardened that this unscheduled break will only have had a minimal impact on their preparations. They are probably more concerned about the continuing bad weather which has the potential to turn Sunday’s decider into a low scoring, close marking and rugged affair.

No team has put Portumna under severe pressure in this year’s Galway championship and given that they have a score to settle with Loughrea from two years ago, there is no danger of team captain Leo Smith and his colleagues being caught off their guard. Overall, the champions should have too much class, craft and composure for a Loughrea outfit which, however, can be expected to die with their boots on.

STRANGE MOVE

IT’S all very mannerly the way the rugby lads do it. At a time when hurling inter-county team managers, Mike McNamara and Justin McCarthy are the victims of player revolts in Clare and Limerick respectively, Connacht coach Michael Bradley has announced that he is resigning . . . but wait for it, not until next May!

In the GAA world, it would be frowned upon and do nothing for squad morale if a team manager indicated he was stepping down at the end of a campaign to pursue pastures new. Why not go now rather than risking the perception of being a ‘lame duck’ in the role? Bradley, it is understood, is being given the time and opportunity to consider other options while the Connacht Branch are now publically in the marketplace for a new coach.

But couldn’t all that have been done behind the scenes with no mid-season announcement about Bradley’s future. How can he possibly hope to motivate his squad in the weeks and months ahead when the players know he won’t be with them next season? It has to make for a difficult working environment at the Sportsground even if there isn’t a shred of doubt about Bradley’s commitment to the Connacht cause.

The Cork native and former Irish scrum half – a fine one he was too – has given sterling and dedicated service to Connacht over the past seven seasons, but he has been hamstrung by a restricted budget which results in his team not competing on a level playing field. During Bradley’s tenure, however, the Sportsground has witnessed some rollicking displays, not least last season’s wins over both Leinster and Munster in the Magners League while he also steered the province to two European Challenge Cup semi-finals.

Of course, there have been criticisms of Bradley’s team selections and his tactical approach at times, but nearly every team manager across the sporting spectrum gets that. Yet few supporters will argue against the general view that his race is run out west as seven years is a long time in the same place, especially when most of that time has been spent fire-fighting due to Connacht’s lack of financial resources.

The squad badly needs fresh impetus and new coaching ideas, and though that will happen next season, you’d just wonder if the Connacht Branch and Bradley should have kept the whole thing to themselves for the time being. I can see where they are coming from, but it’s bound to become an unnecessary distraction – fuelling speculation about where Bradley might end up and who will be taking over Connacht – in the short to medium term. It wouldn’t be the GAA’s way of doing things but, at least in rugby, team managers are spared the indignity of getting the heave in the middle of a campaign.

TETCHY TRAP

BY and large, Giovanni Trapattoni is still onside with the Republic of Ireland’s soccer followers. After all, Richard Dunne and company have gone through their World Cup qualifying campaign unbeaten and have a sporting chance of overcoming France in a two legged play-off to book their place to South Africa. But one senses the Italian could quickly fall out of favour if things go pear shaped for his squad in the next ten days.

Trapattoni’s controversial decision to omit both the Reids, the in-form Andy and fit-again Stephen, and Stephen Finnan from the squad is an almighty gamble and while the manager’s loyalty to the players who got him to the play-offs in the first place is admirable, his intransigence in this area could come back to haunt him. Trapattoni is a conservative by nature, but by not picking the best players available to him, he is running the risk of scoring an own goal.

GOOD VALUE

THE huge crowd which turned up in Duggan Park last Sunday certainly got their money’s worth. An above average county minor final saw Loughrea edge out title holders St. Thomas’, while Colm Larkin’s late goal earned Tynagh-Abbey/Duniry a second chance in the Intermediate decider. They had looked likely winners for long periods until a typically determined Meelick/Eyrecourt up the ante with Noel Kenny’s green flag given them serious second-half momentum. Saturday’s replay promises to be another invigorating contest.

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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