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Portumna men on the brink of hurling history

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Date Published: {J}

STEPHEN GLENNON

HARDWORKING wing-forward Niall Hayes is set to return to the Portumna attack for his side’s All-Ireland final clash against Kilkenny and Leinster champions, Ballyhale Shamrocks at Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day.

Hayes missed the club’s semi-final win over Dunloy through suspension, but kept himself sharp by lining out for Galway seniors hurlers in their victorious Walsh Cup run and, again, against Limerick in the first round of the National Hurling League.

Now, though, Hayes is poised to return to a Portumna outfit seeking an unprecedented three-in-a-row of All-Ireland titles and manager Johnny Kelly is delighted his No. 10 is back in the fold. “Niall is going very well and it is very hard to overlook him. Obviously, we haven’t picked the team yet, so there are a couple of positions up for grabs. Niall is definitely in the running. He is an experienced guy and his work-rate is second to none.”

Indeed, Hayes’ absence was notable against Dunloy, both in the hard inches that he wins from game to game, and for his link-up play with those around him. “All in all, you would miss Niall’s experience as well and that probably did tell on us a little bit [against Dunloy],” says Kelly. “It was not only missing Niall, though. Our own ball work and decision-making maybe wasn’t as good as it should be, but we still won the game by 12 points. So, you have to be happy with that.”

With Hayes’ return, the question is who will give way? If the management team choose to revert to the side that won the county final, Ciaran Ryan – a goal machine en route to their All-Ireland club final win last season – could be the one to lose out.

When pressed, though, Kelly gives nothing away. “Ciaran Ryan did very well for us in the semi-final. He worked hard and got his goal. Ciaran will be a big help to us the next day as well.”

No doubt, Portumna’s real strength in recent times has been that they boast a settled side, with few changes from year to year. Everyone in the team has a role, which they perform with incredible intensity and nuance.

From their 2009 All-Ireland winning side, there has already been a couple of changes. Martin Dolphin has returned to the forward division, with Aidan O’Donnell switching from wing-back to corner back and Peter Smith nailing down the wing-back berth. If anything, the defence – backboned by Eugene McEntee, Ollie Canning, Garreth Heagney and Micheál Ryan – has become a stronger unit because of it.

Eoin Lynch and captain Leo Smith form a formidable midfield partnership, with both complementing each other brilliantly. Lynch has such a commanding presence in this area, and he is usually good to pick off a point from distance. Smith, then, would be the Portumna equivalent of Ballyhale’s James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, and, if anything, gets through just as much work. The match-up between these two men, alone, is mouth-watering.

Up front, the half-forward line – should the management keep faith with their county final side – will be Niall Hayes, the impressive Kevin Hayes and livewire Andrew Smith. The work ethic of these three players alone would rival that of any team.

Inside, the line should read Damien Hayes, Joe Canning and Martin Dolphin, with Dolphin, most likely, to drop deep at some point to leave the space for sharpshooters Damien Hayes and Canning to do what they do best – rack up a sinful amount of scores!

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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