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Portumna pulling further clear of the chasing pack

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

AN OLD score was settled in the most brutal fashion possible at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. County hurling finals aren’t supposed to be like this – a glorified mis-match – but that’s exactly what unfolded as champions Portumna once again underlined the gulf in standard between them and the rest of the championship contenders in Galway.

In fact, their domestic rivals must be wondering when this Portumna team is ever going to be stopped. Appearing in a record-breaking seventh consecutive Galway final and chalking up their fifth title triumph in the process, if anything Johnny Kelly’s charges are pulling further away from the chasing pack.

 They had Sunday’s final done and dusted after only 14 minutes – and all that remained to be determined subsequently was their victory margin.

It is a measure of Portumna’s ongoing dominance that they have now won the last three county finals by an average margin of over 15 points. That is an extraordinary level of dominance by any standards and underlines just how superior they are to any other club in Galway at present. On this form, it’s impossible not to see them making history next Spring by completing the three-in-a-row at All-Ireland level as well.

The unsavoury nature of the 2006 county final between the clubs was the backdrop to last Sunday’s showdown. That was the day when Loughrea magnificently retrieved a nine point deficit against all the odds in a tough and, at times, nasty affair – but since then Portumna haven’t been beaten in championship hurling and they were certainly in no mood to lose this one.

In retrospect, Loughrea didn’t stand a prayer of repeating their shock victory of three years ago. They hadn’t really impressed in the knock-out stages of the title race – taking two attempts to see off both Beagh and Mullagh – while being short the suspended Nigel Shaughnessy and the injured Greg Kennedy really left them short of on-field leadership. It was also hard to escape the conclusion that, as a team, they have declined somewhat from the glory days of 2006.

Still, we had anticipated that Loughrea would at least shove it up to Portumna for long periods of the final but, in the end, they didn’t have either the hurling, legs or physicality to live with the champions despite an encouraging opening. The fit-again Kenneth Colleran gave them the lead in the second minute and they briefly had the early momentum. By the midway juncture of the half, however, Loughrea’s challenge was already dead and buried.

When it comes to goal scoring, Portumna have taken the art to new levels of ruthlessness. They hit Kinvara for six two years ago and banged home only one less last Sunday with corner forward Damien Hayes going to town in assembling a Man of the Match total of 3-3. With Gareth Heganey and Micheal Ryan dominant in the half-back line and Kevin ‘Chunky’ Hayes in top form on the forty, Portumna held all the aces. Of course, the champions also had the considerable added bonus of Joe Canning missing nothing from the placed ball all day . . . apart, that is, from a first-half 60 yards sideline cut. We think he will be forgiven for that.

Though Portumna’s long serving attacker Niall Hayes got his marching orders in the second-half, it is to the credit of both clubs that there was no major acrimony evident between the teams on the day. Sure, there were hard knocks given and taken, but the overall level of sportsmanship in front of a healthy crowd of near 10,000 has helped to partially retrieve the image of Galway hurling after a couple of bad months.

Referee Alan Kelly must be given credit for keeping a firm grip on the action too.

While a comfortable victory for Portumna was the general expectation, few neutrals envisaged that they would put Loughrea to the sword in such a devastating manner. Once Joe Canning goaled from a fourth minute 21yards free – his low, bouncing shot ought to have been saved – the champions took over completely as they built up a commanding interval advantage of 3-10 to 1-6.

It was Damien Hayes who emerged as Loughrea’s tormentor in chief. His first goal typified the player’s well earned reputation for hard work. He had no right to secure possession in the first place, but Hayes’ persistence saw him win the ball from Dermot Melia after hooking the Loughrea corner back – then, he simply pinned the ears back before burying the ball past Stephen Morgan. It was a demoralising score for the challengers to concede.

Worse quickly followed as Hayes again left his marker for dead in careering through for another goal of the highest quality. Only 13 minutes gone and Portumna had already three goals in the bag. Loughrea’s prospects were sinking fast, but they did briefly raise hopes of a comeback when Neil Keary’s run culminated with Johnny Maher, just switched to full forward, rifling the sliothar to the Portumna net in the 18th minute and that score was immediately followed by a point from the subdued Johnny O’Loughlin.

But that was as good as it got for Loughrea as Portumna simply upped the ante again. Canning was missing nothing from frees and with Eoin Lynchy, probably the point of the day, and Kevin Hayes also on target, they were ten clear at the break and, this time, in no danger of being caught. What the game needed was an early second-half Loughrea goal; what we got instead was another Damien Hayes special just 17 seconds in after Andy Smith had put him in the clear.

Loughrea, to their credit, never stopped trying with substitute Emmet Mahony, Johnny Maher and young Keary their main attacking threats, but the team’s defence was being consistently over-run as Martin Dolphin completed the Portumna rout with his team’s fifth goal at the second attempt in the 47th minute. From there to the finish, the champions piled on the agony with the devastating Damien Hayes tacking on three points for good measure to go with his hat-trick of goals.

We are witnessing something special in this Portumna team – surely, the greatest club outfit of the modern era. Of course, they are blessed with an exceptionally talented group of players all emerging around the same time, but it’s the squad’s level of professionalism, work ethic and continuing hunger which really stands them apart. Another team would have been put out by the five week break since their last competitive match, but Portumna just took the inconvenience in their stride.

It underlines the level of experience in their ranks and, frankly, I can’t see Portumna being beaten in Galway in the next couple of years either unless they have a collective off-day. All over the field on Sunday, they were dictating matters and though the Loughrea camp will obviously be deeply disappointed this week that they didn’t put up a better show, the truth of the matter is that they simply weren’t let. There is no shame in that.

JOCKEYS ON FORM

THE big Cheltenham November meeting at the weekend proved a rewarding one for Galway jockeys. Not alone did Ardrahan’s Paddy Brennan end up sharing the leading rider award with Ruby Walsh, but city natives, Graham Lee and Richard Killoran, riding his first ever winner at the spiritual home of National Hunt racing, were on the mark as well.

Brennan, who partnered Pettifour to victory in a three-mile novice chase last Saturday, followed up when producing Khyber Kim with a devastating finishing burst to land Sunday’s feature, the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle. Lee gave bottom weight Gallant Nuit a typically patient ride to land the Servo Trophy Chase on the same card, while the previous day Killoran’s landmark win came on Lord Ragnar in the Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle.

ACCUMULATOR

THERE are a host a big provincial club football matches down for decision this weekend, not least the Connacht Club final clash between Charlestown and Corofin. The following accumulator is recommended: Portlaoise (2/5), Ballyboden (4/11), Kilmurry-Ibrickane (4/11), Kerins O Rahillys (1/3) and Corofin (4/6). On the horse racing front, Triumph Hurdle winner, Zaynar, and Notre Pere – Jim Dreaper’s stable star takes on Kauto Star at Haydock – can land Saturday’s big cross-channel events. In rugby, take Ireland (probably around -20) and New Zealand ( -13) to cover their respective handicaps against Fiji and England.

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

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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Archive News

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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