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Portumna pulling further clear of the chasing pack



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.


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.


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



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



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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



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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