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Portumna to show Ballyhale nothing has changed



Date Published: {J}

OCCASIONALLY, a team can want something too much; their obsession eventually compromising performance . . . and Ballyhale Shamrocks could be in danger of doing just that judging by their often publically stated desire to gain revenge on champions Portumna for last year’s mauling in the All-Ireland Club hurling semi-final.

Sure, the Ballyhale players and mentors alike have been careful to pay due tribute to Portumna for the team’s spectacular performance in Thurles in February, 2009, but, all the time, you get the impression that the Kilkenny men believe that they were caught napping and didn’t do themselves justice. They are itching to set the record straight and now have the opportunity of doing so in Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day.

Kilkenny teams, especially over the past few years, don’t like getting beaten and Ballyhale are symbolic of that attitude. They came to Thurles last year expecting to topple the title holders but, instead, were buried under an early avalanche of opposition goals. Henry Shefflin, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Michael Fennelly and the Reid brothers had no answer on the day and it has clearly frustrated them ever since.

But the jury remains out on whether the Shamrocks are any better than 12 months ago. True, they retained the county title with some degree of ease, but were subsequently pushed all the way – even to extra time – by Oulart-the-Ballagh at Wexford Park in the Leinster semi-final before achieving a comfortable victory over final debutants Tullamore. It set Ballyhale up for a return to Thurles and a heavyweight collision against another team of former All-Ireland champions in Newtownshandrum.

The Kilkenny men looked good early on, but they only carried the day by two points in the end and the sight of Cathal Naughton often careering through their defence will have encouraged Portumna. That is the their Achilles heel – their lack of pace in defence – and thought central defenders, Eamon Walsh and Aidan Cummins, have switched roles from last year, that rearguard still looks vulnerable when run


For all that, Ballyhale will be primed for a really high intensity performance. This is the game they have been waiting for and they will certainly lack nothing in motivation. Yet, the stark reality is that – at least, on all known form – Portumna still possess the better balanced team and, furthermore, they will be every bit as driven as their challengers in Croke Park. The prospect of becoming the first team ever to win three consecutive All-Ireland titles guarantees that alone.

The champions haven’t been beaten in championship hurling since their shock loss to Loughrea in the 2006 county final and that is some consistency by any standards. There are no obvious signs of any wear and tear or big match fatigue in their ranks and though the team’s age profile is on the increase, Portumna have such an innate confidence about themselves these days that they represent the complete package in club competition.

It’s difficult to see the Ballyhale rearguard coping adequately with Portumna’s twin assassins, Joe Canning and Damien Hayes, while Andy Smith, Kevin Hayes, Martin Dolphin and Ciaran Ryan will take some watching too not forgetting that the re-availability of Niall Hayes increases their options up front. Leo Smith and Eoin Lynch have been a really consistent midfield alliance over the years, while Micheál Ryan is currently playing the hurling of his life at centre back.

That defence also contains the brilliant Ollie Canning, whose stickwork remains as sharp as ever, and the long serving Eugene McEntee, a full back of immense mental strength who doesn’t get flustered easily. Throw in, goalkeeper Ivan Canning, Aidan O’Donnell, despite corner back not being his most favoured position, the ultra-reliable Gareth Heagney and the physically imposing Peter Smith, Portumna are no slouches at the back either.

It is also to the team’s benefit that they are a Croke Park team with the venue’s open expanses suiting their high tempo, fast moving style. Not since Clarinbridge in the 2008 quarter-final have Johnny Kelly’s squad diced with defeat and, if anything, they are possibly better than ever notwithstanding a relatively low key effort against Dunloy last month at Parnell Park. In 2008 and ’09, they probably peaked for the All-Ireland semi-finals, but one senses, this time around, their best has yet to come.

Ballyhale, undoubtedly, will be formidable opponents and are bound to be charged up to the last, but that could yet prove counter-productive on the day. Portumna want the three-in-a-row badly and it would be the day to beat all days. The champions have it every way and while a similarly explosive start to last year’s semi-final is unlikely, the greatest club team I have ever seen look more than well equipped to make hurling history on St. Patrick’s Day.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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