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Portumna to show Ballyhale nothing has changed

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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

at.

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

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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Rory takes on fresh challenge as lauded DruidMurphy returns

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 03-Apr-2013

TUAM AQUACULTURE COMPANY TO CREATE 30 JOBS

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After twenty years Sarah lands dream role in Druid

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 04-Apr-2013

 Sarah Lynch has been living and breathing Druid Theatre since she wangled a job as a runner fresh out of college two decades ago at age 20. After holding down just about every role imaginable there – from company manager to director to stage manager – her appointment as general manager to one of the country’s most prestigious theatre companies last October seemed almost inevitable.

Because once she had tasted the fruit of Druid she was going nowhere . . . and going everywhere. Sarah’s tenure at Druid since 1998 has brought her on a journey that has reached just about every corner of the globe and almost all the islands off Ireland in between.

After graduating from Limerick with a degree in French and English Sarah spent a stint teaching in a secondary school. But it immediately became clear that wasn’t the road for her.

“One thing I was always certain of was I’d be involved in the performing arts, whether on stage or off stage or behind it. The immediate reaction of the audience is such a buzz,” she grins.

Her earliest memory was of her grandfather, Bud Clancy, on stage with his trumpet and dance band. “I must have been three or four because he died shortly after that. But it never left me. I got bitten by the bug. I started playing the trumpet. A friend of my grandfather taught me how to play and I was with the Limerick brass and reed orchestra known as the Boherbuoy Band, I was just a kid with all these adults.”

She learned to play other brass instruments such as the French horn and cornet before turning her hand to the guitar and song-writing. “I taught myself guitar. Sometime I tinker on the piano and I think that’s my next instrument. I love percussion. You can’t get me off a drum kit for love or money. Many is the night I’ve made a fool of myself on one of those,” she laughs.

In 2010, Sarah released her debut album, Letter to Friends, which was launched by playwright Enda Walsh, whose short play, Lynndie’s Gotta Gun, she had directed as part of the 2008 Galway Arts Festival.

The collection of songs was produced by Wayne Sheehy, a musician she had met when opening for Juliet Turner on Turner’s Burn the Black Suit tour.

“I could probably have done it ten years ago but for the manic schedule with Druid and touring so much,” she reflects. “I haven’t done much with it since. I used to play gigs in the Róisín Dubh. The bigger twin is theatre at the moment. The bigger twin bullies the other twin. You don’t get much time to do music.”

After fleeing the classroom, Sarah knocked on the door of a former college mate, Andrew Flynn, now with the Galway Youth Theatre, who kindly offered up his couch. He also managed to get her a job as a runner – the person who does everything from making tea to helping with props – on a Druid production of As You Like It.

“I remember working with Mark O’Halloran, I had great fun with him. There was Helen Norton, it was Maeliosa Stafford directing. He’s coming back to the Druid after ten years to star in Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark. He left me as a runner, now I’m general manager.”

Much of Sarah’s time behind the scenes at Druid has been spent on the road. In 2009 alone, Druid toured to Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA presenting 364 performances in 26 venues.

Indeed so much of life has been out spent living of a suitcase that she gave up her base in Galway to move back in with her family in Caherdavin, on the Galway side of Limerick city.

The tour of the Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh was so long the crew were instructed to pack two suitcases, one with summer clothes, the other winter gear, as they would be spanning the seasons. Her job now entails a lot of commuting, but driving is where she gets a lot of thinking done.

Sarah’s decision to apply for the more home-based job of general manager was one she made discreetly while on the Druid Murphy tour around the US. She had to undergo her interview in between shows at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the most nerve wrecking experience of her life, she admits.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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