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Promoting sport across all sections of the community

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Date Published: {J}

IT may not be Croke Park, but even among a sea of table tennis tables, former All-Ireland football referee and Co-ordinator of the County Galway Local Sports Partnership, Michael Curley cuts a striking figure.

Although the Tribune has checked in with Curley and County Galway Local Sports Partnership from time to time, it has been all of six years since this column caught up with one of the most familiar faces of Galway sport.

Since then, Curley’s life has moved on immeasurably, from retiring as a Garda Superintendent in Salthill to subsequently taking up a role that, arguably, he was born to do – co-ordinator of a sporting body. It’s a role he thoroughly enjoys.

“What the Sports Partnership does is that it promotes sports and recreation across all sectors of the community, regardless of how old or young you are,” says Curley. “It does this in a number of different ways, working with different organisations, such as the Active Retirement for the older people and clubs and organisations for the younger and, indeed, middle aged people.”

On this day, Curley stands in the magnificent Kingfisher gym in NUI Galway; the sound of table tennis balls whipping from the bats creating a symphony of sorts. “In this particular instance, we have organised with Top Spin, which is the table tennis club here in Galway, to coach the sport in five schools around the county.

“Tom Shaughnessy of Top Spin – he is also with the Irish Table Tennis Association – has been coaching the schools for the last number of weeks, and today is the culmination of that coaching,” notes Curley, as he surveys waspish competitors buzzing around the sea of tables.

Those five schools, as it happens, are all in the Connemara area, namely Cornamona, Spiddal, Oughterard – primary and secondary – and Carna. All, with the exception of the primary school, attended the second-level tournament at NUI Galway last week.

“So, we have brought four of those five schools together in a blitz. We have 60 students here from the four schools. They will take part in a blitz throughout the day and there are prizes for the winners.

“After today, we hope to set up table tennis clubs in those four areas where they can continue to play this sport afterwards. Most of those you see here today are very interested in table tennis, and that is why they are playing it. This is another sporting outlet for them. So, I will be working with the communities in the four areas concerned – and with the schools – and we hope we will be able to set up those clubs.”

In truth, most people who have played the game at one stage or other will agree – be they closet fans or not – that table tennis is a thoroughly enjoyable game to play. The Glinsk native agrees, but he notes that the game also encourages a certain degree of movement and activity.

“It is a very active sport without it requiring extreme fitness or anything like that,” says the Sports Partnership co-ordinator. “Also, it is a great alternative for those who don’t play other sports (such as GAA, rugby or soccer) and that is one of the pillars of the Sports Partnership’s work. To try and promote the minority sports, as well as everything else. This is one of them.”

Surprised by the level of interest – “it was even greater than we thought” – Curley says it underlined the demand for these activities among young people. “In fairness, the likes of Gaelic games, soccer and rugby, they look after their people very well and provide plenty of opportunities for them,” continues the 57-year-old.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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