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Reality out the window once transfer season reaches fever pitch

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Date Published: {J}

It’s a strange phrase for a start – the transfer window – when really a big door into a bank vault would be a better analogy in keeping with the spirit of this part of the football season.

Loyalty comes in the form of a large signing-on fee – coupled in many cases by an equally impressive signing-off fee from the club wishing to get the player off their books – and the pampered star’s delight at the new challenge is really more to do with finding a mock-Tudor mansion with a swimming pool that finding the back of the net.

Sky Sports lives for this moment – particularly the last day before this infamous transfer window closes and they count down the seconds as though they are preparing for lift-off from Cape Canaveral.

Officially, players never leave for the money; it’s the homesickness, the lack of first team opportunities, the chance to play for the manager/fans/club they’ve always loved, the chance to fulfil a boyhood ambition, the weather, the international colleagues already on the same gravy train at their new club – there are many reasons but you’ll never hear a mention of money.

And yet it’s at the heart of everything going on across the water this week – guys like our old friend ‘Cashley’ Cole who was insulted with Arsenal ‘only’ offered him £55,000 a week to stay with his boyhood club while Chelsea waited in the wings with a £90,000 a week offer.

Did Owen Coyle leave upwardly mobile Burnley for relegation threatened Bolton because the challenge at Turf Moor wasn’t what he needed after all? Did he heck.

The end result of all this is the sort of insipid performance turned in by Liverpool last week when a team of highly paid egomaniacs looked as interested in the FA Cup as a snowman would be in a patio heater.

Reading, a team struggling to stay in the Championship, deservedly dumped them out of the competition which in other seasons might not represent a ripple of discomfort at a Premier club but in Liverpool’s case means their last chance of domestic success was gone two weeks into the new year.

Did heads roll as a result? Were hands held up to acknowledge that this wouldn’t have been acceptable from an U12 schoolboy selection, never mind fellas on an average of £70,000 a week?

If an ordinary worker turned in a day like this in the office, they’d be lectured, suspended if it continued to happen and eventually fired. These boys aren’t even docked money.

The only Liverpudlian left on the field to the finish – Jamie Carragher – was equally the only one who looked like it mattere. But then Carra has never looked for the big move away from his home town club, never angled for the big signing on fee, never kissed any badge other than the liver bird.

That’s a rare accomp

lishment at a club which once prided itself on loyalty, where players aspired to play and, if they were lucky enough to achieve that, they stayed as long as they had a contribution to make.

Back in the day, you could name the starting eleven quicker than you’d know your prayers – Clemence, Callaghan, Heighway, Hughes, Smith, Keegan, Toshack – and most of them spent their golden days at Anfield.

They didn’t sell posters – or replica kits for that matter – back then, but if you did pin a picture of a Liverpool player to your bedroom wall, you could be reasonably sure it would stay there until the Sellotape ran out of stickiness.

These days, buying football posters or replica kits for the young football fans in your house can be a hazardous pursuits – we have two lads who are pointed at in the streets when they wear their ‘Keane, 7’ grey Liverpool away strip that our Robbie might have modelled once or twice on the Anfield bench before he headed back to White Hart Lane.

The Irish captain has this transfer business down to a fine art; he left Wolves for Coventry for £6 million; Coventry to Inter Milan for £13 million a year later; Inter to Leeds for £12 million another twelve months later; Leeds to Spurs for £7 million; Spurs to Liverpool for £20.3 million and – even though it wasn’t his idea – back to White Hart Lane a few months later for a basic £12 million with another £4 million in potential add ons.

That means Robbie has racked up almost £75 million in transfer fees over a ten year period – which, if he got his basic seven and a half per cent cut, would amount to almost £6 million into his wallet. In reality, he earned a multiple of that in bizarrely named loyalty bonuses and signing on fees so that his best work was arguably done in

the boardroom as opposed to on the pitch.

The boy from Tallaght is still only trotting behind Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka whose transfer fees have totalled £85 million, taking him from Arsenal to Real Madrid to Paris Saint-Germain to Manchester City to Fenerbahce, Bolton and finally to Chelsea.

The greed, of course, extends to the boardroom and while Liverpool and Manchester United are the most obvious examples of owners buying a club and loading it with their debt, the Premiership will see one of its members go to the wall before the season is out.

West Ham are in the last chance saloon, Portsmouth are outside hanging round the car park without the price of a pint, and a half a dozen others are in serious financial trouble.

Sky can take the blame for some of this, waving their wads of television cash in clubs’ faces, but they didn’t force them to spend it so profligately.

The only thing ruining football is pure self-serving greed and it will destroy everything in its wake if wages aren’t capped, if clubs aren’t limited to a spend that’s proportionate to its actual income – not that of its Sugar Daddy – and if fans, as opposed to Richard Keys or Andy Gray, aren’t restored to their rightful place at the heart of the game.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

For more, read page 13 of this week’s Connacht 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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First local bragging rights of the new season go to Mervue Utd

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Date Published: 18-Mar-2013

Mervue United 2

Salthill Devon 1

Jason Byrne at Fahy’s Field

Mervue United have earned the early bragging rights in the latest instalment of a derby clash with their old rivals Salthill Devon thanks to first half goals from Tom King and youngster Ryan Manning at Fahy’s Field on Friday night.

Old teammates were re-united on the field as the likes Jason Molloy, Tom King, Gary Curran, Paul Sinnott and new Devon signing Derek O’Brien were among the names who used to wear the maroon of dormant Galway United.

Mervue came out of the blocks strongly and Curran unleashed the first meaningful shot after six minutes which failed to trouble Ronan Forde and glanced wide.

Two minutes later, former Mervue striker Enda Curran fired Devon’s first effort from distance but steered well clear of the target.

Almost immediately at the other end, Mervue thought they had taken the lead when King was released into the box and his shot squirmed under Forde towards goal, but Devon skipper Eugene Greaney was at hand to clear off the line.

Three minutes later, an almost identical move was executed by Mervue as Brendan Lavelle played King in, who this time opted to dink over the advancing Forde for a marvellous finish to give Mervue a deserved 1-0 lead.

Mervue immediately searched for another as Manning picked out Varley, and with his cross he searched for Lavelle but William Enubele cleared just as Lavelle was about to head it.

From the resulting corner, Manning whipped it in to Varley, whose shot was well blocked by Colm Horgan.

A second goal was coming, and it arrived on 18 minutes when King played a neat exchange with Paul Sinnott and he squared for Manning, who shot first-time to bag his first League of Ireland goal.

Following this it looked as if Mervue could further stretch their lead by half-time, but Devon kept their heads up and as a result of their hard work they eventually began to find their feet.

As the interval drew closer O’Brien – who had been eventually signed by Devon just hours before the kick-off – collected a long hopeful ball from Forde and cut inside but blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

Five minutes later, Enda Curran won a loose ball and his pace proved too much for Michael McSweeney but his shot was well saved by Gleeson.

On the break Mervue pelted forward and Lavelle saw another effort blocked by the omnipresent Greaney who was a rock at the back. Lavelle collected again and squared for Manning, but this time he mishit his shot and Forde caught easily.

On the stroke of half-time the teenager had another go at bagging his second but his free-kick sailed well over into the astroturf cages at Fahy’s Field.

A crowd of almost 300 people made their way to the east side of the city to witness the encounter, and perhaps a mixture of the heavy rain in the hour before kick-off along with the racing at Cheltenham earlier in the day affected the attendance.

The second-half failed to prove as entertaining as the first as Devon kept fighting hard to claw back into the contest and prevent a third goal which would have ended their chances of getting points on the board.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Festival whets the appetite for new food experiences

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Date Published: 21-Mar-2013

I know it’s hard to believe, but there are well-grounded, consistent reports in recent weeks that Fianna Fáil nationally has been receiving a large number of new applications for membership of the party.

When I heard it first, I thought to myself – sounds like new recruits to join the crew of the Titanic. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if they knew something that the rest of us didn’t.

For, FF showed a bounce in two recent opinion polls. And then George Lee did his walkout from Fine Gael, leaving FG and Enda Kenny to watch anxiously in the coming months as further polls come in, and the Kenny leadership comes under renewed pressure.

 

Fine Gael is still well ahead in the polls, but you write off FF at your peril. The old Fianna Fáil ‘faith’ still runs deep even among many of those who are now angry at the way the country was allowed to run on to the economic rocks under FF stewardship.

On the face of it, it sounds like FF shouldn’t be an even vaguely attractive prospect for new members . . . you can be damn sure that FF unpopularity was one of the main reasons that Galway West TD Noel Grealish (formerly of the PDs and now Independent) wouldn’t touch joining the FF Parliamentary Party with a barge pole and has been flexing his political muscle in recent months as an Independent.

That’s despite FF Ministers Eamon Ó Cuív and Noel Dempsey courting Grealish for months to join FF, with even speculation of a junior ministry ‘sweetener’ at some stage when Brian Cowen eventually carries out that long-threatened reshuffle.

Wonder if Grealish would reconsider now? For there’s no denying that in recent weeks in FF there has been a sneaking dawning feeling that, if they could just hold off the General Election until 2012, then maybe – just maybe! – at least their bedrock support might have come back by then and the massacre of FF TDs might not be quite as bloody as has been predicted for the past year.

Why, some FFrs believe they might even have enough TDs left to cosy-up to the Labour Party. That’s provided of course they can hold out to 2012 and their government partners, the Greens, don’t tear themselves apart in the meantime with their habit of washing dirty linen in public.

People like Grealish would have been hoping that some of the FF voters might go for the ‘first cousin’ in the shape of a former PD like himself – well weren’t the PDs just a family row in FF? The big test for angry or wavering FF supporters on election day in a place like Galway West would be just how many of them would vote Fine Gael? I have always been of the belief that ‘the hand would wither’ before they could give ‘the blueshirts’ a vote.

Meanwhile, in the past few weeks, the pressure has transferred to Fine Gael. They are the ones who now have to worry about any slippage in support, they have convince us that they could run the economy better . . . and against this shaky new background, they also have to worry about ‘upping their game’ in key areas like Galway West.

One of the most recent opinion polls showed the highest regional level of support for Fine Gael as being in Connacht-Ulster, which was traditionally the area which Fianna Fáil could count on as heartland. That has to be ‘the Enda Kenny factor’ coming through in constituencies close to his Mayo base, where FG had a huge 53% of the first preferences in 2007.

For more, read page 12 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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