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Reality out the window once transfer season reaches fever pitch

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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

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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Archive News

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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