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Red-letter night for Connacht rugby to live long in memory



Date Published: {J}

Michael Glynn

IT’S been some journey for Connacht. Ninety eight games in the shadowlands of European rugby before finally emerging into the spotlight and the glamour of a David v Goliath confrontation that, if not quite enrapturing the nation, certainly attracted more spectators to a newly-resplendent Sportsground for one sitting than had passed through its turnstiles in many a full season.

One doesn’t need to be hoary and grey to remember the proverbial two men and a dog constituting the crowd at Connacht matches and, even until quite recently, an attendance that reached four figures was worthy of special note. If Connacht embraced professionalism and European rugby with enthusiasm from the outset in 1996, albeit in the secondary tier, the same could not be said of the potential fan base which remained largely indifferent to their impressive success ratio and occasional giant-killing feats, most memorably the home and away wins over a star-studded Northampton in 1997.

That’s what made Saturday night such a remarkable occasion; a venue that has traditionally had less life that the adjoining New Cemetery was transformed into a throbbing cacophony of noise, of chanting and song, of good humour and fun, all combining to generate an atmosphere the likes of which has never previously been remotely associated with the College Road venue, notwithstanding visits by the All-Blacks, the Australians and South Africa over the years.


Warren Gatland, the coach who led Connacht on those first tentative steps into the great unknown at the start of the professional era, would not have recognised his old stomping ground.

Bleak and deserted for the majority of his time here, despite leading Connacht to a Challenge Cup Quarter Final in 1997 and the first competitive victory on French soil by an Irish province, the contrast could not have been greater on Saturday as the ground became a heaving sea of green in the presence of both the President and An Taoiseach.

Players of the highest calibre are week-in, week-out visitors to the Sportsground but never on this scale as the aristocrats of Toulouse came to town for Connacht’s home Heineken Cup debut replete with nineteen internationals of various hues and a handful who had graced the World Cup final only a matter of weeks ago. And among them was the IRB World Player of the Year, the majestic Thierry Dusautoir. In a era of celebrity, this was a dream fixture.

A dream fixture with the potential of becoming a nightmare, however, if Connacht wilted in the white heat of the moment and in the face of such rugby regality. Mercifully, that was not to be the case, for although always outclassed and doing themselves little justice in the opening stages, they were never pounded into submission and enjoyed some passages of defiant attacking themselves in a rewarding middle twenty minutes of the second half.

True, they were frequently left gasping for oxygen as Toulouse entered different stratospheres, but at the end of the day it was not an inconsiderable achievement to deny the four-time European champions a bonus point for a fourth try.

For more, read this week’s Galway CityTribune.

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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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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