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Rich pickings on the cards if punters row in behind the brilliant Ruby



Date Published: {J}

John McIntyre

THEY thought it couldn’t be done. Up to last year’s Cheltenham Festival, three jockeys had stood apart at the great March meeting. Jamie Osborne (1992), Tony McCoy (1998) and Barry Geraghty (2003) each had the notable distinction of riding five winners at jump racing’s Olympics . . . but now one man is out on his own.

Ruby Walsh turned up at the 2009 Cheltenham festival with an impressive book of rides, but nobody envisaged that Ireland’s champion jockey would go on to dominate the four-day fixture in the most sensational manner. Not alone did Walsh win seven of the meeting’s 26 races, he came within a head of landing all four flagship events.

Only Punjabi, which narrowly edged out Celestial Halo in the opening day feature, prevented Walsh from achieving the unthinkable of a clean sweep in the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, The Ladbrokes World Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Think about it for a few seconds . . . Walsh was that close to racing immortality.

As it stands, he has long since booked his place among National Hunt’s greatest-ever jockeys. Apart from continued dominance of the Irish scene, he has struck up a staggeringly successful alliance with the UK’s top trainer, Paul Nicholls, and they have continued to dominate the big chases this season.

With Willie Mullins providing the heavy artillery at home, Walsh may have no shortage of firepower to pick from, but his big race temperament, tactical judgement and strength in a finish undoubtedly make him the best in the game at present.

Walsh, who was also Cheltenham’s leading jockey in 2004, ’06 and ’08, has been the toast of Irish punters in the Cotswolds for many years and, there is no doubt, that his legion of supporters will be banking on the 30-year-old continuing his stunning strike-rate next week. He is in a league of his own at present and another festival bonanza looks on the cards.

In general, 2009 was a memorable meeting for the Irish raiding party, finishing with nine winners, including Walsh’s treble for Mullins on Quevega (David Nicholson Mares Hurdle), Mikael D’haguenet (Ballymore Novices Hurdle) and Cooldine (RSA Chase). Many punters will, as usual, latch onto Walsh’s mounts and if he can continue booting home the winners at Cheltenham, the bookmakers will again be forced to dive for cover.

Walsh, who trails Pat Taaffe (25 winners) by just one in the all-time Cheltenham festival jockeys’ roll of honour, will be on five strong ante post favourites next week – namely, Master Minded (Champion Chase), Kauto Star (Gold Cup), Big Buck’s (Ladbrokes World Hurdle), Quevega (David Nicholson Mares Hurdle) and Poquelin (Ryanair Chase) and with a host of other fancied mounts, including Secant Star in the Triumph Hurdle, it’s easy to understand why the layers are only quoting miserly odds of 1/2 against his successful retention of the leading riders’ crown.

Big Buck’s is probably perceived as Walsh’s festival banker giving the reigning champion’s continued dominance of the staying hurdle division, but he represents shocking value (8/13) and , in the circumstances, it’s surely worth rowing in behind Tidal Bay, the former Arkle Chase winner, and another horse which has reverted to the smaller obstacles after losing his way over fences.

Furthermore, Howard Johnson’s inmate has only been beaten once over hurdles and created a big impression in making short work of a decent enough field in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January. Tidal Bay remains unexposed over the three mile trip and having a good track record (four wins from eight runs) is another positive. The nine-year-old is tipped to topple the meeting’s likeliest short priced market leader. Karabak looks best of the rest.

Walsh will again be partnering Celestial Halo in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle, but the front-running six-year-old has been drifting in the betting after getting turned over by the revitalised Khyber Kim in the Boylesports International Hurdle at Cheltenham last December before having no answer to Solwhit in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown the following month. Both runs were disappointing in the context of a barnstorming seasonal re-appearance in a handicap at Wincanton.

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

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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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