A Different View with Dave O’Connell
It may be hard to fathom in this era of saturated coverage on satellite television but there was a time pre-Sky when even those of us in single channel land had our own little smorgasbord of sport to wallow in of a dreary Saturday afternoon.
Sports Stadium was an admirable undertaking in an era when any form of live sport was a more difficult proposition than it might be, given the speed of technological advancement, today.
Back then it was Brendan ‘Legs’ O’Reilly – the stylish former international high jumper – sat in front of a glorified sheet of chipboard bearing the Sports Stadium logo that looked like a running track designed by a man in the throes of a fit.
Brendan was smooth in an era and made a staple diet of horse racing, rallying and cross-country athletics seem like it was Super Sunday on Sky.
Because it wasn’t just technology that was poorer back in the seventies and eighties; it was the amount of sport that was actually available to broadcast live in the first place.
Grand when the Triple Crown was up for grabs; that was a couple of enthralling live afternoons in the company of Fred Cogley.
And equally, there was the latter stages of the FA Cup to look forward to, at a time when live Premiership games weren’t even a pipedream.
In fairness there were intermittent deals with the English FA for live league matches every couple of seasons, but for the most part it was left to Legs and his cohorts – supreme pros like the mellifluous Liam Nolan, Noel Reid or Bill O’Herlihy – to turn a sporting sow’s ear into the proverbial silk purse.
There were regular features like Gaelic Stadium with the irrepressible Mick Dunne or Soccer Stadium which offers a nod in the direction of the League of Ireland as well.
But the miracle really was that they found enough to sustain five hours of live and recorded sports coverage to fill a full Saturday afternoon.
Of course Grandstand was doing the same thing in the UK, but with a lot more resources and material at their disposal – and even then, that too ran its course when the satellites started buying up all the rights.
The radio equivalent was the wonderfully-titled Airs and Races, which did just what it said on the tin – played music between horse races.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Local Ireland welcomes move to 0% VAT for news publishers
Local Ireland, the association representing 32 weekly paid-for newspapers around the country, has welcomed the decision by the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to remove VAT on newspapers.
President of Local Ireland Declan McGuire said: “This is a very important move for news publishers.
“Zero per cent VAT will allow local newspapers around Ireland to invest in journalism and in the transition to new digital business models.
“News publishers have faced a series of major challenges over recent years, most recently the huge increases in the cost of newsprint. This move will help support jobs in the industry and sustain the quality of our service to readers.
“We very much appreciate this endorsement by Government for the valuable role we play in our communities and the public service content we provide.
“I would like to thank the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and all the Ministers, TDs and Senators from across the political spectrum who have given their support to our campaign to end VAT on journalism.”
Executive Director of Local Ireland Bob Hughes said: “Local news publishers are the lifeblood of the communities they serve. Along with our national colleagues represented by NewsBrands Ireland, we play a vital role in Ireland’s democracy.
“Today’s decision will protect the future of trusted, professional journalism in Ireland against the tide of global disinformation that threatens to undermine healthy democratic debate and analysis.”
Take a spooky staycation this Halloween at Púca Festival
For Halloween fans looking for a spooky staycation with a difference, Púca Festival is just the ticket. Returning to Co. Meath from 28th – 31st October, Púca celebrates Ireland as the original birthplace of Halloween. Vibrant, fun, and contemporary in feel but strongly rooted in tradition, the festival will take place in the hubs of Trim and Athboy.
Now in its fourth year, this year’s festival line-up is an exciting one, with a pool of contemporary Irish acts gearing up to re-ignite Celtic traditions through incredible music and live performances. Offering three breathtaking days and four spectacular nights of music, myth, food, folklore, fire, feasting, and merriment, Púca will boast a range of ticketed and free events, all individually priced.
From the ‘Arrival of the Spirits’ procession in Trim on Saturday 29th October right through to the ‘Coming of Samhain’ celebration at the Hill of Ward in Athboy on Halloween night, visitors will be immersed in the original and authentic spirit of Samhain.
Festivalgoers and fans of folklore will enjoy the well-rounded line-up of evening entertainment showcasing the best in contemporary Irish music, spectacle, and performance, including the talented Imelda May, Gavin James, King Kong Company, Block Rockin’ Beats, Lisa Hannigan & Cathy Davey, Jerry Fish & his Electric Sideshow Cabaret, Joanne McNally, Blindboy, David O’Doherty, Neil Delamere, and Jason Byrne. Headlining the Púca Big Top stage on October 29th, The Academic is an act not-to-be-missed. A thrilling live four-piece, their super-uplifting, hugely melodic guitar-driven sound is the product of a tight-knit gang who’ve been playing together since school.
Historic Halloween Walking Tours, Candlelit Tales Storytelling, Banshee Bingo Hall, Self-guided treasure hunts, Foraging Workshops, Circus performances, and Handfasting Ceremonies will complement the music and comedy programme, ensuring a host of diverse activities to keep visitors entertained all weekend. At Trim Castle, step back in time at the Deise Medieval Traditional Living Village. In the midst of mead and the smoke of the campfire, living history, crafts, and skills of the early to mid-medieval period come to life and will be open for all the family to discover from 29th – 31st October.
And as Samhain is a time for feasting, Jack O’Lanterns Food & Craft Markets at Trim Castle will feature local harvest offerings and Halloween favourites, in what promises to be the most spirited Púca festival yet.
Tickets are on sale now at Pucafestival.com
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Italian archer brings whole new outdoor leisure pursuit to Loughrea
An eagle-eyed Italian has converted a cohort of locals in Loughrea into archery enthusiasts – in the heart of their local forest.
Mattia Cestonaro set up Loch Riach Traditional Archery, the first field archery club in Galway to be affiliated to the Irish Field Archery Federation (IFAF).
After raising nearly €800 in public donations, he established the course geared to different levels in a forest located in Peterswell on the Slieve Aughty Mountains.
Field archery has participants shooting at various targets. The targets may be concentric circles, animal faces on paper or 3D animal targets, from a variety of distances, which can be marked or unmarked.
There is a main course layout in a loop shape, where small groups of archers, typically up to four, walk around and stop at each station to hit a target.
The club is a non-profit organisation with the main aim to promote our beloved sport in Ireland.
“This is a sport for everyone, we have kids, adults, families shooting together. It’s some mighty fun,” enthused the native of Vicenza in north-eastern Italy.
“This is an exciting new activity for the local community, as well as to visitors from other counties and clubs.”
Mattia has created three small bridges to cross the river in different points using pallets on the course located on over 160 acres of forest. There are currently 14 targets spread out over 1.5km, crossing different types of terrain.
The club teaches a ‘traditional, instinctive way of shooting’.
“It is a challenging course with different tricky shots, uphill, downhill, between trees. We tried as much as we could to use natural backstops to make the shots look as natural as possible,” he explains.
“We think our club as a group of friends who share the same passion, we organise many social activities and we encourage members to volunteer in the club’s activities.”
The main course is made entirely of 3D targets.
“We believe there is nothing else like the sight of a realistic 3D target in the forest.”
Several of the first courses held last July sold out. The courses in August completely sold out.
It costs €50 per person for four weekly classes lasting an hour and a half, with the minimum age of eight set for participants. Archers aged under 18 must have at least one parent participating in the course with them. Adult membership of the club costs €60 for the year, while kids pay €30, which includes membership to the social club.
“There was an overwhelming response to our first beginner courses and an ever more surprising conversion rate, which saw the 100% of those who completed the course become members of the club. This was amazing and already repaid the months of hard work in the woods,” enthuses Mattia.
The club will now concentrate on making sure all the new members receive proper support during their first months in the archery world.
Mattia was doing field archery in Italy but took a few years off until he got the opportunity here over three years ago to reignite his passion.
“I went back into it thanks to my friend Enea, who is the son of the iconic Italian character Papetto, who is one of the greatest masters of Instinctive shooting and whose values and philosophy he is trying to promote and keep live for over 45 years.
“This is the same I’m trying to do with the club, I am offering beginner courses where we cover all the basics of field archery and where I try to spread my archery philosophy which has the social aspect of this discipline in his core values.
“To put it in simple words, I’m in love with this sport, and I try to transmit my passion to other people.”
The Italian moved to Ireland from Italy in 2014 looking for a change in lifestyle. After three months in Clifden, he transferred to Galway and found a job in supply chain with Schneider Electric, where he continues to work.
In December 2020 he bought a house in Loughrea and moved in with his partner Tatiana.
“It was a huge step in our life, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. We found a lovely welcoming community, everyone is so kind with us and there is so much to do around here: from the lake which is at our doorstep, and we walk daily with our dogs, to the numerous sport activities available.”
Mattia plays with the Loughrea Rugby Club and recently helped organise a group of 14 Italian teenagers to visit Loughrea from his old club, the Rangers Rugby Vicenza. They stayed with host families and trained with the Loughrea RFC for a week.
Mike Feerick of Ireland Reaching Out said he and wife Eileen regularly get behind the bow and arrow on a Sunday morning after completing a beginner’s course earlier this summer.
He has praised Mattia’s hard work, with the support of Coillte, in turning an area of Slieve Aughties into a recreation hub.
“It’s interesting that someone has come to live among us and helped us strengthen our community, starting a new pastime in the locality which takes advantage of the wonderful hinterland we have in East Galway.”
“It is a big undertaking for any one person – but he has persevered and indeed succeeded.”
Mattia has plans to expand the course with new targets and create a bigger training range.
“We plan to create nice picnic areas for members to spend time together with benches and tables and some shelter for the rainy days. We also plan to host the first official IFAF shooting in 2023, where people from other clubs from all Ireland will come over to compete as part of the IFAF annual calendar,” he explains.
“The future ahead is exciting, and I am very proud to be able to offer something different to a community which is giving so much to me and my family in terms of quality of life.”