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Running is in the blood for top athletics coach

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Date Published: {J}

GALWAY City Harriers’ PJ Coyle is to be honoured for his contribution to athletics at the 47th annual Galway Sports Stars Awards in the Ardilaun Hotel this Saturday evening. So engrained has he become in the fabric of the sport locally, it is an accolade he justly deserves.

Over the past two decades or so, thousands of athletes in Galway City and its surrounds have benefitted from the guidance of Coyle, who is not only an inspiring coach but also a founder member of the juvenile section of Galway City Harriers – or GCH as they are also known.

Some may wonder why Coyle continues to give up his time towards the advancement of the youth, particularly given his two sons, Ronan and Ruairí, have graduated from the juvenile academy.

However, athletics for him has forever been in his blood . . . ever since those dark evenings in the early 1970s, when he could be seen running out the Old Armagh Road in his native Monaghan, his silhouette – and those of his companions – framed in the headlights of his coach’s car. The former St. Macartan’s College student was committed though – his second-place finish in the Ulster U-18s 1,500m in his youth reinforcing the measure of his endeavours.

It was this love of the sport that led to his decision to take up study in UCG in 1972. Granted, his sister Maria was already a student at the university, but so dominant was the third level institution in athletics, particularly cross country, at the time it seemed to be the next logical step for him in terms of honing his talent.

Liam Kavanagh – who, coincidentally, also received the same Special Dedication Sports Star award in 1993 that Coyle will collect this Saturday – was to prove “a great influence” on his and many other careers at the College, taking the athletes out for runs a couple of times a week.

“He brought us along,” says Coyle. “That first year in college we won the county novice, Connacht novice, the county intermediate, Connacht intermediate, county junior and Connacht junior. We swept the boards. We had a lot of great runners,” says the former Arts student.

Indeed, Coyle arrived at the university at a time they were dominating inter-varsity cross country, all but owning the Green Fox trophy. “I think we had a run of six straight victories,” he recalls.

 “Around that time, though, you had the likes of Gerry Staunton from Kinvara, Joe Scanlon (former Irish 5,000m champion), Brian Geraghty (former mile star), John O’Connor from Craughwell, Seamus Keehan from Gort, John B. Doherty from Donegal and Brendan O’Neill from Carlow.

There were a lot of other strong runners. We had a very good squad.”

After university, Coyle spent some time in London, where he ran with London Irish, competing in both the 1,500m and 5,000m. He later returned to Ireland and Galway and joined Galway City Harriers. In the subsequent years, Coyle – who won an All-Ireland intermediate cross country title with Galway in 1978 – has enjoyed many successes and excelled in many events, from cross country to marathon.

Indeed, the marathon was a new departure for Coyle in the early ’80s, but true to his spirit – and his passion for running – he proved to be a solid competitor. He ran the first three Dublin City Marathons and in 1983, the then 27-year-old posted a notable time of 2hrs 29mins to finish in the top 25.

In 1984, Coyle underlined his pedigree when winning the County Galway senior cross country championships, before Gerry Reilly of Loughrea stripped him of his title the following year when the two fought out a tremendous duel over the final lap of the seven-and-a-half-mile event at Loughrea Golf Course.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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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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