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St. ThomasÕ captain remembers an old friend on historic occasion for the club



Date Published: 22-Nov-2012

POIGNANT images flashed like strobe lighting across the canvas of Pearse Stadium. Tears of joy bled into the November rain and magnificent words like ‘historic’ and ‘momentous’ were like gregarious starlings flying in and out through the rafters of the stand as they toyed playfully with the cold winter air. And from above, a smile rippled across the heavens.

It would have been easy to overlook other important matters on a day like this but St. Thomas’ victorious captain Robert Murray was determined not to forget an old friend. Barry Burke (25), the accomplished midfielder who died tragically in a work accident in May 2009, may not have had the opportunity to walk up those steps in the stadium, but his presence was felt – embraced – nonetheless.

The lump in Murray’s throat caught, as it did among the others when Barry’s name was mentioned. For some, it was too difficult to encapsulate his loss in a single sentence but Murray, as captain, had a duty. A duty to honour Barry’s memory.

“Barry was a good friend of ours, a good friend of this team,” he said, his voice momentarily quivering. “He would have been part of that team. It is just days like this; memories of him come flooding back. We are proud that we could mention him and use him as a positive [force] and we know he helped us out there. He was vital. He was such a good character. He was a brilliant man.”

As an evening mist descended across the emptying ground, Murray, who certainly covered all the bases in his speech from the podium, composed himself. Barry was – and forever will be – one of their own. Just to put the loss into context, Murray alluded to the close-knit nature of the panel of players and, indeed, everyone in the club.

For his part, Murray had two brothers in the starting fifteen – hat-trick hero Richard and corner forward Gerald – and, he noted, that was indicative of the genetic make up of the squad. “It is a brothers’ effort – Burkes, Skehills, Cooneys, Murrays and Kellys – and I think there is one Regan man (James) there as well,” he quipped. “We are a small club and it is a family thing.”

Just to further underline this point, he admitted he could not help but burst with pride when Richard scored the first of those three vital goals in the opening minutes. “That was a proud moment just as it was a proud moment to have Richie up beside me when I was presented the Cup. He played fantastic but it is a team effort and you had all those other players making the vital blocks and hooks and everything else. That is just the effort everybody puts in.”

This was no more reflected than in the exertions of the players over 60 memorable minutes. One unsung hero he paid particular tribute to was St. Thomas’ goalkeeper Patrick Skehill, who pulled off a last-ditch double save to keep their lead intact at the finish.

“Loughrea had their chance to finish the game with a goal and I was never so delighted to see Paddy save that ball [from a Johnny Maher free]. I knew if he did, time was up, and we would be getting the Cup. That was when it kind of hit me . . . that I had to have some words ready for the speech. The fear of that!” he laughed.

Indeed, finding apt descriptions to express the emotions and feelings of the occasion were just lost on many of the players and management. “It is unreal. Words can’t describe it,” grinned a beaming James Regan.

“You know. You would hear lads – often when you came here as a young lad yourself – saying that they couldn’t find the words to describe it and you would think they were raving. Now, I know. Growing up with them lads, really, you are after winning with your best friends. It is unreal.”

A common theme adopted by the majority of players was that a good start was vital to their title hopes. It was a view supported by Regan. “We knew it was going to be dog eat dog. Loughrea are a serious team; they have been there for years. So, the good start was vital.

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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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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