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Steering rugbyÕs rising talent in the right direction

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

YOU have just got to hand it to Connacht Rugby. No matter how many knocks the provincial game has taken over the years, it has continually looked to bounce back and defy the odds . . . and yet another testament to the fine work being done at the West of Ireland branch was the U-20 inter-pro Grand Slam victory over Munster last week.

Any season you record away wins over Ulster and Leinster in Ravenhill and Donnybrook respectively – and scalp Munster in your final game to secure the Grand Slam crown – is as good as any. “It is a great accomplishment,” beamed Connacht coach and Renmore native Nigel Carolan, a man who has been to the forefront of developing the province’s young talent for almost a decade.

“Connacht had won it in 2001, but it was an U-21 tournament at the time. There was also a dispensation for Connacht at the time, in that they were allowed a certain amount of over-age players. So, this is the first time it has been a level playing field for us.”

In truth, though, Connacht were always likely to challenge strongly in this competition given the success of its U-18 sides in the various competitions in recent years. “We have had a good return at U-18 level, particularly on the club side of things, and we have also been knocking on the door at U-20 for the last couple of years.

“However, in the past, we were only able to pull off one-off wins [over the other provinces]. So, to put three wins together makes it a bit more special – and we did it the hard way. We did two of them away from home in Ravenhill and Donnybrook, while the third game was in Buccaneers [Dubarry Park], which, I suppose, could also be considered an away game. But it made it all the more special for us.”

 

No doubt, there was some degree of pressure on Carolan’s outfit heading into that final game against Munster last Friday, a tie they won on the impressive scoreline of 32-18. To the fore was Leitrim native and Buccaneers full-back Shane Layden, who scored a hat-trick of tries.

The Galway influence, though, was vast, and among those to impress were Corinthians pair Kieran Marmion and Aaron Conneely; Galwegians’ trio Paul Griffin, Tadgh Leader and Eoin Tarmey; and Monivea’s Conor Kindregan. There was also a strong Buccaneers contingent in the squad, including the likes of Danny Qualter, Callum Boland, Conor Finn, Robbie Henshaw and, of course, Layden.

“Every year, there is a core group of players in the U-20s team which is as good as what is out there in the rest of the country, and that has been reflected in the number of guys who have been selected in the Irish U-20s over the last couple of years,” continued Academy Manager Carolan.

“This year, we had a better balance across the team and there were a lot of guys who hopefully, now, will be in the reckoning for the Irish U-20s. The other thing is they really gelled as a unit collectively, off the field as well as on the field. As a result, when they played, there was a certain amount of composure and confidence within the team and they always felt they were going to win.”

A brace of pre-season friendlies against the likes of Garryowen and Corinthians had highlighted these qualities at an early stage and with a plethora of the players already contracted to Connacht Academy, a certain amount of cohesion and professionalism was already permeating throughout the set-up.

“The new players coming through [the ranks at Connacht] are well looked after – there are a lot of resources put in – and we have good people working here in our branch and in the elite player pathway. A certain amount of confidence is instilled in the players so the players shouldn’t have an inferiority complex.

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

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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