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Still blazing a trail on the local badminton courts

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Date Published: {J}

IT is hard to put into context the impact David and Emer Lalor have had on the sport of badminton in Galway over the past 30 or so years. Throughout the late ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, both dominated the singles, doubles, and mixed categories within the county and provincial game, so much so that Emer, for a time, competed in the men’s competition.

Indeed, in early March, 49-year-old Emer rolled back the years when, having come out of “semi-retirement”, she claimed the Division 1 county senior ladies’ singles title, beating fellow Galway Lawn Tennis Club comrade Helen Sheehan in the decider. It was quite a comeback for Emer, who never realistically expected to lift the county senior singles title again after such a long time. What do they say though about class being permanent?

While Emer had played squash up to the late 2000s, unfortunately, 30 years of toil on the racquet courts eventually had begun to manifest in injury after injury in recent times. “Then I hurt my knee skiing two years ago and that kept me out for another while,” continues the mother of three.

“It has only been in the last few months that it has all come back together again for me. I started pilates and it was the pilates that brought me back to life from all those injuries. Now, I am going to stick at this as long as I can. I have had a little bit of success again this year. I won the county singles, and I hadn’t won that in a long time.”

That said, Emer (nee Dempsey) is no stranger to success, having really sprung to prominence in 1979 when completing a championship treble in the County Galway championships – winning the ladies’ singles, ladies’ doubles, and mixed doubles.

She also starred on the Galway team which won the Division 3 National Inter-County Championship, defeating Kerry in the final. Other badminton successes recorded by Emer that year included the Co Sligo ladies’ open singles championship and the Connacht close singles championship, all of which earned her a County Galway Sports Star Award in ’79.

Interestingly, her husband David – who also dominated the sport to the same extent for over two decades, winning countless number of county and provincial titles – secured the same award for badminton in 1982, before Emer reclaimed the Sports Star Award in 1987, having, once again, secured the treble at both county and Connacht championships.

To some degree, the ‘87 award also marked a comeback of sorts as the previous year Emer had taken a year out of the sport when pregnant with her eldest daughter, Karen. By this time, she was at the height of her powers, having dominated the sport between ’79 and ’85.

“I suppose, from ’79 to ’90, I was unbeaten in singles, although I did not play in ’86,” continues the GLTC and former Columban Badminton Club star. “In fact, I have not been beaten in singles in Connacht ever. In the ’90s, I kind of semi-retired, and I only really came back to the sport in the last few years.”

Indeed, by the late ’90s, participation levels had drastically decreased. It was a far cry from a decade previous when, during the height of the sport, over a thousand competitors would take part in the Galway championships, which boasted massive sponsorship deals from the likes of 7Up, Bank of Ireland, SuperValu and Eircell. Such was the sport’s popularity and prestige.

“Everybody played back then,” says Emer. “There was over a thousand people playing over six Divisions and it would go on for weeks. I don’t think it will ever come back to that. I think we were lucky to play in a time when it was good and it was competitive.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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