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Success of province’s A team is major boost to rugby in Connacht



Date Published: {J}

Rob Murphy

CONNACHT travel to the RDS on Saturday to face Leinster (4:30) as the Magners League season is very much in full swing again. There must be an extra pep in the step of all squad members this week after a fine home win over the Dragons on St. Patrick’s Day and, perhaps more surprisingly, the Connacht A side’s deserved victory over Ulster A side last Thursday in Kildare.

The Ulster Ravens (as they are known) play in the British and Irish Cup along with Munster, Leinster, teams from the English second tier and reserve sides from the other Celtic Nations. They have reached the semi finals and are a serious force. For various reasons, Connacht were unable to compete at this level this year and such a restraint appears to be holding back the rapid development being made out west.

There can be no greater case for the development potential of rugby in the west of Ireland than the fact that all eight of the Connacht pack that beat Ulster 19-18 on Thursday were born in the province and have come through the thriving development system based here in the west.

Too often the equality of resources argument focuses on the senior Connacht side and the funds for player contracts, when it is just as important to highlight the need for providing academy graduates with a stepping stone to top level professional rugby. A fully funded Connacht A side in the British and Irish Cup would play a huge role in helping our young talented players develop.

Connacht A team manager Bernard Finneran explains. "This is the first year we have played all three provinces in the season, we will play four games in total this year but Munster and Ulster could play as many as 12. The A games have a dual benefit, fringe players get valuable game time and our younger players get a chance to prove themselves in a game where players can have a go and league points aren’t all that mattter."

The All Ireland League still has a vital role to play and can’t be shoved aside by such games. In fact, the scheduling of Thursday’s game within 24 hours of the Glynn Cup raises some worrying issues that must be addressed. More respect and consideration is needed in such circumstances.

If that hurdle can be cleared, than there is no reason why A rugby can’t be a crucial piece in the Eric Elwood jigsaw for next season. Elwood, Dan McFarland and Michael Bradley were all in Barnhall on Thursday to watch 20 year old, former Colaiste Iognaid, Out half, Conor Murphy kick the winning penalty from the touchline under intense pressure.


The pack included two budding young prospects in the back row, Shane Conneely and Eoin McKeon while the front row allowed Conor Higgins, James Robinson and Denis Buckley (who scored the second half try) get some much needed exposure.

In the backline Finn Gormley, Colin Conroy and Mark Butler all excelled while Adam Kennedy’s efforts from the bench saw him called into the Irish squad the following evening as cover.

Connnacht performed superbly well in the under 20 inter pros back in September, beating Munster and losing in Ulster by one score despite notching four tries. Their representation on the International squad could well have been better had those players got the kind of game time that their colleagues in the other province were afforded.

Funding is scarce but investing in this area at the expense of maybe one professional contract might yield a better long term gain to trump the short term solution we are normally forced to accept.

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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Archive News

The true story of the saint that the church wanted to airbrush



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Italian saint, Francis of Assisi will get a new lease of life in Francis, the Holy Jester, a free one-man show being performed at Muscailt Arts Festival on February 5.

The play about the renowned saint, who died in 1226 was written by Italian Nobel prize-winner Dario Fo, and this performance is by Mario Pirovano, a long-time collaborator with Fo, who translated the piece into English.

It embraces papal history, biblical stories, and controversial Italian politics while exploring the life of one of the Catholic Church’s most famous saints. It also shows how the medieval Church was so afraid of Francis and his relationship with ordinary people that it set about sanitising his legacy and elevating him above the reach of his followers.

Mario, who lives near to St Francis’s home of Assisi, speaks eloquently and passionately about the saint and the way that Dario Fo has brought the Francis’s message to modern audiences in a timeless, dramatic way, while casting new light on the famous Italian Franciscan monk.

But first, he explains why this was necessary.

Francis was born at the end of the 12th century and died at the age of 46. By then, he had created great embarrassment for the Church, simply because of the way he lived his life, explains Mario. He treated people in a genuinely Christian way and wanted to tell the Gospels in people’s own language rather than in Latin.

The Church hierarchy – what an awful word, he says – decided to rewrite the story of his life and, 50 years after his death, only one official account of his life was permitted by the authorities. That was written by a fellow Franciscan, St Bonaventure, who had been ordered to destroy many of Francis’s papers and write a sanitised biography. All other books on him were deemed heretical.

The Church was afraid of him, stresses Mario, and so decided to distance him from the ordinary people, by canonising him shortly after he died. Francis was the fastest saint ever produced in the history of the Church, being canonised within three years of passing on, says Mario. That took him away from ordinary people, as they felt they couldn’t aspire to such greatness.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Moycullen come up short against favourites in U-18 Boys National Cup Final



Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

Belfast Star 68

Moycullen 57

Moycullen came up short in the club’s first ever appearance in the U-18 National Cup Final, losing to a classy Belfast Star team that completed a club double, having won the U-19 title earlier in the day.


Moycullen entered the game as slight underdogs, and Belfast lived up to their status as favourites early on as they raced into an early 8-0 lead as Conor Quinn had the hot hand, connecting on two 3-point shots to start the game.

As the quarter wore on Moycullen began to settle into the game as Paddy Lyons and Stephen O’Brien in particular found their scoring touch as they combined for 13 points in the first quarter which Moycullen trailed 23-19.

The second quarter was another close affair as both teams really stepped up their defensive intensity with Sean Candon and Stephen O’Brien doing an excellent job defending Belfast two 6-8 inside players, while Darragh Mulkerrins, Mark Rohan and Paddy Lyons shared the responsibility of guarding Belfast’s Aidan and Conor Quinn.

Belfast held the slight lead at the end of the first half 35-32 with Conor Quinn leading the way for Belfast with a total of 17 first half points while Stephen O’Brien continued where he left off in the first quarter by scoring 16 first half points for the Galway team.

Belfast went on a scoring run in the third quarter, giving themselves a 10-point lead midway through the period. Belfast were doing an excellent job switching their defences as Moycullen’s usually free flowing offence really struggled to gain any sort of momentum in the 3rd period.

The introduction of Joseph Tummon off the bench seemed to settle Moycullen back into the game as he scored six straight points towards the end of the third period.


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

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