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

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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

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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

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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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