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The agony and the ecstasy of being a fan of Chelsea FC



Date Published: 08-Nov-2012

Chelsea FC are Champions of Europe, FA Cup Winners, riding high in the league and playing beautiful creative attacking football. Everyone’s talking about Chelsea. Trouble is, nobody’s talking about football.

Being a True Blue Chelsea fan can drive a man crazy. Cancel that – you have to be crazy to be a Chelsea fan. Blimey, how embarrassing. It’s taken the 43 years since Dad first took me to watch Chelsea play to realise that.

Mind you, it explains a lot, like why it is that wherever I’ve lived in the world I’ve been drawn to those who subsequently turn out to be Chelsea fans. Be it in west Connemara or a bar in San Francisco, I’ve made friends who suddenly become top notch types, as they reveal their Blue hearts.

Nutters, every one of them, but as a nutter myself, I’m biased, and digressing. I’m steering clear of illustrating the pain of being a Chelsea fan. There have been moments of intense pleasure and pride alongside times when I just want to curl up and die of embarrassment. Maybe there’s a psychological reason why Blue is the colour? Even Chelsea’s good times test me to the limit.

When we made it to Wember-lee for the FA Cup Final in 1970, Chelsea had a team of flashy wide boys, whose exciting skills on the pitch were unburdened by any moral or intellectual substance. As excited as a 10 year-old can be, I went to the game with my Dad and watched the longest-ever Cup Final, which ended in a draw, followed by a replay.

For your young scribbler this was a disaster. All I’d wanted to do was to see Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris lift the cup for Chelsea, or failing that at least be at Wembley when somebody lifted the bloody cup, but no. Dad went to the replay up in Manchester four days later, but I wasn’t allowed to go. It was a school night.


The following year, when Chelsea beat the mighty Real Madrid to win the European Cup Winners Cup, my mum decided I should spend Chelsea’s night of glory stuck on a train to Devon to visit Aunty Sandy. Frantically trying and failing to find commentary of the game on a tiny transistor radio I clasped to my ear, I yet again missed the chance to experience Chelsea winning a trophy.

Later that year Dad and I went to Wember-lee again, where we watched Stoke City defeat Chelsea in the League Cup Final. At last I saw a captain lift a cup. Shame that his shirt had red and white stripes. I think I may have cried a bit, but consoled myself that it was only the League Cup and not the FA Cup, which then carried enormous cachet.

For the next 30 years Chelsea drifted around footballing backwaters, making exciting yet infrequent excursions out to win cups and play sexy football. Mixing anguish with triumph, they tortured us fans by confirming they could win when they could be bothered.

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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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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