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Time for Connacht to throw caution to the wind

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Date Published: {J}

THESE are dog days at the Sportsground. A ninth consecutive defeat has left all involved with Connacht rugby feeling bruised and tender. It’s not the hole where Eric Elwood had anticipated his squad would end up at this stage of the season. This grim situation is killing them all – from Chief Executive Gerry Kelly down – but they are simply going to have tough it out.

The last thing Connacht need now is sympathy and platitudes. Eric Elwood, Gavin Duffy and all the rest of them are here to win. Losing hurts them badly despite the manner in which the dice is loaded against the men from the West. Nobody knows it better than them that the lack of budget and resources continued to screw the squad on the field, but they have no desire to hide behind those ready-made excuses for the province’s current woes.

The reality is that Connacht have been losing matches that they had chances to win and while it might be stretching things to suggest last Saturday’s Heineken Cup encounter against Gloucester was another one of those occasions, the home team had serious momentum early in the second back when pulling back an 11-nil deficit to one point, but once again they failed to drive on and were unable to close the deal.

Another big crowd of over 5,000 turned up at the Sportsground and though Connacht were once again admirably competitive, some typically poor decision-making – notably, Niall O’Connor’s baffling decision to opt for a garryowen in the last play of the game – and unforced errors continue to haunt them. It was a match that they had targeted, but Gloucester were the stronger outfit and had the possession and territory to prove it.

O’Connor’s early penalty miss from a relatively routine penalty wouldn’t have helped Connacht’s brittle confidence as the struggling English Premiership outfit established an 11-nil advantage by the 31st minute thanks to two Freddie Burns penalty and a close range try from James Simpson-Daniel. Connacht were in a bad place, but directly from the kick-off, Duffy pounced on a loose ball in midfield – the product of Ray Ofisa’s work in dispossessing Luke Narraway – for an opportunist try, converted by O’Connor.

When the Connacht out half reduced the deficit to the minimum soon after the resumption, the momentum was firmly with Elwood’s squad, but they just didn’t have the cutting edge to rattle Harlequins even more. Instead, the visitors gradually regained control of the exchanges, with Burns adding a third penalty, and spending virtually the last ten minutes deep inside the Connacht 22. In fact, they closed out the game with relative ease.

With the return Heineken Cup leg coming up on Saturday, followed by daunting Rabo Direct Pro 12 encounters against Leinster and Munster, there is no respite for Connacht in the short term. They looked a battle weary outfit by the close of the Gloucester match, while morale and confidence must be at seasonal low now. It’s an awful predicament and injuries aren’t helping either – they could have done with Michael Swift’s grunt and Johnny O’Connor’s tenacity at the weekend.

Yet, there is nothing to be served by the Connacht camp beating themselves up. They have to stick together, plough on and, hope, some day, the breaks will go in their favour. One thing for sure, this squad are no quitters and the bottom line is that they still have a chance of making history at Kingsholm this weekend by chalking up a first ever Heineken Cup victory.

Nobody will give them a chance but, if anything, the public mood should inspire rather than deflate them. It’s time for the underdogs to throw caution to the wind, especially in a fixture which most sees the outcome of as already a done deal. The Connacht players, however, must embrace the build up to the match in a positive light – the prospect of breaking new ground, rather than going out to avoid a tenth consecutive defeat.

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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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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