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Tragic passing of Tommy Keane stuns local soccer community

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 03-Jan-2013

 THE late Tommy Keane, who died suddenly last Friday, was widely regarded as one of the most gifted schoolboy soccer players ever to come out of Galway and has been regarded as a local legend ever since his starring role in Galway United’s FAI Cup success in 1991.

Keane, a native of Corrib Park, was the youngest member of the United team who captured the FAI Cup for the first and only time that May afternoon, and walked away with the Man of the Match award following the 1-0 victory over Shamrock Rovers at Lansdowne Road.

The sides were deadlocked with 86 minutes on the clock when the speedy winger whipped in a superb ball from the right for club captain and fellow Galway native Johnny Glynn to force home the game’s only goal, to spark off wild celebrations among the 7,000 or so fans who had travelled from the West for the final.

It was a fitting end to a wonderful campaign for Keane, who had scored in each of the earlier rounds against Shelbourne, Limerick, and St James’ Gate on the way to the final. Then United manager Joey Malone went on to describe Tommy as “probably the greatest player I ever worked with” after the breakup of that team.

Keane was seen as a special talent during his formative years with Corrib Rangers and West United, before current Queens Park Rangers boss Harry Redknapp – then in charge of Bournemouth FC – came to Galway to sign him as a teenager.

Eamon Howley of West United recalled that a special U-15 friendly was organised to allow Redknapp to check out the gifted youngster in the mid-1980s. Redknapp was hugely impressed by Keane’s talent and signed him on the spot.

Keane spent a few seasons with Bournemouth, before moving to Colchester United, but returned home to enjoy three fine campaigns with Galway United before spells at Sligo Rovers, Finn Harps, and Athlone Town.

He was a shy youngster, who let his football do the talking, but revelled in the atmosphere of a Galway United dressing-room which featured such talented locals as Eamon ‘Chick’ Deacy, one of his boyhood heroes, Noel Mernagh, Peter Carpenter, and Stephen Lally.

Derek ‘Buck’ Rodgers, who later won an FAI Cup medal with Keane in 1991, recalled this week that he was shocked to discover this relatively unknown youngster from Galway when they were both selected to play for the Republic of Ireland U-18 team against England in 1986.

“None of us knew anything about Tommy, but I will never forget when he turned up for the international in this bright Hawaiian-style t-shirt, while the rest of us were in tracksuits,” said Rodgers.

“There was pressure on the management to play him because he was with an English club and he hardly spoke a word for the two days.

“Tommy was a free spirit both on and off the pitch. He had the kind of talent which just could not be coached. He needed very little coaching and he could get goals out of nothing. He didn’t like training at the best of times, all he wanted was the big match days and the ‘craic’ with the lads.

“What an addition he was to that United side. He scored in every round of the 1991 FAI Cup up to the final. For two weeks up to the final, we kept practicing the same move in training with Assistant Manager Adrian Walsh. Tommy would cross the ball in from the right and it was the move which led to the winning goal. He was a thorn in the side of so many teams we came up against and he had unbelievable pace over 15 yards.”

Rodgers said United’s tactic at one stage was simply to “give the ball to Tommy”, because his form was so good, just as Manchester United play so much through the in-form Robin Van Persie this season. Tommy scored 26 goals during his three seasons with United, but rarely if ever spoke out in the dressing-room.

Before the Removal on New Year’s Day, one fan who is now in his 30s recalled that “in our house, Keane was like Diego Maradonna” while he was growing up. He was seen as the most gifted of a golden generation of Galway soccer players, many of whom enjoyed later successes with bigger clubs.

President Michael D. Higgins, the former President of Galway United FC, was among the large congregation at the Funeral Mass at the Sacred Heart Church, Seamus Quirke Road, on Wednesday; after the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) led tributes to Keane over the weekend.

Tommy had taken part in an indoor football tournament in memory of former player Noel Crowley at the OLBC Centre on Sea Road before he collapsed while making his way home to Ard an Choiste on the Headford Road.

He is survived by his partner, Paula O’Flaherty, son Tommy, parents Tommy Snr and Patricia, brothers Padraig, Mark, Derek, and Gerard, sister Philomena, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces, and a wide circle of friends.

For more about Tommy Keane see this week’s Tribune

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

BallinasloeÕs young squad aiming to floor Armagh junior champs

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

A new chapter in the history of Ballinasloe football will be written at Breffni Park, Cavan, on Sunday when Sean Riddell’s young side take on Ulster champions An Port Mor of Armagh in the All-Ireland Junior semi-final (2pm).

It’s the first competitive game outside the province of Connacht in 33 years for Galway football’s ‘sleeping giant’ with the enticing prospect of an appearance at Croke Park on February 9 on offer for the winners of what should be a competitive tie.

Ballinasloe have romped through Connacht since overcoming a couple of tricky hurdles on their way to collecting the Galway junior title, which was their target for the campaign this time last year.

With a return to Intermediate football secured, Riddell’s youngsters really have nothing to lose – while their triumphant march to county and provincial titles has revived memories of the club’s glory days when they contested three Galway senior finals in a row between 1979 and ’81.

Intriguingly, the seniors of St Grellan’s never got to play in Croke Park when they reached the All-Ireland final back in 1980 – they lost by 3-9 to 0-8 to St Finbarr’s of Cork in Tipperary Town.

This team’s progression has provided rich rewards for an abundance of hard work at underage levels in the past ten to 15 years and the current side’s ‘do or die’ attitude was very much in evidence in the cliffhanger wins over Tuam and Clifden in the domestic championship.

 

They are a well-balanced side who really never know when they are beaten and have an inspirational leader in county panelist Keith Kelly, whose exploits at centre back have been among the key components in their dramatic run to reach the All-Ireland series.

Riddell, who recalls playing senior football with the club during their heyday, is determined to get Ballinasloe back among the county’s leading clubs but, for the moment, he is delighted just to have a shot at getting to Croke Park in a bid to emulate Clonbur’s achievement in winning the title outright last year.

Riddell went to Newry on a ‘spying mission’ to see the Armagh champions overcome Brackaville of Tyrone by 2-9 to 0-11 in November – and was impressed by the quality of the football produced by An Port Mor in the Ulster final.

“They are a nicely balanced side who play good football,” he said. “There was a bit of the physical stuff you’d expect from two Ulster side, but I was impressed by their performance.”

An Port Mor became the first Armagh side to win the provincial junior decider. First half goals from Shane Nugent and Christopher Lennon sent them on the road to victory, before a red card for Brackaville captain Cahir McGuinness eased their progress to the All-Ireland series.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Coalition promised an ocean of reform Ð but the wind has gone out of its sails

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

CITY ENERGY COMPANY TO CREATE 12 NEW JOBS

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