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Under starterÕs orders at Galway Greyhound Track

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Date Published: {J}

PADDY O’Gorman ambles forth, a wizened, aged man hardened by nature’s dithering mood swings and its long winter nights. The meandering contours of his friendly face read like the flowing lines of a first edition literary classic.

As a long serving employee of Galway Greyhound Stadium – over half a century of his life he has dedicated to the sporting cauldron – O’Gorman is as intricately linked to the venue as the venue is indelibly linked to him.

Those altruistic years of selfless service were acknowledged recently when Glenamaddy greyhound owner, breeder and now trainer, PJ Fahy took over the sponsorship of the race formerly known as the Galway Jacket and renamed it the Paddy O’Gorman Grand Prix.

For O’Gorman – the ever-present starter at the track – it was a pleasant surprise … one that truly overwhelmed him. “I was surprised,” admits the unassuming and shy pensioner, as he sits in the lobby of the stadium’s magnificent stand.

Outside greyhound circles, little is known about O’Gorman. That is no surprise given he is not a loud or brash individual but, quite simply, a man who revels in the simplicity of his life on College Road.

“I am a Galway native, College Road,” says Paddy. “I suppose, I started my career here in 1953 as a greyhound jockey. At the same time, my late mother Maureen used to sell the cards at the main gate.

“As a greyhound jockey, though, I would lead out the greyhounds. I was at that for a few years until I was appointed the official starter at the track. It was a move up the ladder. I have been doing that job for 56 years.”

No surprise, then, that O’Gorman has seen much change over the last six decades, watching on as the sporting landscape of the city’s most famous field was transformed almost beyond recognition.

“When I first started, there was just a long green shed and that was the stand. The kennels were just up against the back of the wall and the only heating system was two half tar barrels, with turf and timber burned in the winter.

“In the late 60s or early 70s, that progressed to the covered stand, which was in existence until the stadium progressed to what it is today.

“In the early days there was two nights of racing, Tuesday and Friday. Even then, they used to come from all over Ireland. In those days, you had dogs like Spanish Battleship. He raced in Galway, and I remember him dead heating with Portalar Lad one night. It was Spanish Battleship’s last race in his career. He was the only dog to win the Irish Derby three times in a row (1953 to ‘55). He was a very famous dog in the 50s.

“There were also other good dogs, such as the likes of Masonbrook Flier, Clear Lodge, Marco Polo, Grand Canal – he was an English Derby winner – and you had Peruvian Style, which equalled an Irish record for winning races in Ireland.”

Of course, there have been others, too many to mention, but looking towards more recent runners, O’Gorman says there is one breeding line that has taken the racing world by storm.

For more read page 51 of 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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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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