Date Published: 30-Dec-2009
THIS was some wake up call. Munster pounded the heretofore high-flying Connacht into submission on St Stephen’s Day at Thomond Park and, in truth, based on stats in the areas of territory, possession, discipline and the basic errors, the scoreline could and probably should have broken 60.
The Connacht squad will look to put this behind them as quickly as possible ahead of Saturday’s tussle with Leinster at the Sportsground, but the performance can’t be simply swept under the carpet either.
Both sides may have made nine changes and Connacht were always going to be at bigger disadvantage in that regard but key players, big name players, produced dreadful performances on Saturday and that is a major concern.
This was the first time all season that the Connacht management decided to rest key players in one big swoop for a big game.
It is by now universally acknowledged that last season’s ‘targeting games’ policy failed miserably and played a direct role in turning a promising campaign into an abject failure. Half century drubbings by Cardiff and Ulster plus an unforgettably miserable 75 point pelting by London Irish had a detrimental affect on squad morale and momentum during the campaign.
This season Michael Bradley and his team have abandoned that approach but with an eight game run in as many weeks there was always going to be a need for changes in one game during this stretch and Thomond was the obvious choice.
Still though, Connacht came in with a strong side, none of the replacements seemed risky and all were capable of making a case for regular starts ,yet what is now abundantly clear is that the westerners really can’t veer too far away from their first choice 15 without suffering a dramatic drop in performance.
That, however, is only half the tale as what will be more worrying for the brains trust in the Connacht camp is the hugely disappointing displays from the likes of George Naoupu, Niva Ta’Auso, Adrian Flavin, Conor O’Loughlin, Miah Nikora, Bernie Upton and Mike McComish.
Others like Johnny O’Connor and Keith Matthews were well short of their best but are only back from injury while bar Brett Wilkinson, Jamie Hagen and replacements Ronan Loughney, the debuting Dermot Murphy and, of course, Ian Keatley, no one played close to their best.
There was a collective failure made worse by some hopeless individual efforts.
Munster were ruthless in the first half hour and built up a 20 point lead with little fuss. Ronan O’Gara’s boot was laser-like, while Ian Dowling and the impressive Damian Varley scored tries.
Both tries, however, came from basic errors from Niva Ta’auso and Geroge Naoupu. Two of Connacht’s marquee stars who had been on top form in the previous two outings. Ta’auso’s attempted tackle on Tom Gleeson 16 minutes into the contest was not far off embarrassing and minutes later his fumble when a simple pick off the ground would have led to a try for Connacht was calamitous.
That mistake led to Dowling’s try, but Naoupu was on an even worse run. The former Highlanders number 8 gave away three sloppy penalties in the opening quarter, including one daft transgression at a ruck on Peter Stringer.
To compound matters, his lazy attempt at a shovel pass from the base of a scrum led to Varley’s try in the corner on 25 minutes which all but finished of the game as a contest. Munster won a penalty, kicked to the corner and drove over.
This was a Munster side with nine rested front liners. Young Billy Holland is just 24 and in the blindside flanker role, he completely dominated Naoupu and overshadowed the struggling Mike McComish throughout the contest.
To make matters worse, big kiwi number 8 Nick Williams was made to look class by the Connacht back row throughout.
Munster eased off either side of half time and Connacht did defend well in that period. There cause was helped considerably by the fact that Ian Keatley was brought into the fray much earlier than would have been planned as a result of Miah Nikora’s injury.
Nikora is young and learning but can Connacht really afford the time and patience in developing an expensive young talent from the Southern Hemisphere? His goal kicking has been horrible to date and he was anonymous on Saturday. One cameo in the 16 minute saw him hiding in a ruck when he was needed in the stand off role.
The middle period of the contest was encouraging. The management gave runs to local up and coming players Ronan Loughney and Dermot Murphy and they both grasped their chance well. Murphy in particular on his debut, looked comfortable and confident.
Yet in the end, Munster were given all the time and space they needed to get further tries from Paul Warwick and Jean De Villers to secure the bonus point. They would love to be playing sides like this Connacht XV every week in their new home with bonus points being handed out so easily.
The good news for Connacht is twofold. First of all, last year they would have capitulated and lost by 60 plus points. They didn’t and that is a small sign of progress.
Secondly the next three games are at home to Leinster, Dragons and Montpellier. All are winnable and after this display, it’s going to take a clean sweep to really get the belief train back on track.
The return of seven frontliners should hopefully help the men in green get back on track, but some key players need to make amends for this poor display for that to happen.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
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.