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Weakened Connacht take a pounding

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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.

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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The tough Galway hurler who stood up to Christy Ring

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

FORMER Galway hurler Ned Quinn may be due to celebrate his 90th birthday in May, but his humour and mind is as sharp as ever. Yes, the good days bleed into the bad – and vice versa – but the essence of the Ardrahan man burns brighter than ever.

In the foyer of Kilcolgan Nursing Home, Ned, accompanied by his daughter Irene, sits patiently waiting. He says he is only 5ft10” but he has the aura of man of far greater stature. He later explains that he did a bit of boxing in his youth and, looking at him, it does answer a few questions.

On this day, Ned’s health is betwixt and between but, even so, his humour is truly captivating and, before the interview concludes, he chuckles: “What kind of a cash prize did they give you to talk to me? Ah, I am only joking.”

The answer furnished was quite simple, if not a little on the manipulative side. “They told me you would tell me the truth about Christy Ring?” Ned relaxes with a wry smile.

Do you remember it Ned? “I think I do.”

 

Where you involved? “Maybe a little.” He pauses. “We won’t go back on it.”

Folklore has it that, after Galway’s defeat to Cork in the 1953 All-Ireland final, there was a couple of dust-ups between the respective players back at the Gresham Hotel. The first happened in the aftermath of the game that evening before Ring was left on the seat of his pants in another ‘frank’ exchange the following morning. That was the point Ned was understood to have entered the ‘debate’.

In many respects, it all stemmed from Galway’s disappointment and frustration. Earlier in the day, they were defeated 3-3 to 0-8 by the Leesiders and it still irks the former half-back that they put more scores on the board but lost the game.

“We had no luck on the day,” says the 89-year-old, who alludes to a high profile incident in which Galway defender and captain Mickey Burke was taken out of the game . . . allegedly, by Ring. “He (Ring) got away with murder on the field,” says Ned. “I mean, sure he could knock down anyone he wanted and get away with it.”

Ned believes that, because Ring was such a legend, he was given more leeway by referees and officials. “He was a crowd favourite . . . even with the great Tipp team that time, he could do what he liked with them. And he did do what he liked with them. He would give you a sup of the hurl any way he could – just as he was passing you out. Ah, he could handle himself.”

You get a sense that Ned has come to appreciate that and when it later comes to citing his greatest hurlers of all time, Ring tops the list. No wonder then the Galway game-plan going into that All-Ireland in ’53 was to keep the ball away from him but that was easier said than done.

At any rate, Ned says Galway’s luck was just not in that afternoon. “Every team needs a bit of luck on the day. The first goal was a kind of mystery goal. It went out beside his (goalkeeper Sean Duggan’s) ear and straight into the goal. Then the other two should have been cleared in time.

“I was playing in the half-back line when Burke was knocked down. Ring laid him out. Burke had to go off, he was badly hurt. Teeth or stitches. I was sent out on Ring then and I wasn’t going to stand for the same treatment, no, no. I was ready for him. Of course, we had a few words.”

Ned, who was on the Galway minor squad of 1941 but did not make his senior debut for Galway against Laois until 1949, played against Cork just once after that and he says it was “a cynical game”. He notes, though, that the 1953 final was certainly a missed opportunity to take the Liam McCarthy Cup back West.

That said, the father-of-two – Ena is his other daughter – did enjoy his days in the maroon and white, just as he did in the colours of his native Ardrahan, with whom he appeared in three county finals, winning just the one against favourites Loughrea in 1949.

That 1-9 to 2-2 county final win, played in front of a record hurling final crowd, was Ardrahan’s first senior championship victory in over 40 years and it was built on a rock-solid defence, marshalled by centre-half back Ned. Other prominent figures were Miko McInerney, Colm Corless, Paddy Hoarty, Simon Moylan, Bill Joe Coen, Sean Bermingham and Lowry Murray.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Killimordaly sunk in a mudbath as Gabriels advance

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

St Gabriel’s (London) 2-12

Killimordaly 2-11

(After Extra-Time)

STEPHEN GLENNON AT ST BRENDAN’S PARK, BIRR

London champions St Gabriel’s – backboned by nine former Galway club players – recorded yet another famous win over Galway opposition when defeating Killimordaly in an exciting All-Ireland intermediate club semi-final played in biblical conditions at St Brendan’s Park in Birr on Sunday.

Having overturned Galway teams like Ardrahan and Kiltormer in previous All-Ireland campaigns in past decades, the London champions once again rolled back the years with a performance of true grit and courage to account for a Killimordaly side who will feel unlucky to have exited the competition in such a manner.

Quite simply, the conditions on the day were so atrocious, this contest became somewhat of a lottery. Two torrential downpours before the game were punctuated theatrically by a period of thunder and lightning and, as a result, it was not long before the luscious green sward in Birr was turned into a murky mud bath. Indeed, the scenes in extra-time were something akin to an old World War II movie.

In any event, it was St Gabriel’s who eventually emerged victorious from the trenches, with their heroics in almost sub-zero temperatures in extra-time finally breaking the shackles of a gutsy Killimordaly, who, reduced to 14 men at the beginning of the second half, did well to force extra-time.

It had looked as if two wonder points from Birr native Neil Rogers – free and play – along with an outstanding effort from Kevin Walsh in the first period of extra-time was going to be enough for the Exiles as they took a commanding three-point lead, 1-12 to 2-7, but then Tom Monaghan’s men –as they did on numerous occasions – came roaring back into the tie with four superb points of their own.

Indeed, the first from substitute and captain Iomar Creaven – returning from injury – could have found the net but his effort flew high above Aidan Ryan’s crossbar. Still, the score lifted Killimordaly and further points from the lively Eanna Ryan – play and free – and Andrew Daly nudged the Galway men into a 2-10 to 1-12 lead with the remaining 10 minutes of extra-time to play.

However, fortune favours the brave and when Gabriel’s Walsh was taken down 25 metres from goal, full-forward and freetaker Martin Finn called upon the wet conditions to be his ally and he smashed home a low effort to snatch the lead for the Londoners on 72 minutes.

 

With another downpour having just added to the chaos – and underfoot conditions worse than a pig sty – the closing eight minutes or so just became a war of attrition. So much so, the players spent more time rooting for the ball in the mud than executing the skills of the game and it was not a surprise that there would be only one more score.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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