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Well beaten, saturated and badly treated by gameÕs power-brokers



Date Published: 17-Dec-2012

Biarritz 17

Connacht 0

Rob Murphy at Parc  des Sports Aquilera

A try with the last play of the game on Saturday night might have put a bit of a gloss on the scoreline, but Biarritz were well worth their win in the Basque country in a fixture that was a farce of a contest from the very moment referee Leighton Hodges allowed it to kick off on a saturated pitch.

Everyone felt a little shortchanged in Biarritz late Friday night. At home and in the stands, basically everyone outside of the establishment that run European rugby, the ERC and Sky television, felt as though they had been caught by a hidden charge.

This wasn’t a meaningful game in anyway. Drawing conclusions is difficult, Biarritz won and that’s that. Connacht can take positives away from the contest and they can be criticised for their game plan too. Yet the rugby supporters home and in situ, the people who are essential to the product of professional rugby, were really treated like fools.

This game went ahead in conditions that no rugby match should be played. Surface water in five areas of the pitch. Rucks developed in those ponds on numerous occasions during the contest and referee Hodges let play go on.

We didn’t get a chance to ask any of the decision makers, whether they felt such a situation risks players safety but it’s legitimate to query as much when you watch a scenario like the one where Aled Brew, the Biarritz left winger, collected possession in a puddle, got tackled and found himself at the bottom of a pile of bodies with the very real risk of been submerged.

The whole event was a damning indictment of where priorities lie in the professional game today. Both sides made the best of it and the contest was aggressive, edgy and at, times, heated, especially in the first half as a home side, looking to put a week of upheaval behind them, went toe to toe with the side that humbled them seven days earlier.

The key score of the contest came with ten minutes to go in the first half when Ian Balshaw finished off a sweeping first phase move from a scrum on the ten metre line where a miss read in defence by Dan Parks was to prove crucial.

It was 10-0 at half time and remained that way right up to the last minute of play when Borutu rubbed salt in Connacht wounds with a second try. In fairness, to the home side, they had been over the line three times in the game and not scored so, maybe, 17-0 was a fair reflection.

‘A fair reflection of what?’ is the real question though, as this didn’t feel like a legitimate contest. Connacht came in as 15 point underdogs and while there was plenty of signs that this team continues to thrive, you couldn’t say they would have won this on a dry day either.

Biarritz were better in the return leg. Dimitri Yachvili was at his vintage best. In fact, it’s hard to remember a more complete and all encompassing performance by one man against a Connacht side in recent years.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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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.

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