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Working hard to promote Olympic Handball in Ireland



Date Published: {J}

IF you asked most Irish people what they know about Olympic Handball, they might have a dim recollection of playing the sport in primary school or in the Community Games in their childhood. Simply, even as a minority sport, it is in the minority.

Hard to believe, then, that Olympic Handball, according to Irish Development Officer and Rahoon native Lisa Regan, has the second highest participation levels in men’s sport on mainland Europe and that it is the No. 1 sport played by women on the continent.

Indeed, a cursory run of the fingers over the TV remote and you will, more than likely, find the game being aired on Sky Sports or Eurosport on any given evening. Yet, little is known about Olympic Handball in Ireland, although the game has, for want of a better word, a “cult” following in the likes of Dublin, Kildare and Meath and remote outposts such as Clifden and Tralee.

However, Olympic Handball, which first found its way to Irish shores in the late 1970s, has been played at some time or other in almost every national school in Ireland, including Galway, where Craughwell National School principal Dara Mannion has organised and spearheaded the inter-school competitions in recent times.

Charged, though, with elevating the game in terms of development and promotion nationwide is Galway native Lisa Regan, who is one of only three full-time officers who run the Irish Olympic Handball Association (IOHA). The other two are General Manager and Clare native Lúcás Ó Ceallacháin and Administrator Susan Moloney from Walkinstown in Dublin.

Having just returned from Serbia, where she watched Denmark claim the European senior men’s title with a final victory over their hosts in front of a packed arena of almost 25,000 people, Regan chats enthusiastically about a sport she readily admits she knew nothing about a year ago.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” she smiles bashfully. “However, it is the biggest team sport after football on mainland Europe and the biggest for women. It is actually a really good sport and anyone who plays it genuinely loves it. It is a very inclusive game and there are so many goals scored.”

Played mostly on an indoor court, teams comprise of seven players, including a goalkeeper, with games lasting 60 minutes, 30 minutes a half. A squad is made up of 16 players and these freely rotate in and out of the contest throughout the hour “because it is such a physically demanding game”, she says.

Regan joined the Association as Development Officer in July of last year, having previously worked as a sales manager in the Kingfisher Gym in NUI Galway. She is an Arts graduate from the College (2006) and later she worked as a staff journalist with the Galway Independent for two years before taking a career break to travel Asia and Australia in 2009.

While her role with the IOHA may represent a seismic shift in terms of a career change, Regan has always had a keen interest in sport. It wasn’t from the wind that she took it either, given her father is the one and only Tony ‘Horse’ Regan, former Sports and Recreation Officer at NUI Galway, while her brother Tony Óg is a member of the Galway senior hurling panel and her sister Susan once lined out for Galway’s minor camogie team.

Lisa, herself, also played camogie – the former corner back winning a Connacht junior title with Salthill – while, in Salerno Secondary school, she also participated in hockey. In later years, she has taken part in running and triathlon races, while she is currently secretary and PRO of Rahoon/Newcastle Hurling Club and is an active member of Galway Hurlers Supporters Club.

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

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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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