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Clarke rolls back the years with shock Open win



Date Published: {J}

HE was regarded as yesterday’s man; a golfer past his prime and his best days long since behind him. Darren Clarke hadn’t contended at a Major for the best part of a decade and could have been backed at up to 200/1 to claim the British Open at Royal St. George’s last week. He was one of the real long shots for the tournament and was generally regarded as having a snowball in hell’s chance of outright victory.

The 42-year old Co. Tyrone native had been tumbling down the world rankings (111th) in recent seasons, but did provide a reminder of his former prowess last May with a surprise success in the modest Iberdrola Open in Mallorca. It was Clarke’s 20th career tournament success and appeared a fitting postscript to a golfer who also had six top 10 finishes in Major championships and an admirable Ryder Cup record.

Since that triumph in Mallorca, Clarke had drifted ominously back into the pack. He was tied 45th at the BMW; 63rd at the Welsh Open, missed the cut in the French equivalent and was tied 66th at the Scottish Open. It was hardly a portent of what to come at the famed Kent links in mid-July, but the Dungannon man bucked those low expectations by thriving in the windy and often brutal conditions.

An opening round of 68 had Clarke in the mix from the start and after another two under par round, he ended up sharing the half-way lead with American Louis Glover. The cynics were now waiting for him to fade away as only six previous golfers in their forties had landed a maiden Major, while they hadn’t forgotten either that Clarke had failed to close the deal when in a strong position in previous British Opens, at Troon in 1997, and Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001.

But Clarke never lost his composure over the weekend and a third round 69 left him one stroke ahead of the long-hitting Dustin Johnson, who carried a three stroke into the final round of last year’s US Open only to crash to an 82 and plunge down the field. Unfortunately, there was more heartbreak for the American a couple of months later in the US PGA at Whistling Straits.

Johnson was coming down the last hole and only needed a par to carry the day, but he grounded his club in a scrubby patch of sand which he wasn’t aware was a designated bunker. The consequence of not knowing the local rule was a two-shot penalty and, with it, his chance of a first Major. It was little consolation to Johnson that the vast majority of observers didn’t think it was a bunker either.

The big concern heading into the final round at Royal St. George’s was could Clarke hold his nerve? He went on to answer those doubts emphatically with another unflappable performance, characterised by excellent driving, good shot selection and quality putting. A couple of lucky breaks, especially when his second shot hopped over an uninviting bunker on the approach to the ninth green didn’t do any harm either.

Clarke’s holing of a difficult par putt on the first sent him on his way. A routine birdie on the second followed and though he gave a shot back at the fourth, the Northern Ireland golfer remained unnerved. Of course, the British Open is synonymous with final day charges and though Phil Mickelson’s record in the event over the years has been poor, the popular American was starting to shoot the lights out on the front nine, highlighted by an eagle at the par five seventh.

When Mickelson birdied the tenth to go six under for the tournament (and his round), it appeared he was unstoppable, and now the man to beat. But he came unstuck at the very next hole, bogeying from less than two feet and that error really knocked the wind out of the triple Masters winners’ sails as he dropped three more shots on the back nine to end up sharing second with Johnson.

Mickelson had, at one stage, jumped into a share of the lead but when Clarke also holed out for a brilliant eagle at the seventh, he had regained control of the tournament. From there home, he was as steady as a rock and still finished three shots clear despite the mini-disappointment of dropping shots at the final two holes. Clarke had been in the firing line from the start and as a renowned ‘wind player’ keeps the errors to the minimum in finally landing the first Major of a once-great career which has now been resurrected in spectacular position.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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