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ConnachtÕs new Games Board already paying its way



Date Published: {J}

THE Connacht Rugby Professional Games Board are midway through their first full season in existence and it’s hard to argue against the idea that they have made some significant progress in developing the interest and reach of the game in the region during that time.

Directly or indirectly, they have played a roll in transforming the Sportsground from a rickety old ground, plainly unsuitable for hosting a professional rugby side, into a place that has character, atmosphere, comfort and a genuine feel of a cauldron on the biggest nights – as we have seen against Leinster, Harlequins and Toulouse.

That is just one of many off-the-field initiatives they have helped drive forward, but the board is mainly involved in structural long term planning, it’s the day to day staff that get their hands dirty and, to that end, they have done an immense job in recent months with significantly fewer staff than any other professional rugby side.

Their efforts appear to have paid off as more help and expertise is on the way. The PGB announced this week that they have created a new role under the title Head of Marketing. Dublin native Alex Saul is the man tasked with job. Since 2008, Saul was Group Sponsorship and Branding Manager for the Welsh Rugby Union and leaves that job for the West of Ireland.

Saul’s task and the job of all involved in marketing the Connacht rugby team is clear, managing the inevitable drop off in season ticket sales for next season, one year on from the Heineken Cup frenzy that saw the province secure a a 660% increase in sales.

A potential return to the Challenge Cup and the reality of Connacht’s long losing streak will make the task more difficult, but it’s Saul correctly identified in the official press release that he has “a great base to work with” in terms of the current support and will be well aware from the outset that the success of rugby in Connacht will be determined by the numbers who renew their tickets in the coming seasons.

International Recognition

Connacht players have got a fair amount of attention in terms of International rugby over the past week or so. Loosehead prop Brett Wilkinson made it to the 32-man Six Nations squad having featured for the Eric Elwood coached Ireland A squad against England on the Friday night.

Four other players were involved with the Ireland A side that lost 23-17, namely starters Gavin Duffy, Mike McCarthy and John Muldoon along with second half replacement Ronan Loughney.

Mike Ruddock’s under 20 squad for their clash with Wales in Dubarry Park, Athlone on Friday has four of the Connacht Grand Slam winning side involved. Buccaneers duo Shane Layden (full back) and Daniel Qualter (second row) and Corinthians pair Kieran Marmion (scrum half) and Aaron Conneely (open side). Congrats also to Ruth O’Reilly for Galwegians for making the Irish women’s 22 for their clash with Wales in Ashbourne.

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

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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