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Get over your snobbery – it’s a Skoda



Date Published: 10-Jun-2010

We are still a bunch of car snobs in this country. This week I’ve been testing the Skoda Octavia RS Combi TDi which is one of the most complete cars you can buy no matter what your criteria and yet people came up to me saying things like; sure it’s only a Skoda. To be honest, I couldn’t care less what badge was stuck on this car; it is one of my favourite cars and would certainly be in my top five to buy.


We motorists have been spoiled in recent years by the level of specification that we enjoy in all sorts of cars. It is one of the plus points from the ‘money no object’ period that we enjoyed before the ball was punctured. We wanted more gadgets, more safety devices and more performance from our cars. Now we have to be a bit more practical and a bit more aware of our environment, Car manufacturers have been doing their part but if you still want fun, practicality and the comforts we have become attached to, then this is the car for you. And it has got guts too.


Skoda calls it ‘Responsible Fun’ and that pretty much sums it up. You get 170bhp from the 2.0-litre TDi engine. It is punchy, smooth and matted to a six-speed gearbox; the RS loves the open road and still has the range to tackle the twisty stuff with a sense of enjoyment that you would expect from a hot hatch.


The handling is safe, sharp and accurate. This comes from the suspension setup that Skoda employs. The front axle and the front shocks and springs are tuned to be stiff enough for the car to crisp in the cornering yet comfortable on broken surfaces. The rear axle with three transverse stabilisers delivers the same stiffness and comfort as the front. You get the best of all worlds; the handling is sporty, the steering is precise and the grip is outstanding.


My test car came with a long list of standard devices. It had ESP, Dual-Zone Climate Control, Bluetooth, a Bolero Touch Screen Audio system with an integrated 6-CD changer and SD and MMC card reader, rear parking sensors, roof rails and LED daytime driving lights. Add Cruise Control, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, rain sensing wipers and you can see that Skoda don’t spare the goodies in this car. I was disappointed though that it didn’t have steering mounted controls for the radio and sound system. It is the one glaring omission from the specification. Nevertheless, as an optional extra I did get leather upholstery and 18” Alloy wheels.


Of course, this car is an estate and you get the added value from the additional space that that implies. Needless to say the rear seats also fold flat creating even more room for luggage or cargo. There is a bit of a lip at the back that requires you to lift items over at into the rear but it’s hardly a deal buster.


As we have now come to expect from all Skoda products this car is well bolted together. Safety levels are reasonably high with four airbags, two Isofix fittings in the rear and activating warning lights under severe braking.


Economically the RS delivered 6.3L/100kms. Skoda quotes 5.7L/100kms in their own literature which would be hard to match because this car just wants to be driven. CO2 emissions are 150g/km, which puts it into Tax Band C and an annual road tax bill of €302. Maximum output is 125kW at 4,200 rpm and an impressive maximum torque of 350 Nm from 1,750 to 2,500 rpm.


You can have this car with a DSG automatic gearbox and in saloon form too if you don’t want that estate. There is also a petrol version with a cracking 2.0-litre 200bhp engine. When you add it all up you would expect to be paying well over €30,000 for a car like this. You will be impressed to know that the list price for the Skoda Octavia RS Combi is €28,615 which is about €1,000 more than the saloon. I think that is terrific value for money for such a complete car and you are getting a great big dollop of fun thrown in for good measure.


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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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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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