Date Published: 09-Aug-2012
Amazing how radically perceptions can change after just one game. A Galway side regarded by many as big game ‘chokers’, whose 2012 campaign was said to be all about building for the future, suddenly find themselves as red hot favourites going into a first All-Ireland semi-final in seven years when they take on Cork at Croke park on Sunday (3.30pm).
High expectations have rarely rested easily on maroon shoulders, but the manner of the sensational ten point win over Kilkenny in last month’s Leinster final has not only changed perceptions about this Galway team, but blown the 2012 title race wide open – even if the ultimate winners are still expected to come from the second semi-final on Sunday week.
Reaching the last four means that Galway manager Anthony Cunningham and his Cork counterpart Jimmy Barry-Murphy, both in their first year in charge of young sides in transition, have already met their targets for the year.
Chances like next Sunday’s have not come around too often for either county in recent years, however, so all talk of ‘blooding’ for the future has been put on hold in both camps ahead of what has the makings of a mouth-watering tie.
The big question mark hovering over the men in maroon is whether or not they can match the intensity of the superb Leinster final performance, when little was really expected of them against the All-Ireland champions. There was a surreal atmosphere around GAA HQ last month, as Kilkenny were shell-shocked at the end of a first half in which the Tribesmen led by 2-12 to 0-4.
A supposedly suspect defence was transformed as the men in maroon swarmed around the champions with the kind of venom which is supposedly alien to the Tribesmen, epitomised in the excellent performances of David Collins, Niall Donoghue, and Johnny Coen.
The phenomenal work-rate extended to the attack, where Portumna duo Joe Canning and Damien Hayes consistently tracked back to help out their defenders and midfielders.
Kilkenny had no answer to the mobility of the Galway forwards, with Cyril Donnellan and Niall Burke also playing pivotal roles.
Young David Burke (with 4-4 in the championship so far) has revelled in his transformation from a midfielder to a wing-forward this year, while promising St Thomas’ corner forward Conor Cooney also represents the superb wave of underage talent coming through right now for the Tribesmen.
The Galway players and management did not over-celebrate that shock victory over the Cats and they went back to the clubs for a full round of local championship action the following weekend.
They have had five weeks to prepare for this showdown with a Cork side who have emerged with momentum through the qualifiers after suffering a one point defeat to Tipperary (1-22 to 0-24) in the Munster semi-final.
If Galway can match the work-rate of July 8, despite the question marks which still hover over their defence, they should be good enough to reach their first All-Ireland final since 2005.
It is a measure of how much things have changed that only three members of the starting 15 from the 1-21 to 1-16 defeat to Cork in that year’s final – Hayes, Collins, and Tony Og Regan – are set to start on Sunday.
There was good news on Tuesday night when inspirational wing-forward Donnellan returned to limited training. The Padraig Pearses man, who scored five points in the Leinster final, chipped a bone in his lower arm a week after the Leinster final. His form this summer has been phenomenal, but he remains a serious doubt for Sunday.
At least, as Galway selector Tom Helebert confirmed this week, the Tribesmen have no other injury worries as they aim for a third consecutive championship win over the Rebels – they also beat Cork in the 2009 and 2011 qualifiers.
“We are leaving a decision on Cyril until the end of the week to give him every opportunity to get over his injury,” said Helebert.
“He is positive and upbeat. He would be very disappointed to miss out, but the injury happened four weeks ago, so it’s not going to be a shock if we have to field without him. Hurling is no longer a 15 man game and we’ve used the bench in all of our games.
“Everybody else is 100% and the mood has been great in the camp since the full round of club games. Almost all of those games had meaning and it was great for the lads to get back to their clubs after the Kilkenny game. It wasn’t a case that they could rest on their laurels after the Leinster final.”
See more articles previewing the semi-final in this week’s Tribune
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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
Galway have lot to ponder in poor show
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
FRANK FARRAGHER IN ENNISCRONE
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.
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013