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Laying the odds in ÔMellows countryÕ



Date Published: 25-Jul-2012


ASK Castlegar hurling trainer and city-based bookmaker John Walsh for his favourite memory from the Galway Races and he quickly recalls the day he tried to stop a six-year-old Katie Walsh from gaining access to the reserved Owners and Trainers area over 20 years ago.

Walsh spent 15 summers working at the Ballybrit course and, while on security duties, was under strict orders not to allow children into the reserved area at the back of the Corrib Stand without the required identification when young Katie tried to slip by him.

“This young one just looked at her watch as she passed me out,” he recalled this week. “I asked her if she had the required badge. She told me her dad was a trainer. When I asked for his name, she told me he was Ted Walsh (RTE TV pundit) and that her brother’s name was Ruby.

“Convinced at this stage that she was who she said she was, I let her pass through. Security wouldn’t have been too strict them days! I asked her had she any tips for the weekend. She told me that her Dad had a good horse running in the last race on the last day, about three days later. I remembered the horse and, sure enough, it came in at 6 or 7 to 1!”

Katie, of course, has since grown up to become one of Ireland’s leading amateur jockeys and came third on Seabass in this year’s Aintree Grand National. When John sees her on TV, he smiles as he remembers the tip he got from a six-year-old child.

Growing up in Mervue, the Galway Races were a highlight of the summer for John. He and his friends would ‘sneak’ into the course via the back of the old Digital plant in the Ballybrit Industrial Estate, although they were more interested in the ‘hurdy-gurdys’ such as the bumper cars in the middle of the course than the nags in those days.

In his late teens and 20s, he secured a coveted job at the track each summer. For ten years he would be on the course at 6am on each day of the Galway Races, ensuring the track was in pristine condition for the jockeys and horses.

“You would be out on the track at dawn and you’d meet the jockeys out walking, getting the ‘feel’ of the course,” said Walsh. “I worked there for 15 years and I was out on the course for ten of them. You’d have to be up there for 6am. You’d pick up the whips and get talking to the jockeys and they would give you the odd bit of information!

“You would be going around with buckets of sand, getting the surface right. I don’t envy them next week, with all the rain we’ve had lately, but I used to love being out there for the whole week. I miss being out there.”

Walsh opened a new bookmakers’ shop in Bohermore in January of this year, the fourth branch of the Best Bet chain he set up with his Mayo-based brother-in-law, Damien Lavelle, four years ago.

John had been in the car sales business at the time. Then pharmacist Damien took over a vacant bookmaker’s premises next door to his chemist in Belmullet, Co Mayo. John would help out when visiting with his wife Natalie and children Adam (now 10) and Joe (3) at the weekends.

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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