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Modest local heroes who must never be forgotten



Date Published: {J}

Two of the most decent men Galway has known went to their reward far too early in the past ten days, sharing a handful of common attributes that set them apart from most of the rest of us – not least their decency, their integrity and their modest, unassuming nature.

We buried our great friend and colleague John Cunningham last week on an overcast day in Salthill; if he’d been in the whole of his health, you know he’d still have been walking the Prom.

One of those who came to his removal was Eamon Deacy, a local hero in every sense of the word who was to shock the city to its core when word of his own death became known on Monday morning.

Chick Deacy would have been a sporting legend in any era, but his shy, self-effacing nature meant he hid his light under a bushel. He walked the streets of his beloved city, and it was left to fathers to point out to their sons: “There goes the greatest footballer Galway has ever produced.”

Who would know that this quiet man had a League Championship medal with Aston Villa – one of a squad of just 14 who played that 1981 season – and a European Cup medal to boot?

What an utterly inspired choice he was for the Galway Sports Stars Hall of Fame award just a month ago – and how he spoke that night with a voice and an authority that we had rarely heard off the field of play.

The other thing that John Cunningham and Eamon Deacy shared was the knowledge that, at the end of the day, everything came down to the local. They were of Galway and part of the fabric of Galway – in different ways perhaps, but both boasting that absolutely integrity that is all too rare.

John edited the Connacht Tribune for 23 years, worked here for 45 – but, as he might say himself, that’s just a statistic. The real story was how he shaped the paper, and how he devoted almost all of his working life to its betterment and development.

Eamon Deacy achieved his ambition to play at the highest level and then he came home – a quiet hero who returned to his local club Galway Rovers, the club he played for on their first day in the League of Ireland and for whom he scored the first ever senior goal.

He could have stayed at Aston Villa – then one of the top sides in European football – or he could have followed the money to another big club. But money and glory were never his motivation and he returned, never to play the superstar but yet every inch a sporting hero.

It’s easy to get maudlin over the death of good friends and it can be self-indulgent when you’re fortunate enough to have the newspaper space on which to do it.

But the crowds that came to both funerals showed that these were two people who touched the hearts of their city and county, and who went to their undoubted reward far, far too soon.

We live in an era of egotistical footballers and unethical journalism, when the money is all consuming for one profession and the end result – however attained – is all that matters for the other.

The Leveson Inquiry in the UK – coupled with the long queue of celebrities and private citizens waiting for their pay-out from the News of the World phone hacking scandal – puts all of the worst excesses of the newspaper industry into the spotlight.

Equally, the disgraceful actions of Luiz Suarez, and perhaps John Terry, show footballers to be overpaid, ignorant bigots.

We shouldn’t generalise but these professions too also boasted people like John Cunningham and Eamon Deacy, men who were as far from the megalomania and madness as you could possibly be.

John Cunningham knew that and he was aware that, even when a court case was going into the paper, there were others outside of the convicted person who would be hurt by it – his or her parents, children, relations; people who did nothing wrong and whose only connection was by marriage or birth.

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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