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New CEO already raising the bar for Connacht Rugby



Date Published: 30-Aug-2012

NEW Chief Executive of Connacht Rugby Tom Sears believes the real journey for the province is only beginning now as it bids to become one of the leading lights in European Rugby.

Sears, who took up the role two months ago, says the work already done by out-going CEO Gerry Kelly and others, particularly over the last 18 months, has laid a solid foundation and he is excited to be taking up the baton.

The appointment of Sears has been a shrewd one because, quite simply, this is the sort of project he revels in. A former journalist, Sears previously worked for both the RFU and Northampton Saints before switching codes to become commercial director of Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

In 2005, he moved to Derbyshire County Cricket Club and oversaw radical restructuring of the organisation and its finances, the redevelopment of its grounds and returning the club to profitability.

His innate ability to develop the commercial interests of sporting organisations was by now gaining him recognition worldwide and in 2008 he was appointed as Head of Business Development for New Zealand Cricket.

Two years later, he became Chief Executive of Cricket Kenya, where he commenced and developed the implementation of a new comprehensive strategic plan for the sport to deliver on both core objectives and results at elite levels while also nurturing the overall growth of the sport. Sound familiar?

“If you look at Connacht, I think they are very much at the start of a journey,” says Sears. “There has been fantastic work done over the last 18 months or so and a lot has been achieved, but this work is still very much in its infancy. For me, coming here was the opportunity to be a part of something really special, and really building something.

“You don’t get many opportunities like this, certainly in sport. You

could go into Leinster, you could go into Leicester, you could go into Northampton, but you are just a safe pair of hands really. You are not putting your stamp on things or really building anything. Here, it is a real opportunity to go through a massive building period and a real journey and take it from where it is now to, hopefully, one of the leading lights in European rugby, which I think is achievable.”

While the growth of Connacht Rugby is a priority – for without it, the revenue needed to challenge at the top level will not be available – he also recognises that Connacht Rugby is essentially a close-knit community with an almost familial feel to the Sportsground. Unlike the “faceless monolith” to be found in other places and in other sports.

“You have got to retain that [connection with the supporters]. That is absolutely key to everything we want to do, be it building the squad, developing the domestic game or looking to make improvements to the ground. You have got to retain that feel and the essence of Connacht Rugby because that is what makes this place so special.”

That is why he believes it is vitally important to have a strong club game where Connacht can bring its own players through to form the core of the senior squad. To this end, young players from around the county and province must be able to see a pathway for progression.

“We have got to look at every level of the game. From the first time a kid picks up a rugby ball through to his involvement with his local club and school to graduating to a senior club,” reiterates the Chief Executive.

“We have to look at every level because we must have a strong and thriving domestic game that will pay dividends and help us achieve at the top end of the professional game. And if we do that, we will have more people coming through who will have the ability to play at the top.”

Of course, where Connacht has fallen down in the past – and still does in many respects – is that it doesn’t have the same spending power as their rivals and, consequently, it has found it difficult to attract the big names of international rugby – recent signing and former Scottish out-half Dan Parks aside – to complement local talent like captain Gavin Duffy, John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor and Tiernan O’Halloran.

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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