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Olympics prove a real marathon for the couch potato



Date Published: 07-Aug-2012

 IT’S a wonder there isn’t a television channel filming people who are just watching the Olympics from the comfort of their couch – because, God knows, they covered every other possible angle of the London Games.

If you have a red button on your remote, you can indulge yourself in a long session of midnight gymnastics without leaving the chair; it’s a veritable feast for insomniacs who can while away the darkness by brushing up on the intricacies of archery or volleyball of either the traditional or beach variety.

Who knows how depressing this is for those who don’t love sport, but for those of us that do, it’s been like a ringside seat – but one which also offers easy access to the fridge.

The BBC has set the bar at an incredible height with its coverage of its home games, although RTÉ deserves honourable mention for the quantity and quality of its own efforts – particularly when you include radio in the mix.

Twelve live streams sounds like our summer of flooding, but it’s an incredible achievement from the national broadcaster and one that ensures our own athletes are front and centre for the duration.

And like every other Games in history, we’ve already had our own unheralded heroes – who would have thought we’d become so knowledgeable on the cut and thrust of laser radial racing, thanks to the exploits of Annalise Murphy?

Suddenly the world is pre-occupied with split times in swimming and PBs – or, in the case of that year old can suddenly in the case of that teenage Chinese flyer, how a 16 year old can suddenly swim faster than the speed of light.

And then there are the analysts; Andrew Bree particularly impressed on RTÉ’s swimming coverage and Mick Dowling and Bernard Dunne are fast becoming the Pope and Hook of the boxing world, but the big stars were naturally on the BBC.

One of the nights saw Gabby Logan host a panel that included John McEnroe – perhaps the most entertaining analyst/guest on any station on any sport – as well as Michael Johnson and the great Olga Korbut, the Sparrow from Minsk who stole the world’s hearts with at the Munich Olympics winning four gold medals as a tiny 17 year old.

Olga was only a slip of a thing when she was a superstar and she hasn’t grown much since – so much so that when she was delayed by traffic for the start of the show, McEnroe quipped that she’d slipped down the back of the couch.

The late night show is a more relaxing, reflective one where the big winners of the day have a habit of casually dropping in as though they were in need of a cup of tea. But it’s earlier in the day where the Beeb really shines.

If there has been a star of London 2012 – outside of those competing for medals – it’s been Clare Balding, who has once again demonstrated her rare talent for grace under pressure as well as a wry sense of humour … not to mention the courage not to hide her incredulity when the teenage Chinese swimmer shot down the pool like a bullet from a gun.

Her interview with the father of South African gold medal swimmer Chad le Clos was a classic, capturing the emotion of the moment through that rare ability on the part of the interviewer to realise that you’re the conduit and not the star. She is knowledgeable but never preaching, quick-witted, engaging and versatile, showing that she’s as comfortable perched high over a 50 metre pool as she in the parade ring at Ascot.

Ironically she has competition here from a woman who has enjoyed a similar career path – because Tracy Piggott may be more familiar to television audiences from her days in the winner’s enclosure but she has also shown herself to be a true pro on the Olympic front.

Cool and engaging, she is another who doesn’t want to show you how clever she is – rather she’s content to let the experts do the talking while she asks all the right questions.

On the analysts’ side of the couch, Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe has proven to be quite the star, not least for a range of clothing that suggests he has all the style counsel of a New York pimp – and the football panel with Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Robbie Savage have been the worst when they should shine as the most experienced.

Still, it’s been a feast for the sports fan with more channels than you could shake a stick at – and, thanks to Danny Boyle’s Ballinasloe roots, we even had rugby legend Noel Mannion snatching a starring role in the opening ceremony. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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