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Physical test key to first ‘derby’ of the season



Date Published: {J}

Dara Bradley

A bumper crowd is expected at the Sportsground on Saturday (7.30pm) when Connacht look to keep the Magner’s League momentum going against Ulster, many pundits ‘dark-horse’ to win the competition outright this year.

The first three matches of the campaign have been extremely positive although results wise this is not Connacht’s best start to a new season (they recorded five straight wins at the beginning of the 2002/2003 season albeit against poorer opposition) – but a 40-17 home win against Newport Gwent Dragons; a massive encouraging performance that ended in a narrow defeat away to the Scarlets; and a first away victory in two and a half years last weekend against the Glasgow in Firhill, bodes well for the remainder of the year.

“We’re not getting carried away with ourselves. We’re going okay, there is confidence in the squad and I’m happy with the start. The lads are in a good place at the moment; it’s a tight-knit squad and we’ve set targets for ourselves but we won’t get carried away, Ulster are (second from) top of the league,” Connacht boss Eric Elwood told Tribune Sport this week.

Connacht last season at College Road was a t

otally different animal than when travelling (although the first two overseas matches this season suggests they have turned a corner in terms performing away from home), and they have lost just one of their last seven Magner’s League matches at the Sportsground.

But their record against Ulster at home and away is abysmal, and who can forget that clueless Connacht performance in September last year?

Even at that early stage last season it was billed as a potential Heineken Cup qualification decider but the home side failed to turn up and suffered a 30-6 hiding.

Connacht has only beaten Ulster on one occasion in the 13 meetings between the sides in the last seven years – a memorable 22-12 home win on New Year’s Eve in 2005 – but there is a renewed optimism within the province following their impressive start to the 2010/2011 season.

But Elwood wasn’t focused on the past this week and instead praised his players for their discipline against Glasgow and also for responding to the physical challenge posed by the aggressive Scots. He is expecting another bruising encounter against the northerners and has challenged his players to ‘front-up’ and meet the physical confrontation head-on.

“One of the key areas was to keep 15 players on the park and in fairness to the lads, our discipline against Glasgow was good – I felt we were good defensively and offensively. It would have been hard to have lost away again after the previous weekend against Scarlets . . . but the lads have a lot of confidence and self-belief now.

“We have a good home record but we don’t have a good record against them. We are very disappointed with the way we played against them last year but we’re not living in the past.

“If we can match them physically, and if we can match them up front – because that’s the way they play, they are very physical – then we’ll see. It’s a derby match and like all derby matches it will be physically demanding and we need to meet their physicality head-on.

“We have a great core of supporters at the Sportsground that the team and management appreciate. Obviously the lads respond to the crowd and they can influence decisions in matches like what happens when we are away so obviously we would be encouraging supporters to come along,” said Elwood.

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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