Date Published: 07-Feb-2013
ABarna woman, who is to the fore of the British rowing success story at present, could be one of Team GB’s senior coaches at the next Olympics after being accepted onto an elite coaching apprenticeship programme run by the country’s high performance sports agency, UK Sport.
No doubt, former Jes’, NUI Galway and Ireland rower, Neasa Folan is making an impact across the Irish Sea and her selection as one of just 12 elite coaches – chosen from Olympics, Paralympics and Winter Olympics – to partake in the two-year programme underlines the esteem she is held in.
To some, working with the cream of Britain’s emerging Olympic talent may seem like a dream job but 36-year-old Folan laughs: “The reality of being out on the river when it is minus five takes some of the dream out of it.”
In essence, what Folan does is spot potential talent through an “alternative recruitment scheme” – outside of the sport’s established structures – for GB Rowing. She is one of a dozen ‘Start’ coaches employed to identify people who have the physical and mental capability to be an Olympian.
Along with meeting the selection criteria, such as height a
nd fitness, candidates are usually high achievers already and show they have the application to undertake a strenuous programme that will take them through all the various stages of development right up to senior and, possibly, to winning medals at the Olympics.
“It (the system) is originally based on some of the East German recruitment programmes but we are probably a little bit more diplomatic and democratic,” chuckles Folan. “We obviously have 10 or 12 years of information on thousands upon thousands of people we have tested already and only really a handful ever come through to get into a medal.
“Probably, the best examples were some of the women at the London 2012 Olympics. Four out of the six gold medallists had been recruited and developed through the Start programme. So, it is proving itself to be a successful recruitment stream for GB rowing alright.”
For her part, Folan, who works out of Moseley Boat Club, was delighted to see one of her former protégés, Mohamed Sbihi, win a bronze medal in the men’s eight in London. He was originally discovered in 2003 when he was tested at his school, Hollyfield in Surbiton.
“We know when we get someone in, how long it will take them to develop, based on where they are at, or where they have come into the programme, or based on their level of fitness and what they have done before [in sport] as well. There is no magic in it. It is down to good structure and support and the consistency of those.”
In any event, other sports in Great Britain have begun to look at rowing – which claimed nine medals, including four golds at London 2012 – and embrace some of the principles they use. Folan remarks, though, that high performance in the UK is “uncompromising” and that there is an expectation of hard work from the athletes because they are being given an opportunity. Of course, it does not always work out.
“It takes 10,000 hours – or at least six years – to develop an Olympian. So, there is quite a long time to wait for a return on your investment. You are investing in two or three years down the line and often you will get athletes to a point where they are ready to make the breakthrough onto the [senior] team and they just decide it is not for them anymore. That can be frustrating because you after putting in so many years of work. That is why you run with several athletes at a time.”
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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
Galway have lot to ponder in poor show
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
FRANK FARRAGHER IN ENNISCRONE
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.
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013