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Still blazing a trail on the local badminton courts



Date Published: {J}

IT is hard to put into context the impact David and Emer Lalor have had on the sport of badminton in Galway over the past 30 or so years. Throughout the late ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, both dominated the singles, doubles, and mixed categories within the county and provincial game, so much so that Emer, for a time, competed in the men’s competition.

Indeed, in early March, 49-year-old Emer rolled back the years when, having come out of “semi-retirement”, she claimed the Division 1 county senior ladies’ singles title, beating fellow Galway Lawn Tennis Club comrade Helen Sheehan in the decider. It was quite a comeback for Emer, who never realistically expected to lift the county senior singles title again after such a long time. What do they say though about class being permanent?

While Emer had played squash up to the late 2000s, unfortunately, 30 years of toil on the racquet courts eventually had begun to manifest in injury after injury in recent times. “Then I hurt my knee skiing two years ago and that kept me out for another while,” continues the mother of three.

“It has only been in the last few months that it has all come back together again for me. I started pilates and it was the pilates that brought me back to life from all those injuries. Now, I am going to stick at this as long as I can. I have had a little bit of success again this year. I won the county singles, and I hadn’t won that in a long time.”

That said, Emer (nee Dempsey) is no stranger to success, having really sprung to prominence in 1979 when completing a championship treble in the County Galway championships – winning the ladies’ singles, ladies’ doubles, and mixed doubles.

She also starred on the Galway team which won the Division 3 National Inter-County Championship, defeating Kerry in the final. Other badminton successes recorded by Emer that year included the Co Sligo ladies’ open singles championship and the Connacht close singles championship, all of which earned her a County Galway Sports Star Award in ’79.

Interestingly, her husband David – who also dominated the sport to the same extent for over two decades, winning countless number of county and provincial titles – secured the same award for badminton in 1982, before Emer reclaimed the Sports Star Award in 1987, having, once again, secured the treble at both county and Connacht championships.

To some degree, the ‘87 award also marked a comeback of sorts as the previous year Emer had taken a year out of the sport when pregnant with her eldest daughter, Karen. By this time, she was at the height of her powers, having dominated the sport between ’79 and ’85.

“I suppose, from ’79 to ’90, I was unbeaten in singles, although I did not play in ’86,” continues the GLTC and former Columban Badminton Club star. “In fact, I have not been beaten in singles in Connacht ever. In the ’90s, I kind of semi-retired, and I only really came back to the sport in the last few years.”

Indeed, by the late ’90s, participation levels had drastically decreased. It was a far cry from a decade previous when, during the height of the sport, over a thousand competitors would take part in the Galway championships, which boasted massive sponsorship deals from the likes of 7Up, Bank of Ireland, SuperValu and Eircell. Such was the sport’s popularity and prestige.

“Everybody played back then,” says Emer. “There was over a thousand people playing over six Divisions and it would go on for weeks. I don’t think it will ever come back to that. I think we were lucky to play in a time when it was good and it was competitive.

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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