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The unsung heroes who restore your faith in sport



Date Published: {J}

The curtain has come down on another schoolboy soccer season – or, as parents might describe it, a crash course in local geography and finding fields in place you never knew existed.


But for every missed turned and sat nav failure, there is great reward. There are small clubs up and down the county and beyond who have facilities that they can rightly be proud of – all-weather pitches, proper playing surfaces and dressing rooms that would befit any professional operation around.

Of course if they were a professional outfit, all of that money would go to paying journeymen ‘professionals’ who play for the highest bidder. And they wouldn’t own a blade of grass because all of the money would go on wages.

In a week that FIFA dragged what little remains of the good name of football through the gutter, schoolboy football restores your faith in the Corinthian spirit, because there are coaches and officials who give their time and energy to a cause that will never see them in the spotlight.

And yes, that’s the same for those involved in the GAA or rugby or athletics or any sport you care to mention – it’s just that our boys play football.

They’re with Corrib Rangers who someday hope to have their own pitch; in the meantime they tog out in dressing rooms that will never feature on Grand Designs and at this time of year, they negotiate the daisies as frequently as the full-backs.

But there are people who have given their lives to that club, who turn up night after night in wind and rain just to watch the under-11s or under-12s do their level best.

There are coaches – in our case guys like Gerry Stiffe and Phil Trill, but they have compatriots in every small club in every corner of the country – who give so much of their spare time and energy into helping these young fellas improve their skills and knit as a team.

And they do it only out of the generosity of their hearts.

We’ve been the clubs like Ballinrobe where the parents of the opposition clubbed together to produce a groaning table of Supermacs goodies that were devoured by adults and hungry boys alike.

We were in Athenry many times where the hospitality just gets better every time you go there – and the coffee and snacks that kept out the cold earned our undying gratitude.

We were in Abbeyknockmoy and Carraroe, Kilkelly and Cregmore and every venue we went to shared the common thread of coaches and helpers that gave more to their club than anyone could reasonably ask.

At a time when the professional game is rotten to the core with money and dodgy dealing, it is positively uplifting to see first-hand how the game should be run and should be played.

The Corrib Rangers teams we were involved with didn’t win any trophies this year – in fairness they didn’t win any matches for a long time but we turned that corner towards the end – but the players got more than points from their season.

They know what it’s like to be part of a team, to work for each other and to know the joy of victory or how to deal with defeat.

Most of all they met people who showed them what community spirit is really all about.

So to the unsung heroes – the coaches and officials, the drivers and the kit men, who all play their part to nurture the stars (and the hackers) of tomorrow – take a bow. And enjoy the few weeks of down time until it all kicks off again in the autumn.

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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