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Working hard to promote Olympic Handball in Ireland



Date Published: {J}

IF you asked most Irish people what they know about Olympic Handball, they might have a dim recollection of playing the sport in primary school or in the Community Games in their childhood. Simply, even as a minority sport, it is in the minority.

Hard to believe, then, that Olympic Handball, according to Irish Development Officer and Rahoon native Lisa Regan, has the second highest participation levels in men’s sport on mainland Europe and that it is the No. 1 sport played by women on the continent.

Indeed, a cursory run of the fingers over the TV remote and you will, more than likely, find the game being aired on Sky Sports or Eurosport on any given evening. Yet, little is known about Olympic Handball in Ireland, although the game has, for want of a better word, a “cult” following in the likes of Dublin, Kildare and Meath and remote outposts such as Clifden and Tralee.

However, Olympic Handball, which first found its way to Irish shores in the late 1970s, has been played at some time or other in almost every national school in Ireland, including Galway, where Craughwell National School principal Dara Mannion has organised and spearheaded the inter-school competitions in recent times.

Charged, though, with elevating the game in terms of development and promotion nationwide is Galway native Lisa Regan, who is one of only three full-time officers who run the Irish Olympic Handball Association (IOHA). The other two are General Manager and Clare native Lúcás Ó Ceallacháin and Administrator Susan Moloney from Walkinstown in Dublin.

Having just returned from Serbia, where she watched Denmark claim the European senior men’s title with a final victory over their hosts in front of a packed arena of almost 25,000 people, Regan chats enthusiastically about a sport she readily admits she knew nothing about a year ago.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” she smiles bashfully. “However, it is the biggest team sport after football on mainland Europe and the biggest for women. It is actually a really good sport and anyone who plays it genuinely loves it. It is a very inclusive game and there are so many goals scored.”

Played mostly on an indoor court, teams comprise of seven players, including a goalkeeper, with games lasting 60 minutes, 30 minutes a half. A squad is made up of 16 players and these freely rotate in and out of the contest throughout the hour “because it is such a physically demanding game”, she says.

Regan joined the Association as Development Officer in July of last year, having previously worked as a sales manager in the Kingfisher Gym in NUI Galway. She is an Arts graduate from the College (2006) and later she worked as a staff journalist with the Galway Independent for two years before taking a career break to travel Asia and Australia in 2009.

While her role with the IOHA may represent a seismic shift in terms of a career change, Regan has always had a keen interest in sport. It wasn’t from the wind that she took it either, given her father is the one and only Tony ‘Horse’ Regan, former Sports and Recreation Officer at NUI Galway, while her brother Tony Óg is a member of the Galway senior hurling panel and her sister Susan once lined out for Galway’s minor camogie team.

Lisa, herself, also played camogie – the former corner back winning a Connacht junior title with Salthill – while, in Salerno Secondary school, she also participated in hockey. In later years, she has taken part in running and triathlon races, while she is currently secretary and PRO of Rahoon/Newcastle Hurling Club and is an active member of Galway Hurlers Supporters Club.

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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