Sunday 25 September 2016

Versatile Gallagher is content to do the 'dog work' for Ireland U-20s

Sligo player has impressed in the Six Nations campaign and will play at this age grade again next year

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

Ireland's Cillian Gallagher only took up the game at 13
years of age. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland's Cillian Gallagher only took up the game at 13 years of age. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Regardless on one's provincial allegiances, it was difficult not to have felt a sense of satisfaction in seeing five Connacht players finish last Saturday's game against Italy.

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Despite their own relative youth, the likes of Robbie Henshaw, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane are already inspiring the younger generation of players coming through the system.

For Cillian Gallagher, a player who only took up the game at 13 years of age, he insists that the benchmark was set at the Aviva Stadium last week and he believes that it can become the norm to see such a healthy Connacht representation on the international stage.

"Someone like Ultan is mad. He is some man the way he's progressed onwards and onwards," Gallagher said.

"Only a year ago or a year and a half ago he was getting his first cap for Connacht seniors. I remember watching him come on and now the fact that he has got a call-up to the squad and because of injuries or whatever he has got a call-up to the starting team and he has proven why he is there because his performances have shown it.

"Going forward it's definitely something to aim for; five Connacht men at the end of 80 minutes on the pitch playing for Ireland there is no reason why not from now on.

"These lads (Ireland U-20 team-mates) will never let you go for it the fact that you are from Connacht. I don't think it is going to make much difference going forward. Playing for Connacht shouldn't be a reason why you cant play for Ireland or even compete."

The Sligo native grew up playing in the second-row but has found himself playing in the back-row throughout the Six Nations campaign.

It's a shift that has appeared to be seamless for a player who is again underage for the U-20s next year.

"I always played like a six would normally around the park, the only difference to me was scrummaging. So lineout-wise not much of a difference and around the park my role is pretty much the same," the former Summerhill College student maintained.

"It depends on what the team needs. I am doing a lot more tackling and a lot more dog work than I would be flashy carrying. I don't mind that if that's what's required, then that's what's required."

Gallagher has featured regularly for the Connacht Eagles in this season's British and Irish Cup campaign and he admitted that had a huge effect on bridging the gap to international rugby at U-20 level.

"The difference between B&I and U-20s especially is the physicality level. They're both very fast and they're both a step up from 2C in the AIL," he explained.

"But the U-20s is still a step down from the B&I physicality wise. When you play against the Championship teams like Jersey and Doncaster, they were huge - fully grown men.

"You come up against big sizes in U-20s but I feel a lot more confident going against them having played B&I all year.

"I suppose there's always that kind of thing, Ireland players are not big enough. We are bigger than usual but teams, especially I noticed against France, they are big but not so much against Italy the last day.

"It's not all about the size but it definitely helps when it comes to some things."

Irish Independent

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