Wednesday 21 March 2018

Gallagher retirement a 'sad day' for Donegal

Neil Gallagher made 140 inter-county appearances for Donegal. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile
Neil Gallagher made 140 inter-county appearances for Donegal. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

Chris McNulty

Veteran midfielder Neil Gallagher has become the latest Donegal player to retire from inter-county football.

Gallagher has admitted defeat in his long-running battle with a back injury after breaking down at training in Convoy last Tuesday night. A cult hero in Donegal, Gallagher has called time after 140 appearances.

"It's a sad day for us all," said manager Rory Gallagher. "He has a very special place with Donegal supporters.

"He wanted to give it a go. He came back and played a bit for the club. He got the back re-scanned and tried to build it up.

"He is very disappointed and we're very disappointed. I had great belief in him. He loves the game. He has been a wonderful team-mate for the boys to have, on and off the pitch."

In 2011, Gallagher was a peripheral figure under Jim McGuinness and many had his inter-county future written off, but he hit back to win two All-Stars and was an integral member of the squad.

He gave his greatest display in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork, with a towering performance that ranks as one of the finest in the history of Donegal football.

Rory Gallagher said: "From a point of view of running the game, it was exceptional.

"He had that art of timing. (Mayo's) Barry Moran was going well coming into the final in 2012, but Neil won that battle for us.

"He did a lot of unseen work. Physically, he was always there and he was a very good tackler.

"What will stand to me is his use of the ball, whether it was to sell a dummy, give a pass or deliver a long ball into (Michael Murphy)."

The news brings to nine the number of players from last year's panel unavailable to Rory Gallagher, following the retirements of Christy Toye, Rory Kavanagh, Eamon McGee, Colm McFadden and David Walsh, and the decisions of Odhrán Mac Niallais, Anthony Thompson and Leo McLoone to withdraw.

Donegal face Dublin in Ballybofey on Sunday and will be without Patrick McBrearty, who suffered a groin injury in the recent win over Roscommon, while Karl Lacey remains a number of weeks away from a return. Doubts also remain over the availability of Martin McElhinney, Frank McGlynn and Kieran Gillespie.

"Every week in the League, teams have different motivations. We see this as another building block. We know it will take a hell of a lot of improvement to beat Dublin," Gallagher added.

• Down GAA is mourning the death of Leo Murphy, full-back on the team that won back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 1960 and '61. They were the first team to bring the Sam Maguire Cup across the border when they beat Kerry in the 1960 final, and Murphy played an instrumental part.

Irish Independent

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