Sunday 16 December 2018

Veteran Gallagher happy to answer Meath's call again

David Gallagher’s recall to the Meath set-up as a goalkeeping option is even more unexpected because he is better known as an outfield player on the club circuit. Photo: Sportsfile
David Gallagher’s recall to the Meath set-up as a goalkeeping option is even more unexpected because he is better known as an outfield player on the club circuit. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Last Sunday was a largely unremarkable day as the GAA season continued to wake from its brief winter slumber, but it did contain another entry in a most unusual career.

Meath hammered Wicklow in a Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup tie in Navan on a crisp afternoon.

As would be expected, the managers fielded a mix of old and new faces. But one Meath player was both old and new.

David Gallagher took his place between the posts for the Royals. His call-up to the county side wasn't part of the plan but when Andy McEntee found himself short on goalkeeping options, he turned to his St Peter's Dunboyne clubmate.

Over the winter Meath found themselves short on options between the posts. Last year's first-choice goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke stepped away from the set-up over the close season.

He was quickly followed by his deputy Joe Sheridan, who was a left-field shout from McEntee in 2017.

Meath needed some experience and 38-year-old Gallagher answered the call. And on Sunday he lined out for the Royals for the first time since 2012.

Expecting

"I don't think I was expecting to be back but in my eyes certain things have happened in the last year to me, personal things, and I suppose you just take life for granted sometimes," Gallagher reflected after reintroducing himself to the county stage.

"Life is too short, so when I got a call like that I couldn't turn it down.

"I suppose Andy McEntee had a lot to do with it as well. I have soldiered long and hard with my club with Andy and he taught me a lot during the years as well so I guess I owe it to come back and give him a dig out if needs be."

Gallagher's recall is all the more unexpected because he is better known as an outfield player on the club circuit.

He was midfield on the Dunboyne team that led would-be champions Simonstown Gaels by 11 points at half-time in the county SFC quarter final. The second half would see a dramatic 13-point swing leaving Dunboyne stunned.

"I haven't even been playing in goals for my club so it just came as much of a shock to me as everyone else," Gallagher explained. "But we are here now and we'll just get on with it and do our best."

Gallagher has a history of unexpected call-ups. Sean Boylan brought him into the International Rules squad as goalkeeper in 2008, even though he hadn't been active at inter-county level for a number of seasons. He saved a penalty as Ireland won the two-Test series.

His career has never gone along conventional lines.

"I played a lot of U-16 and minor in goals with Meath because I was a year younger than most lads.

"And I went from U-21s and we won the Leinster in '01, I think, a long time ago.

"I went back in with Meath in 2004 and 2005 and I got a bad back injury then in '05. And I just went off the radar. But I was still plugging away with my club. Obviously the Australia thing happened then in 2008 so it has been a journey, a big journey."

Gallagher enjoyed a solid outing on his return though, apart from one good save in the first half, he had precious little to do. And he agreed that the renewed emphasis on the kick-out is the biggest change in the game.

"Without a doubt, the kick-out is a massive part of the game now and that accuracy.

"It's all about numbers and what you can get at the end of the day and how many clean kick-outs you can get, so every day is a challenge. Years ago it was very different, you put the ball down and planked it out."

Despite his experience, Gallagher admitted there were some nerves as he stepped on to the field last Sunday.

"Of course there are always nerves. Goalkeeping now is a pinnacle position.

"The pressure is always on, probably not every day is going to be like Sunday, that's not taking Wicklow for granted but there will be bigger tests ahead. It's all about working hard and seeing how it goes for us."

Andy Colgan started for the win over Carlow last week and kept a clean sheet and it will be interesting to see who McEntee opts for between the posts when they take on Longford in Sunday's O'Byrne Cup semi-final.

Whatever happens, Gallagher will meet the challenge.

"Andy (McEntee) has been easy enough on me so far, whatever I can do, I can do. And I just try and get on the pitch and get the practice done on kick outs. We'll just take it from there."

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