IT’S BEEN SEVEN years since David Gallagher last graced Croke Park with his presence. And the Meath netminder has no hesitation in admitting that in recent times, he had come to accept that his inter-county football career had ground to a halt. There had been a plethora of reasons behind his departure with a crippling back injury and family commitments ranking high on the list.
But a call from leftfield by manager Seamus McEnaney last winter saw the St Peter’s Dunboyne clubman ushered back into a spot between the posts. Now he’s preparing for a return to headquarters for next Sunday’s Leinster semi-final meeting with Kildare.
“Between family and one thing or another and work, I probably did feel it was over. Unfortunately the GAA doesn’t play your wages. I was playing outfield with the club and was enjoying it. Seamus asked me in October-November time last year. It wasn’t something I took lightly, I had to discuss things at home so I said I’d give it a go for a year. It has been enjoyable, I know we didn’t have a good league campaign but if we win on Sunday it will be a big step forward.
“2005 believe it or not was the last time I played in Croke Park. I think it was against Dublin. A game that we could have won too but again it went against us. Of course it’s great to play in big days like this but I don’t look too much into that. I’d soon as be at home playing with 10 people looking on in a club match. I’ll enjoy Sunday just as much as I’ll enjoy any game you play. Just once you win it’s even more good.”
The pain caused by that back injury has thankfully started to abate as well.
“It still is a problem but thankfully it hasn’t been anything long term. I’m not getting any younger and the work I’m in (as a plumber), probably doesn’t help it either. I have good and bad days during the year. Maybe down the road when I’m 40 or 50 I’ll really be struggling. But, look, I’m not going to worry about that now. All I’m worrying about is the big game on Sunday and the back will be all right for that.”
Gallagher admits he owes a debt of gratitude to former Meath boss Sean Boylan who drafted him in as goalkeeper with the Irish International Rules squad in 2008 and that move helped put him back in the spotlight.
“The International Rules was a big thing for me. I wasn’t blessed with anything brilliant throughout my career. I had to really work hard for things that I wanted to make happen. I was lucky that Sean lived local and he just gave me a call. I told him that I wasn’t going in to waste anyone’s time. I wanted a good shot at it. Thankfully it worked out well. I’ve been talking to Sean a lot since. I just went back this year and we’ll see how it goes.”
Meath have progressed past Wicklow and Carlow to date in the Leinster championship but needed a replay to prevail against the Barrowsiders in their last clash. In the drawn game, Carlow were saved by a last gasp goal by forward JJ Smith who seized on a loose ball that spilled from Gallagher’s hands. The 32-year old has no qualms in admitting that it was his mistake that let Carlow back into contention.
“I thought it was more a schoolboy error than anything. I was a bit shocked that it went in. Unfortunately that was the mistake that drew the game. It could have been worse. It could have been the mistake that lost the game for us and that would have been a terrible feeling. There’s not a man on this planet that won’t make a mistake or two. Thankfully I was able to put it right the next day.”