John Paul Gallagher signs for Harps

If all falls into place Finn Harps’ new signing John Paul Gallagher could be taking on former Northern Ireland international Keith Gillespie when he makes his debut for the club next month.

Twenty-eight year-old Gallagher has already bumped into Gillespie with his former clubs Linfield and Dungannon Swifts and hopes to be eligible to participate in the FAI Cup third round tie at Flancare Park against Longford Town - Gillespie’s new home having moved south of the border after playing for Glentoran. Having signed as an amateur at Harps, Gallagher should be available for from June 1. Until then, the Strabane native will have to be continue to train for the Ballybofey club’s first team, which he has been doing for the past week.

“I’m friendly with Kevin McHugh and we used to both play for Linfield together and used to travel up to Belfast together,” Gallagher said. “I’ve been out of football for a while and mentioned to Kevin that I would be available for someone close to home like Harps and Felix Healy and Peter Hutton got in touch then.”

From the age of 13 Gallagher had been making the short journey from his hometown to Dungannon in the county of Tyrone. As a teen he lined out for Dungannon United Youths, before then making his way onto Swifts. Whilst there he was considered one of the best and most consistent full-backs in the league and was snapped up by Linfield, where he won a league and cup double in 2009/10.

“I enjoyed Linfield but picked up a knee injury, which was pretty serious,” Gallagher added. “It took a while to settle but when it did I was told by the specialists that I could play on as long as I minimised football in some way. Cutting the number of training sessions was mentioned but Linfield had a policy of insisting that if you wanted to play on a Saturday then you had to train, which, I suppose, is fair enough.”

Gallagher returned to Dungannon briefly but left in the New Year. Since then, he has been working with PK Wholesales and training and playing for his local GAA Club Strabane Sigersons before the call came from Ballybofey.

“I am really looking forward to playing summer soccer,” Gallagher said. “I’ve trained a few nights with Harps and there is talent there in what is a very young squad. I feel I could add a little experience to that and can’t wait to get started early next month.

“I’ve always had a bit of an interest in Harps. I knew a few lads, such as Tony Shields, Michael Funston and of course Kevin McHugh who played for them and there is quite a lot of support for the club from the Strabane area.”

Harps manager Hutton was delighted to sign the first player of his reign having taken over from James Gallaher earlier this month. The former Derry City stalwart came across Gallagher in the Setanta Sports Cup.

“John Paul was a player I was aware of having played against him in his Linfield days and then when I was at Cliftonville,” Hutton said. “He is a very good player and one we hope will be a good addition to Finn Harps and we know that the lad has had a bit of bother with injury but we feel the part-time set-up will be perfect.

“We look forward to next month when we will get a chance to see him lining out in our first team and as I’ve said before there are a number of fine young players at this club but we want to bring in that little bit of experience and John Paul certainly offers that.”