DONEGAL GAA

Gaoth Dobhair veteran James Gallagher enjoying the journey with young side

Gaoth Dobhair veteran James Gallagher enjoying the journey with young side

For years James Gallagher was the Gaoth Dobhair leader who got them over the line on many occasions and on Sunday last he was carrying a broad smile in the after match pitch celebrations in Healy Park, Omagh, after watching his comrades defeat Scotstown and win a first Ulster title.

Gallagher, while only playing a bit part on the playing side nowadays, is still a calm influence on the young players, and he was very happy that he was now the proud holder of an Ulster Club Championship medal.

Asked if he could put in words the determination shown by his teammates to get over the line, James said: "No, it was exceptional really. Coming into that last 10, maybe 15 minutes, I think we went three down and to be honest it wasn't looking great.

"They had their tails up, but you know, fair play to the boys. They never gave up. They kept going to the end and in fairness, we got three points to level it up.

"We could have snatched it at the end, we had one blocked," said James, who said he didn't see the incident involving the pass from Odhrán McFadden Ferry to James Carroll.

"You get them breaks some days you don't so listen, we were lucky enough, we came out in the end in extra-time.

"Apart from the first score it was the first time we were ahead in the game. It was probably the right time," said Gallagher.

The former ace marksman agreed that the conditions in Healy Park made it very difficult.

"Conditions were poor. For our boys and the running game, it wasn't a great day going into contact. I suppose in the first half we got turned over a lot and we tried to cut back down on that in the second half.

"In fairness now, the boys, they dug deep. Michael Carroll came into the game great in the second half and I thought he had a great period in the second half. A few boys stepped up.

"Wee Seaghan Ferry came on there and scored a point; James Carroll as well inside, he won every ball that went in.

"A lot of boys put in a big shift there. Kevin (Cassidy), Eamon McGee and Odhrán (Mac Niallais). And the boys at the back, it was a great team performance."

Gallagher felt that winning Donegal was a bigger challenge for the club mentally than taking on Ulster.

"When we won the Donegal championship, we just said we would take it one game at a time to see where it goes. I thought, to be honest, I felt we played better in Ulster than we did in the Donegal championship. I think teams don't go as defensive and it opened up a lot of space for our boys.

"It suited us, though probably today Scotstown sat back a wee bit. We were expecting that after the last day; if they were watching the game (against Crossmaglen), they weren't going to give us the space.

"I don't know how to describe it. We put that much effort in to try and win a county championship and now we have won an Ulster championship. It's hard to believe.

12 YEARS

"It took us 12 years to get to a county final. I think the boys were a boys were, maybe, a bit more nervous coming into the county final than they were coming in today. There was probably more pressure on. I would say that when we won the county final, the pressure was off.

"And the boys went out and played every day and expressed themselves."

Those young boys were helped by the advice from the senior members and Gallagher is the senior citizen of the panel.

"Some of them don't listen," quipped James.

"Them boys are well able for it. They have all played at minor or U-21 and senior level. Winning the Ulster U-21 Championship stood to them. They knew they could go with most teams. Them young fellas have no fear at all. Probably the older boys would be a lot more nervous going into the game than them.

"Great credit to them. They are a great bunch of lads and they all came together this year and put in a big push. Also, Mervyn O'Donnell, I think he has pulled the whole thing together," said James. "He put in a lot of work that nobody sees, so you have to take your hat off to Mervyn O'Donnell."

See also: Rookie Coach Michael Boyle makes his mark