Dungloe man now eighth in the world in his sport

Bowls champions PJ Gallagher nominated for Donegal Sports Star award

Tom Comack


Tom Comack

Dungloe man now eighth in the world in his sport

One of legendary RTE commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh’s great sayings ‘neither from hurling strongholds’ was in reference to Cork hurling giant Sean Og O’Hailpín’s family background.

The three time All-Star and treble All-Ireland hurling winner’s father is from Fermanagh and his mother hails from Fiji.

The same could be said of P J Gallagher, a World Indoor Bowls Short Mat Word champion from Dungloe.

P J is a member of the Burtonport Bowling Club and like Fermanagh and Fiji, neither Dungloe or Burtonport could be described as bowling strongholds; a fact that which further underlines the enormity of P J’s achievements on the World Indoor Bowling stage.

Last August the Dungloe man captained Ireland to a first World Indoor Short Mat Championship in Birmingham.

PJ, along with Joe and Pauline Beatty and Tony Bell, all three from Armagh, defeated Sweden in the final, to win the world team title.

And on the weekend before last he added to his growing reputation in world bowling when he swept before him to win the Swedish Indoor Singles Masters Short Mat Championship.

The final was in the city of Stromstad and he defeated Jonathan Payne from Belgium 10-5 in the final.

The win moved PJ up to the number one ranking in Ireland and to eighth in the world rankings.

“Last week was a big win because it was the first time I ever advanced past the quarter-finals in an International Singles Championship,” said PJ, who is a nominee for an International Achievement Award at tomorrow night’s (Friday) Donegal Sports Star Awards.

“Up to that the only International final that I had ever reached was the World final back in August which was a huge achievement for me and the team.

“And to to win the worlds and to be captain was unbelievable and is the stuff of dreams.

“I wasn’t the captain initially. Mark Beatty from Sion Mills was the captain but he had to withdraw just before the finals due to a family bereavement.

“So when that happened I was number two in the team and I was promoted to captain. Joe Beatty, who is Pauline’s husband, was added to the team.

“It was a huge honour for me to captain my country in a world championship and to win it was out of this world.”

PJ is only 29 but has been playing bowls for 17 years after he joined Burtonport Bowling Club as a 12 year-old, being encouraged to do so by his late grandmother Nora Gallagher.

“I really owe everything I do in the game to my late granny, Nora, who really encouraged to play the game.”

From day one, PJ took to the game and despite some resistance insisted on playing with the adults members of the club.

“There were a number of other young lads at the club around the same time. And while the seniors would have prefer if we want off and played on our own I insisted on playing with the adults.

“I always strove to get to the next level and that is why insisted on playing with the adults.”

It didn’t take PJ long to make his mark among his elders and he soon found himself heading off to tournaments with Patsy Boyle, Jimmy ‘Greaves’ O’Donnell, Peter McGee and John O’Donnell as member of the Burtonport senior bowls team.

“We played all over Donegal and in the North and my first win was the Burtonport Open Pairs tournament.

“My partner was Patsy Boyle who had taken me under his wing at the time. I was 17.

“In all I have won about 35 tournaments between singles, pairs and fours all over Donegal and the North.

“My first singles win was in the Maghery Open. I was 24 at the time.That was a big one because I had waited so long it was real weight off my shoulders.

“I won my second singles tournament shortly after in Clontibret in Monaghan.

“My first Irish final was in 2010; that was in the fours final and myself and Patsy Boyle reached the Irish pairs final in 2011.

“On average, since I won my first tournament with Patsy, I’d say I have won three tournaments a year.

“I don’t play as much now as a I used. There were a couple of years there when I was playing six to seven nights a week.

“I remember one year I played every single night for three weeks.”

PJ made it into the top four ranking in 2011 and won his first Irish cap at the British Isles Masters Short Mat Championship in Swansea, on St Patrick’s weekend, 2011.

And he has made the top four every season since rising to number two in the rankings last year. He is the current number one and is in line to captain Ireland again at this season’s World Short Mat Championship, which are on next August.

PJ is not only hoping to defend the team world title, but he is also going to have a crack at winning the World Short Mat Singles Championship too when he heads off to Essex next August.

PJ, a bus driver on the Bus Feda, Donegal to Galway route, is a nominee for a Donegal Sports Star Award for a second time at tomorrow night’s Donegal Sports Star Awards.

He was nominated for the indoor bowls award in 2012 but the award went to Ballylennon bowler John Quinn on that occasion.

This time around he is back as World Champion and is one of the four nominees for the International Achievements Award.

The other nominees are Bernie Callaghan, Killybegs;

Jim Doherty, Newtowncunningham, and Kieran Murray, Ramelton.