Galway manager Padraic Joyce said that a player who helped ruin his final day in a maroon jersey could now have a lot to offer the Tribesmen this year.
Antrim native Owen Gallagher made an impressive debut for Galway in their 1-18 to 1-16 FBD League final win over Roscommon at the indoor Connacht GAA Dome, and Joyce is confident he can make an impact this season for his adopted county.
Gallagher made his debut as a teenager for Antrim and, in 2012, was at midfield when they dumped Galway out of the championship with a 0-11 to 0-10 All-Ireland qualifier clash in Belfast.
It turned out to be Joyce’s last game for Galway as the double All-Ireland winner and former Footballer of the Year called time on his inter-county career.
Gallagher resurfaced in Galway a few years ago to study medicine at NUI Galway and continued his football career with a Moycullen side that he helped to their first ever county title in late 2020. Gallagher continued to impress as Moycullen reached the semi-finals last October, leading to a call-up to the county squad.
“He brings a different dimension to us as well,” said Joyce, after Gallagher impressed with some strong running from centre-forward against Roscommon.
“He is a very strong runner with the ball. He did really well. It was his first game. He ran out of a bit of wind at the end there. It’s January, you’d expect that.
“Overall, he has been very positive in the camp since he came in and he’s been very good, in fairness to him.”
Gallagher, who last played for Antrim in 2017, could make his Allianz League debut for Galway on Sunday, against Meath in Pearse Stadium, with his Moycullen teammate Seán Kelly poised to captain them in the competition for the first time.
“Seán, I felt, has been one of our better players in my time anyways, and he’s really stepped up to be a real leader,” said Joyce.
“He’s a real driving force. We’ve had to play him full-back the last couple of years and I thought he was exceptional at centre-back against Roscommon. Good fella and a good captain and hopefully he’ll have a successful year.”
Matt Tierney, who only really broke through and established himself last year, has been made vice-captain and Joyce had no hesitation in giving the Oughterard midfielder extra responsibility.
“He’s one of the most talented footballers in the group that we have. I think he just needs to realise how highly he is held in Galway. Putting him as vice-captain, he just needs to step up and become one of the main men now this year. He is doing it so far, so look, hopefully he will have another good year as well.”
Joyce is hoping the FBD League wins over Mayo and Roscommon will help them get their league campaign off to a winning start against Meath as they try to bounce back after being relegated from the top flight last season when they were caught by a late Monaghan rally.