SEAN BOYLAN’S decision to include goalkeeper David Gallagher in his International Rules squad caught many people by surprise.
Including the player himself.
“Of course it was a surprise,” said the Dunboyne man who has been out of the intercounty fold for three years.
“It was a surprise to everyone as much as it was to me and I’m not going to deny that. I wasn’t involved with the county set-up. Maybe I could have been involved if I wanted to, but I didn’t have any interest at that time. I just wanted to get myself competitive again,” he said of the struggle to recover from back and groin problems.
Even the call up to training came as a bolt from the blue, but Boylan has long been a fan of his club mate.
Nine years ago Boylan recognised his potential when he brought him into the Meath squad as added cover for then goalkeeper Conor Martin. With Cormac Sullivan then taking over, Gallagher had to be content with a place on the bench for five years until he made his Championship debut against Wicklow.
In 2005 he played against Dublin but then his top flight career came to a halt due to a catalogue of serious injuries.
“I was coming back playing with my club but I was never right,” he explained. “I tried and tried to come back. The main thing was the back problem. I always found my back was stiff for a year after and if the truth be known, it’s probably only this year — playing outfield for the club — that it has come right.
“With the groin, there were times when I went out and I just was not physically fit to run.
“I could jog but to get into any kind of gallop it was just far too sore.”
Surgery was followed by laser and other treatment. In the end, he senses that it was the combination of ‘everything coming together’ finally got him back on the field of play.
While the perception might be that it would be less of a strain to play in goal, when he did return to action it was as an outfielder. Back in ‘98, as an 18 year-old, he played in goal when Dunboyne won a county title, but around the same time that he was reserve goalkeeper with Meath, he continued to play outfield in club games.
“I prefer playing outfield,” he admitted. “I like keeping fit and I suppose playing in goals you are just standing there. I am enjoying my time with my club for the last two years. With the injuries I had, it was great to play again. There were times when I thought I was never coming back.”
Soon after Boylan called him up, it quickly became apparent that the goalkeeping position would probably rest between himself and Paul Doherty — as they were the only two in training.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to be one or two they were going to bring, but I wanted to be playing. I would hate to come out here and just sit on the bench. I would want to be involved. I kept giving it everything I had and thankfully it worked out.”
He continued: “This is all a bit new. It’s not the same as goalkeeping at home. You are more of an outfield player as such. You have to kick the ball from the hand and try find someone every time. Maybe a lot of goalkeepers don’t have those basic skills. I suppose the outfield experience counted a lot for me.”
Under the compromise rules, unless goalkeepers are tempted to roam from the edge of the square, there is no real restriction on them. Gallagher says he will be ‘minding the house’ as much as possible. And, while he says he won’t be ‘too adventurous,’ you know he will find it hard to resist the temptation.
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