herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Once they got to the semi, Donegal would have had no fear of Dubs'

The heroics of Diarmuid Connolly, in action against Donegal’s Eamonn McGee, left, and Frank McGlynn, couldn’t save Dublin from defeat in an enthralling All-Ireland SFC semi-final
The heroics of Diarmuid Connolly, in action against Donegal’s Eamonn McGee, left, and Frank McGlynn, couldn’t save Dublin from defeat in an enthralling All-Ireland SFC semi-final
According to the crystal ball, it's set to be a big year for Jonny Cooper and the Dublin footballers. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

BY broad consent, the only people who truly believed Donegal could beat Dublin in last year's All-Ireland semi-final were inside the four walls of Jim McGuinness' dressing-room that afternoon in Croke Park.

Rory Gallagher wasn't present, but his faith was nevertheless strong.

"I think sometimes people get up in relative hysteria and I think Dublin would be the first to admit that people, probably the media, blew them up quite a bit," he told the Herald.

"People probably saw Donegal not going as well against Armagh. But you know, it's all about winning games and once they got to the semi-final, Donegal would certainly have had no fear of Dublin."

"With 22 or 23 minutes gone, you probably thought Dublin were going to win by 10 or 12 point and then all of a sudden Donegal had all the momentum.

"It's very hard to change that tide."

Gallagher is well positioned to offer his views on Dublin football.

A Dublin SFC winner with St Brigid's in 2003 (the first in the club's history), he was one of the club scene's classiest forwards at a time when Dublin flirted with, but fell monotonously shy of, real success.

"When I moved to Dublin, they hadn't won a Leinster title since '95," he points out.

"But you could sense the club scene becoming really competitive.

"They won an All-Ireland under-21 title in 2003, I remember going out to watch it in Portlaoise.

"And they brought through a load of those players; Alan Brogan, Bryan Cullen, Paul Griffin … players who would become mainstays of the team.

"I was involved in coaching and a lot of clubs - and the Dublin county board - were putting coaches into clubs and you could even see it in the hurling then too."

unnerving

Replacing Jim McGuinness might have seemed an unnerving task to most but once asked, Gallagher says was never dubious.

"Not at all, no," he insists.

"No hesitation from the player's point of view. Knowing the players and knowing the quality and experience that they had…

"Also, with the newer members coming in.

"Once, you know, from my own personal side I could get things sorted from a work point of view and family …from a football point of view, it was very appealing."

And repairing an All-Ireland final losing team isn't the sort of thing he was hung up on, anyway.

"Obviously, although I wasn't involved, within the county, it was a very, very dark few days and week.

"Look, it's not something I spoke to the group about - I'll be honest about it.

"I spoke to the players individually and we would have briefly mentioned it but the reality is, I remember my own time, when I was involved in 2012, whether we won or lost, the boys were still going to play with Donegal and they were still going to be involved with football.

"And that's the same thing now," he adds.

"The sense of loss takes a wee while to get over but you just have to park it, move on and the next chapter was 2015," adds Gallagher.

"And that's what I sensed from them: 'It's gone now.

"We just have to move on. There's nothing we can do about it now.'

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