My GAA Life

My GAA Life – Fermanagh’s Ronan Gallagher

Name? Ronan Gallagher

Which teams did you represent?

Erne Gaels, UUJ, St Gall’s, Madden, Fermanagh – I know, I know, more clubs than…

What is your current involvement with the GAA?

I’ve been helping out with Fermanagh for the last couple of years. I went back playing a bit for St Gall’s last year and I help with Madden u-6s/u8’s over the winter.

What was your greatest moment in the GAA?

At club level I suppose getting over the line with St Gall’s in 2010 was memorable. Even though it wasn’t my home club I had a great time there and will forever be indebted to the club. I always savour a league medal I won with my home club Erne Gaels in 1996. With Fermanagh two of the better days were beating Mayo in 2003 to make the All-Ireland quarter-finals,and beating Derry in 2008 to make the Ulster final. Unfortunately both were quickly followed by my worst moments – getting hammered by Tyrone in 2003 and losing the Ulster final to Armagh.

What was the most surprising moment in your career?

Receiving a phone call from John Rafferty a couple of days before the All-Ireland Club final in 2006 to say I’d be starting due to a roof tile falling on Paddy Murray’s foot.

Who was the best player you ever played with?

I played with some fantastic players over the years at club, college and county level. Even though he struggled to solo and kick the ball properly, Enda McNulty was better than anyone as an out and out corner-back, he was at Jordanstown when we won the Sigerson in 2001. The best all round player I ever played with though was Sean Kelly. No single person is ever responsible for a team’s success but Sean would come close in terms of St Gall’s. A brilliant player who dragged us through many games.

What was the best score you ever saw in a game you were involved in?

Some of the best scores that spring to mind are Tom Brewster’s point in 2004, Shaun Doherty’s point to equalise the drawn Ulster final in 2008 was a big one given the pressure. Colm Bradley kicked a brilliant sideline against Meath in a Qualifier in 2004. Ciaran O’Reilly scored an important one off the ground against Mayo in 2003 in the lashing rain in Sligo and Mark O’Donnell’s goal in the last couple of minutes to beat Donegal in a replay in 2001 were all great scores. Honourable mention to Alfie Hannaway Jnr who hit the top corner for St Gall’s in a league match against Portglenone one evening, a super strike given I think it was his only shot ever. Also Arron McKenna from Madden, recently an Underdog, scored an amazing point away to Annaghmore one day from an impossible angle.

Which manager made the biggest impact on you and why?

Malachy O’Rourke probably made the biggest impact. Apart from a couple, most of the managers I played under had a good impact on me. Malachy just had the ability to have everyone in the set up fully believing we could get results any day we went out. Hopefully he’ll give the Fermanagh job another crack in the future.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received about playing?

Don’t stand where roof tiles could fall on you the week of an All Ireland club final! The other best piece of advice is what every coach and manager tells everyone ‘enjoy it and focus on the basics.’

What was the best thing about playing in your era?

I think the best thing was that it was an era that saw innovation and improvement in coaching and preparation so we were exposed to a lot of new ideas and that was exciting and interesting. Added to that, from our point of view in Fermanagh during my time the county board and Club Eirne began to provide as much support as they possibly could for the team and there was a lot of work put in behind the scenes to try and push on. We had our ups and downs but by and large everyone in Fermanagh tried to work towards the common goal.

What was the worst thing about playing your era?

I can’t think of too many bad things during my era to be honest. The decision to change the hand pass rule so that the closed fist had to be used to pass the ball during the National League in 2010 was up there with one of the most frustrating things to happen while I was playing.

When did you know it was time to call it quits?

I remember the date exactly – December 5, 2013. That night I drove down the road to training and every white line in the road felt like a mile! I did the training session and had to apologise to Pete McGrath afterwards for wasting his time. Shortly after that, skinny tracksuit bottoms and real tight fitting jerseys became fashionable so I knew I had made the right decision.

What interesting or funny story may readers not know about you or one of your former teammates?

I was assigned to play outfield and man mark Conor Gormley in an Ulster Club game. I was taken off after 11 or 12 minutes and was happy to have lasted more than five. We drew the match and because Darren O’Hare stayed on the full game and played even worse than me, I amazingly started the replay at full-forward and we won. Also, I was once issued with a proposed six-week suspension from my own county board for giving the county chairman a mouthful after a league game which half the management team didn’t bother going to. Although myself and the chairman at the time made our peace I’d just like to put on record I still stand by those comments!