Gallagher keeps winning the generation game
BY SHANE STAPLETON
David Gallagher has played 21 years of senior football for St Peter’s Dunboyne.
The road has undulated from success to despair and, though the soldiers may have changed, the battle always remained the same. Now, at 38 years of age, he has completed a hat-trick of county titles, and each in different positions.
Growing up, Gallagher was in school with lads a year or so older, meaning he played at age groups ahead of his time. He reckons that his manager didn’t want him getting hurt when playing Under-16 level at age 13 or 14, but they still put him in goal to make use of that “good belt of a ball.”
“It’s actually something I didn’t really think about,” Gallagher says with a smile. “I ran into an old man in the club recently and he said to me: ‘if we win this game, you’ll have won county titles with us in three separate decades.’ But I hadn’t even thought about that.
Once he got to minor, mentor Brian O’Reilly (RIP) encouraged him to go for the goalkeeping position, and it rolled on from there to the senior Meath side. Injury curtailed that journey in the long run, but he still would still make appearances between the sticks for the International Rules team in 2008, and he was even seen in a Meath number one shirt as recently as 2018.
Manager Andy McEntee, with whom Gallagher soldiered for Dunboyne, and won county titles in 1998 and as a 40-year-old substitute in 2005, made the call when Paddy O’Rourke and Joe Sheridan were no longer options — though Andy Colgan eventually took the ‘keeper job on a full-time basis.
Few footballer’s careers have meandered as Gallagher’s has, and few can say they have won a county title as a goalkeeper (1998), a centre-back (2005), and then at midfield (2018). No doubt, it’s surreal to even consider.
“The 21 years slip by very quickly — 1998 and 2005 were very special and it was great to win it with those people, and then you go on again in 2018 and you’re probably winning it with their kids. It’s something you’d never believe could happen.”
Gallagher says he hasn’t played in goals for the club since he was 21 or 22, and he always preferred
being out the field. Still, he’ll take success anyway it comes.
“In 1998, I was only 18 and playing in goals, and not that I took it for granted, but you were younger. My brother Denis was playing too, so that was special.
“In 2005 then, Denis was captain and I was outfield, so it was different. I was more mature and I felt I was in great shape for it, we had a very good team.
“Then in 2018, it was probably more about relief. We had lost to Simonstown in the quarter-final of 2016, by a point after extra time. We were then up by 11 points on them in 2017 and lost, so I felt this was the year.
“Sean Kelly was brought into the set-up by our manager Ciaron Byrne, who himself had won a three-in-a-row as a player with Dunshaughlin. I said to the boys after the game against Kells earlier in the championship that ‘time waits for no man’, because you just never know when or if that opportunity will come up again. Thankfully we got there, and it was relief.
It was a tight final against Summerhill until the closing stages, when former Dublin attacker Stuart Lowndes — brother of Eric — found the net and allowed St Peter’s to win just their third ever crown. Gallagher, who explained that very few of the 1998 side even made it to the ‘05 win, is the only man to be togged out for all of it.
The mood in the parish had been highly charged due to events off the field, including a terrible injury suffered by Sean Cox when making his way to Liverpool’s Champions League game against Roma a number of months ago.
“The final whistle was just unbelievable, and just so emotional. Obviously what had happened to Sean Cox and then we also lost Sean Nealon whose funeral was organised around the championship final. He owned Brady’s pub and our family would have all worked for him at some stage. Even I lost my father 18 months ago, so there was a lot of stuff on our minds.
“I have kids aged ten, eight and four who were all up in the stand. It’s great in Navan because people can flood onto the pitch afterwards, and we got pictures that I saw on social media over the week that are just so special.”
Of course, the run doesn’t end here because Dunboyne now have a third crack at Leinster. Kilmacud Crokes pipped them by a point in 1998, and Gallagher feels they might have won the game had they keep their heads down a little more after winning the county.
The same Dublin club “gave us a hiding” in 2005, and “Ray Cosgrove went to town” with the Meath champions not quite as strong as they had been seven years earlier. Gallagher’s brother-in-law, Robbie Brennan played on that Crokes team in 1998, and is now manager the Stillorgan side. Should Kilmacud beat St Jude’s in Dublin and Dunboyne overcome Wexford champions Shelmaliers, Gallagher and Brennan might yet be having quite a 20-year reunion.
“Any team who wins their county have to be a good side,” says Gallagher of Shelmaliers. “It's been a great season, and hopefully we can keep it going.”