BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DECLAN Gallagher heard the news and feared the worst.
Diagnosed with a heart condition, Gallagher thought he’d never experience the dressing room buzz again. His condition is one that requires regular medication; initially it was one he thought would mean he’d never done the green and gold of Ardara again.
He had played at corner-back on the Ardara team that defeated Sean MacCumhaills in the senior championship final of 2004 and was full-back in 2006 when Ardara last visited the semi-finals. Now they face MacCumhaills with a place in the semis the carrot that dangles before the victor.
These days, Declan Gallagher is Ardara’a last man standing.
The smell of the deep heat is a sacred one for footballers; it’s a scent that means business is at hand. The clatter of the boots, the rummaging in the bags – they were feelings Declan Gallagher thought would elude him.
“I was delighted to get the chance to come back and play,” he says.
“Patrick ‘Larry’ (Gallagher) took me back down. Standing watching, there’s no wild craic, so I jumped at the chance to get back involved again.
“I was just glad to be playing. I’d been out for quite a while and I was missing the craic and the stories. I was just glad to be back in the dressing room again and talking with the boys. I really missed that.”
His condition now is managable, but the effects of his medication mean that the hard slog of playing outfield wouldn’t be for him. Between full-back and goalkeeper, he draws many comparisons.
He says: “I think it’s quite similar. If you’re at full-back and you make a mistake it’s a goal. It’s the same, obviously, when you’re the goalkeeper, so there’s no wild pressure.
“When I was ten or eleven I played a few games in goal, but at this level I never played competitive football in goals. For the firs game or two I was really nervous.
“The heart is 100 per cent again, but I suppose I can’t take as much physical contact, not as much as an outfield player anyway, so I don’t mind being in goals.”
Ardara have had their troubles of late. Emigration hasn’t taken a toll, but tragedy hasn’t been far away. Comrades Thomas Maguire and Conal Gildea are no longer with them. Fallen men alongside whom they’d grown, theirs is a club that has taken more than most could cope with.
In 2004, Gallagher was the baby of the team, one of the youngsters in the side that won the club’s sixth Championship.
“We thought things would always be like that, but we haven’t got next nor near it since,” he says.
“A win at this stage of the Championship would be huge. It’s a clean slate effectively and form doesn’t really come into it because everyone has been going for this weekend since the fixtures were confirmed. Hopefully we can get a run together. The Championship is wide open – we need to make sure we get that run.
“We’re down to the nitty gritty of it again now; we’re looking forward to getting back into it.”
Ardara have a proud history. They have had an unbroken sequence in Division 1 that stretches back to the 1970s.
With a horrid sequence of results this term, they’re beginning to whisper in Ardara. This is one piece of history that Gallagher, a Business and HR student at Sligo IT, doesn’t want associated with.
He says: “It’s something that is always mentioned by the GAA stalwarts in the town, men like Columba Diver and these boys. They’d have those statistics and they’d talk about it, I’m sure. “It’s there and it’s talked about in the crowd.
“While we don’t want to be talking too much about it, we still don’t want to be the first Ardara team in 40 years to go down.”