BY CHRIS MCNULTY
WATCHING Mario Götze’s stunning World Cup final winner for Germany against Argentina on Sunday night brought back some fond memories for Ciaran Gallagher.
The Raphoe man and Derry City goalkeeper played against Götze in an Under-16 international match at O’Shea Park in Blarney. That is six years ago now, in April 2008.
The game was Gallagher’s first international on Irish soil. Germany won 1-0 thanks to a goal by Hertha Berlin’s Abu-Bakarr Kargbo just before half-time.
For Gallagher, the mind jogged as he watched footage from the Maracana in Rio de Janerio, as German substitute Götze wonderfully controlled a cross from Andre Schürrle before sending a delightful shot beyond Sergio Romero, the Argentina goalkeeper, in the 113th minute.
Götze didn’t manage to find a way past Gallagher, who can recall some of that night’s other protagonists.
The German goalkeeper was Marc-André ter Stegen, who has just made a €12million move to Barcelona from Borussia Mönchengladbach, with a buy-out clause of €80million.
“A couple of months ago, I was just saying to the boys that ter Stegen agreed a deal to move to Barcelona on the same night I was playing for Derry City Reserves in the Ulster Senior League. Some difference,” Gallagher told the Donegal News this week.
“The whole German team was unreal. That was the first game I played in for Ireland at home. I played decent. It was a good night personally, even though we were beaten one-nil.’
Alexander Merkel is now with Udinese in Serie A while Gallagher recalls making a save from Matthias Zimmerman, who is on the books of Mönchengladbach.
The fixture in Blarney was part of a double-header. A couple of days after the Blarney game, the sides played out a one-all draw in Listowel. Gallagher was a sub for that game with Aaron McCarey, who is now at Wolverhampton Wanderers, in goal.
Looking back, he can remember Götze’s talents being obvious, even if he wasn’t a stand-out in Blarney.
Gallagher said: “He was just this small, skinny fella, but when he was on the ball you just knew that he was special. He was just taking on players all the time.
“But he didn’t stand out as such. They had four or five players who were on the same level. They were all super.”
Gallagher has been capped for Ireland at Under-16, Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 level. He recalls a game against Belgium whre he was a substitute: “Eden Hazard was just unreal. He was just constantly at our full-back. For the whole game he was just outstanding.”
Gallagher was playing for Castlefin Celtic in the East Donegal Schoolboys League at the time Vincent Butler gave him a call up to the Ireland squad. Gallagher subsequently played for Finn Harps before moving to Derry City last December and he is now understudy to Gerard Doherty at the Brandywell.
When he looks at the career paths he comes to a simple conclusion.
He said: “There is a huge difference. I was playing with Castlefin Celtic at the time, training one night a week whereas these German boys were in full-time training. With us it was a case of just giving the ball to the best player and away you go. In Ireland, there’s a crazy emphasis on winning; it’s too much. It’s more about winning than it is developing players.”
Gallagher has recently set up the Ciaran Gallagher Elite Goalkeeping and trains young goalkeepers in Castlefin, Moville and Buncrana with two more centres, in Letterkenny and Sion Mills, to be added in the coming weeks.
Castlefin have already accounted for fellow Donegal outfits Drumkeen United and Convoy Arsenal in the FAI Junior Cup.