By Ciaran O’Donnell
It’s taken a bit of time to readjust. Twelve weeks have passed since Myles Gallagher signed off for the last time on Highland Radio after 28 and a half years with the local station. He’s seen and heard a lot of things sport over that period.
In 2012, the Carrigart native retired from Letterkenny IT where he’d lectured for 24 years. He’d been a technician for 18 years before completing an honours degree through the Open University. He followed that up with a masters degree in training of trainers in advanced scientific techniques.
Myles enjoyed his career at Letterkenny IT.
“It was fantastic working with the youth of the county and the country, and eventually from all over the world. I said youth initially, but the students became more senior as time went on and I would say there were some older than myself at the finish up,” Myles says.
According to Myles, people don’t realise how good Letterkenny IT is for the county and the opportunities it has to offer.
“As well as that, the service they get is personable and one-to-one. If you ask any of the students, the amount of tutoring they get is above and beyond the scheduled tutoring. Between staff and students, Letterkenny IT has a population of about 4,000 and that is a fantastic boost to the county,” he comments.
Outside of his career, sport has always been his thing, with athletics his passion.
He was a member of Cranford AC back in the day. His club mates included the McDaid brothers, Danny, Neilie and Frankie, Paddy Marley and Joe Boyce. Given the quality, making the scoring six on cross country championship was always the aim.
“I was lucky to run with them and to have run for Donegal. The numbers might not have been as big then, but it was a great honour. I was running with men who had competed for their country. I was in good company and the fun was mighty,” he recalls.
He was a founding member of Glenree Athletic and Football Club in 1973 and became involved in coaching for the next decade. A number of athletes under his wing won national titles, including Brian McBride and John Cronin.
Myles played for Glenree off and on over a 13 year period, with his first manager being Frank Kelly from Creeslough. Their first game was in 1975 at home to Killea FC who were being looked after by Richie Kelly. Killea won 2-0, but it a huge day for the club and the locality. Myles subsequently managed the club’s under-16 soccer team – his son, Ashley, was the goalkeeper.
Quizzes were all the rave in the late eighties and Myles and his team of James Coyle and Mylie Gallagher, also from Carrigart, were sharpshooters on the local circuit.
“I was also involved in a team with Hughie McClafferty, the nurse from Downings, the late Austin Cribben and Seamus O’Donnell.”
Hughie McClafferty took part in RTE’s television programme, Know Your Sport, hosted by George Hamilton and the late Jimmy Magee in 1988. Myles took part in the series the following year.
“I made it to the semi-final and was leading going into the buzzer round. But I didn’t make it to the final,” he recalls.
Highland Radio was going on air in March 1990 and had advertised for part-time sports reporters. Myles applied and was invited for an interview with Billy Patterson.
“I had to send back a report on a football match and was taken up for a bit of training. I spent two years out and about reporting in gaelic and soccer. My first match was in Traigh-a-Loch. It was an Ulster Senior League game between Fanad United and Derry City Reserves. Derry won 3-2 and Liam Coyle, who was coming back from injury, scored for Derry. George Grier scored for Fanad.”
His next fixture for Highland Radio took him to MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey for an under-21 Ulster football championship meeting between Donegal and Derry. Tony Boyle was among the Donegal forwards, while Joe Brolly was part of the Derry attack.
Myles was in Croke Park for Donegal’s All-Ireland won over Dublin in 1992.
“I was also there for the semi-final win over Mayo the previous month on my own steam in the stand. I joined up with the Highland boys. After the game I went to the dressing room with Michaeal McGee who was the co-commentator. Our job was to get Martin McHugh up to Charlie Collins, the reason being if Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh or anyone else had got their hands on him, we wouldn’t have seen him again. I physically caught Martin McHugh and told him not to look any way until we got him up to Charlie,” he says with a laugh.
With Charlie Collins being the regular GAA commentator, that paved the way for Myles and Declan Kerr to take on the presenting of Highland’s Sunday Sport, with each doing the slot a week about.
“I remember at the time remarking to Declan about how tired I felt after four hours on air at the beginning. Looking back, it was all nerves. If I was picking to do something I enjoy, radio is what I’d be doing, there’s no doubt at all about that. It didn’t seem like work. It was actually a privilege to be in the position I was in to be able to talk to the county, and to talk to the people and the stars involved. At the end of the day, maybe the more satisfying interviews were the ones I had with the natives – the locals who hadn’t been on before. They may have been on a high after a game or whatever, and I was talking to them at the right time,” he says.
Myles loved his time at Highland Radio. For over 20 years, himself and his good friend, Pio McCann, were the the paring for the Sunday Sports Show.
“The atmosphere was something else and there was something about opening that front door when you went in on a Sunday. I don’t know what it was. I suppose it was stepping into the unknown. Of course I knew what all the fixtures were, but what I didn’t know was what was going to come down the line.”
Myles attributes the success of sport on Highland Radio to Charlie Collins.
“Charlie had great leadership skills, great enthusiasm and inspired people. There is a fantastic sports team at Highland Radio and could compare to any national station in Ireland. That was nice of them and it was a nice send off.”
Myles has spoken to many big names during his time behind the mic. But nothing will ever surpass the excitement that went with his by-chance interview with 100 metre world record holder, Usain Bolt, live on air in August, 2012.
Ricky Simms from Milford, who is Bolt’s agent, would have been a regular guest with Myles every so often.
When Myles phoned Ricky earlier that afternoon to schedule an interview later in the day, Ricky told him he’d more than likely be in a taxi when he’d pick up.
“I was talking to him as normal and then I said ‘by the way, when are you going to take Usain Bolt to Donegal?’ It wasn’t the first time I’d asked him. He replied ‘ask him yourself’. They were in the taxi heading to 10 Downing Street and were going to meet Prime Minister David Cameron. Mo Farah was also in the taxi, but it was only afterwards I realised that.”
He continued: “There was a wee delay and Joe Decks was just after starting at Highland. Joe’s face went as red and he said ‘what are you going to say to him?’ But the long and the short is I had a chat with him (Bolt). He said he’d come to Donegal whenever Ricky takes him.”
Donal Kavanagh was doing the news that day and he suggested that the interview be put up on social media. Not surprisingly, it went viral. The clip was played on RTE’s Morning Ireland the next day.
“At the end of it, presenter Gavin Jennings said there was a bit of a contrast with the accents – the West Indian and Donegal accents. It also made Playback the following Saturday. That bit of radio was the perfect example of not knowing what’s going to happen next.”
Myles and his wife, Ann, have been operating a successful bed and breakfast in Carrigart for a number of years.
“I have to thank Ann for allowing me the time to get away to do the show every Sunday. My children were young at time. Ashley was seven and Sonia was six and weren’t doing bed and breakfast then. That said I was studying at the time.”
After retiring from the LYIT in 2012, Myles got involved in the local community and was active in Moving Mevagh Forward.
“It’s still going good and Noel McBride is the chairman now. I filled in forms and got a few bob for various things,” he says.
These days, Myles and Ann spend much of their time in Dublin helping out with the grandchildren – Anna is two and half and Jamie is a year.
“I have to teach them a few words and a cupla focail as well.”
Myles is a regular at the Aviva Stadium and takes in the soccer and rugby internationals. He also enjoys going along to club matches at Parnell Park or junior soccer games in the city. Home Farm’s ground and St Kevin’s Boys are both located nearby.
“I’m a happy camper as things stand.
“I’d like to wish Highland Radio the best of luck in the future.”
By Ciaran O’Donnell