Eoghan Bán Gallagher: 'We have to really push on now'
By Cian O'Connell
In the summer of 2019, with an Ulster title secured, all sorts of possibilities appeared to exist for Eoghan Bán Gallagher.
Having cemented his place in a developing Donegal outfit, Gallagher suffered a serious ankle injury at training.
Ruled out of the All Ireland series, Gallagher acknowledges the demanding days that were endured.
“Yeah, it was really difficult," Gallagher admits ahead of Sunday's eagerly anticipated provincial tussle with Tyrone.
"Fortunately enough I’ve great support at home and a lot of the players came to see me. It was a huge mental test.
"I remember going back, the club were playing league games before the Championship and I didn’t actually feel like I could go up to watch the games or go to training. I felt like I let my team-mates down, being injured."
That wasn't the case, but Gallagher was grateful to provide some sort of assistance for the remainder of the campaign.
"I know it was hugely unfortunate circumstances, but it was hugely disappointing to miss out," Gallagher adds.
"I missed it a wee bit too much, that I didn’t feel like I could go. John Cunningham asked me to go up and help out with the management team, and just be there to support the lads, and that was great."
Gallagher returned to Donegal duty in the spring, but then lockdown occurred and no training or matches took place for months.
"Obviously this year it’s been a different challenge mentally," Gallagher continues.
"It’s going back to when I was 13 or 14 and doing athletics training, and it’s a battle with yourself just.
"You have nobody there to push you on, it’s just whatever you’re going to do yourself. The amount of respect we’ve gained for every athlete who does individual things, in terms of tennis, athletics, the mental strength they have individually is phenomenal."
Gallagher, though, was helped by a burning desire to return for Declan Bonner's Donegal.
“Definitely," Gallaghr replies. "I felt when I was back and playing the National League, I wasn’t just back yet.
"Declan showed good faith in me to keep me in playing games, but I felt I had a lot of work to do myself over the period of lockdown, just to get a few wee things and niggles right and come back stronger.
"I’ve done that over the period, I definitely had a lot of things to work on and I’m happy with the way I used the time. I think a lot of the fellas on our team were happy with how they used it."
The past decade has brought silverware and success at underage and senior level. This is an interesting time to be part of the Donegal set-up.
"Definitely, it’s one of our most successful periods as a county and it’s really exciting to be part of," Gallagher states.
"There’s a lot of very, very good players coming up in Donegal, the likes of Oisin Gallen and Conor O’Donnell from Carndonagh in the last year or two, they’re fantastic players.
"It’s very important that the county continues to put the structures in place to bring through as many good players as possible.
"You can see the amount of years now Tyrone have been competitive, Dublin are the same, Kerry are the same, they seem to get players every single year.
"Donegal have been fortunate that we’ve brought through a lot of players, but now we’re at an age where we have to compete with the big teams.
"Myself personally, I think this is my sixth year up here. We’re no longer a young team and we have to really push on now, to show what we’re made of this year in the Championship."