Workaholic Gallagher keeping nose to the grindstone
By Orla Bannon
He might be renowned as one the best football brains in the business, but that's not an accolade Rory Gallagher has earned without putting the hard yards in.
In between juggling a young family, running a busy shop in Killybegs and managing Fermanagh, the 39-year-old spends the rest of hours God sends watching footage of his opponents ensuring nothing in his preparation is left to chance. So when does he find the time?
“You do it at a mixture of times," said Gallagher. You try to slot it in sometimes in the morning and you’d have a laptop during the day, you’d slot away certain times in the evenings as well.
“That’s one disadvantage with the lack of TV coverage – it’s easier to operate off Sky+ than anything else for fast forwarding and rewinding.
“I found that quite tedious because I’m not very IT efficient.”
The number of times he watched Monaghan v Tyrone in the build-up to Fermanagh's Ulster semi-final against Monaghan he reckons was in the low teens.
Safe to say he hasn't had to watch Donegal's matches with the same critical eye having spent six of the past seven seasons inside their dressing-room.
It's a two-way street of course, as he's quick to acknowledge.
“You’re very secure,” he admits, “content that you know most things about them, but I’ve no doubt the Donegal management will make their players very comfortable in this period too. The players know me well.”
It seems somehow fitting that Gallagher has led Fermanagh to only a sixth ever Ulster SFC appearance in his first season in charge, and that as they chase down that elusive first provincial crown, that Donegal are their opponents.
He's not bitter about the way things ended in the county he still works and lives in.
“Football's funny. I stopped playing for Fermanagh in 2010 and got involved with Donegal, and I didn't give Fermanagh a second thought.
“My friends tell me I'm very selfish when I'm involved in football. I don't bother about them. They know that.
“There might be a six-week period in the year where I'd say 'do you want to do this?'
“That's the way I am now. I'm totally bogged down in Fermanagh.
“It's unique coming up against Donegal, they know the way I'll prepare and I know the way they'll prepare.
“In that sense, it's all about winning. They want to win.
“I want to win and that's just the collision that's going to happen.”
Gallagher felt it wouldn't take long to transform Fermanagh into potential Ulster champions.
Despite last year's relegation and early exit from the qualifiers, he felt previous managers Peter Canavan and Pete McGrath had done a lot right so when the chance came to take charge, he didn't hesitate.
“I felt there was a lot of quick fixes.
“That was up to us as a coaching team, to get our message across.
“Probably the fact they hadn't (won Ulster in last final appearance in 2008) made the appeal of the doing the job even better.
“You knew there were very good pedigree players and they’d a lot of good habits under the previous two managements.
“I said to myself, 'if I’m going to do this, maybe now is the time because in two or three years’ time the team will have broken up'.
“I felt they were at a good age. They weren’t dependent on any 18, 19 or 20-year-olds. They weren’t too old. I felt the age profile was very good.”
Some players struggled with self-belief and that is where Gallagher and his three-time All-Ireland winning Tyrone assistant Ryan McMenamin have added real value.
“We felt we could add something,” added Gallagher.
“Belief is part of it, but there is no magic wand for belief.
“You got to have belief when you arrive on championship day knowing you’ve done everything right, that you’ve improved, challenged yourself and become a better player and a better team as a result.”