Brendan Gallagher loving life with Leitrim
By John Harrington
He might be born and bred in Dublin, but Brendan Gallagher is Leitrim to the core.
Long before he was first called up to the Leitrim panel in 2009, the Lucan Sarsfields club-man had a close affinity with the homeplace of his mother Carol who hails from Mohill.
As a kid growing up in Lucan, Gallagher never dreamed of wearing the sky-blue of Dublin.
Instead the thought of someday pulling on a green and gold jersey was what fired his youthful imagination.
“I would have followed Leitrim my whole childhood, I never, ever followed Dublin,” Gallagher told GAA.ie.
“My siblings would have been Dublin supporters but for whatever reason I always followed Leitrim.
“You'll never find a picture of me in a Dublin jersey. In 1994 when Dublin and Leitrim played in the All-Ireland semi-final, I went to that game wearing a Leitrim jersey and everyone else was wearing Dublin jersies.
“My heart was always with Leitrim from a young age. I suppose it was just my mother's influence on me.
“Seamus Quinn, who's a team selector now, would have been one of the big players at the time and when I was playing football in the back-garden I would have been commentating and pretending I was him.
“So, yeah, I’ve always been a Leitrim supporter I suppose.”
First called up to the Leitrim senior football panel in 2009 by then manager Mickey Moran in 2009, Gallagher stepped away from the scene after two years because he wasn’t progressing up the pecking order as much as he would have liked.
The skilful attacker got a call-up again when Benny Guckian was appointed team manager in 2016, and his second coming as a Leitrim footballer has been a lot more personally rewarding for the now 30-year-old.
“Yeah, it's been much better experience the second time around,” said Gallagher. “I've been given a lot more chances to play and get into the team.
“I suppose the second time around it's a much younger team this time compared to 2009. I suppose I was young as well in 2009, I was 21 or 22.
“This time I'm a bit older and it's a bit of a younger group that's easier to jump into it. It's very easy to mingle in there and start from scratch with the lads. So, yeah, it's been much better this time.
“And then obviously the rewards have been better because I've been playing and starting League and Championship games and I'm enjoying my football.
“Last year when I made my Championship debut against London it was definitely a very proud moment.
“My uncles would have travelled over to watch the game, they'd be all Leitrim as well, and it was a proud moment for them as well.
“Every time I pull on the Leitrim jersey I just love it.”
Gallagher has two young children so making the commitment to travel to Leitrim on a weekly basis for much of the year is a significant one.
It doesn’t feel like a chore at this time of the year though, especially after special days like last Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier victory over Louth in front of a raucous home support in Pairc Sean MacDiarmada.
“Yeah, it was brilliant, it really was,” said Gallagher. “It was great to see the scenes afterwards. There were men with tears in their eyes.
“It hits home, it really does, that it affects so many peoples' lives when you do get a win or when you get a bad loss like we did against Roscommon.
“Then you have a big win like you did against Louth and all of a sudden the whole county is in a much better mood and a much better place.
“The scenes after the match were absolutely brilliant to be a part of. It was just a great buzz.
“People were coming up to me and they knew my name and knew my background and were saying congratulations and that sort of thing.
“It's always nice when people make that effort to come over. On the flip side it's a pleasure for me to able to pull on the Leitrim jersey and represent the county.
“Everyone has been very welcoming and after the match on Saturday I was just saying to the lads I would have loved to have stayed down for the week until the Monaghan game, because there was that much of a good vibe around the place that I didn't want to come home.”
They’re massive underdogs for Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Round 3 Qualifier against Monaghan, but such is the optimism in the county after the win over Louth that everyone is energised rather than overawed by the challenge.
“We're happy to get a chance to play a great team like Monaghan, it'll be a great experience,” said Gallagher. “The result against Louth has really given us confidence.
“Not many teams can put up a 25-point score-line, so we're fully confident we're definitely going to give it a cut against Monaghan.
“We're going to go at it, we're confident in ourselves, and we're definitely looking forward to it.”