Gallagher: Royal’s All-Ireland victory has inspired chasing pack

All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship semi-final

Donegal v Meath

Saturday, Croke Park, 4pm

AFTER 350 days out with a cruciate ligament injury, Edel Gallagher got the call from Maxi Curran for Donegal’s quarter-final win over Dublin.

Hannah Tyrrell needed curbed and Gallagher was handed the role in her 100th game for the county.

Renowned surgeon Ray Moran’s knife was followed by months of rehab. She didn’t have to look far for extra support with captain Niamh McLaughlin – twice a cruciate victim –and goalkeeper Roisin McCafferty both qualified as physiotherapists.

It’s the togetherness in the Donegal camp that provides the motivation to keep coming back year after year.

Emer joins Yvonne Bonner, Geraldine McLaughlin, Karen Guthrie, Niamh Hegarty, Nicole McLaughlin and Katy Herron in the centurion club.

“One of the massive things is that all my friends play,” Gallagher said of the special bond in the camp.

“We’ve had a great sense of family in the squad for many years. When everyone is coming back year after year, there’s that sense of camaraderie that you want to be there as well.”

She speaks of a love for football in the county and the “great sense” of pride in the jersey.

Looking on, Gallagher saw Donegal lose out to Armagh in their Ulster final extra-time thriller and more recently against Cork in the All-Ireland series that sent them through to a rematch with the Dubs.

She saw first-hand the level of effort and the level of disappointment at not translating it into wins.

“Heading into the game last Saturday against Dublin our main goal was to just perform and keep it going for the full 60 minutes and be proud of the performance that we put on,” she added.

Donegal will again be focussing on their own performance and Gallagher feels the underdogs tag will help take the pressure off.

“It’s just been a nice way to get a look at the match and the All-Ireland semi-final – to focus on ourselves. Getting back to Croke Park is a huge achievement in itself and getting to play there twice in one year. Hopefully we might to get play there three times, so it’s nice to focus on those smaller things.”

From struggling to get over Dublin to beating them twice in one year is a plus for Donegal and Gallagher puts it down to belief.

“We came into games against the likes of Dublin and maybe felt the game was already lost before it was even played.

“So I think playing against them and losing by such small margins has definitely given us the belief that we are well able to compete with the top teams in the country and I suppose there’s definitely a hunger there.”

“There’s a great team spirit and I think all of those driving factors are what has been getting us these results.

“Hopefully all of those factors will really help us put it up against Meath.”

Gallagher was in Croke Park last season, in a commentary role, as the Royals went on to lift the Brendan Martin Cup to end the Cork and Dublin dominance.

“It really gave every other county that inspiration that you can do it, it’s about being that unified group and taking that unified approach to every match,” she added.

“It’s a wide open championship. We’re going to have All-Ireland semi-finals with four teams that haven’t been in it in recent years.

“That’s really, really exciting and it’s left things in a fantastic position to be in.

“Who knows what two teams could be there in the All-Ireland final. Everyone is going to be really excited about what’s going to happen this week and the weeks to follow.

“Thanks to Meath they have definitely given everyone else the kick-start that maybe they needed.”

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