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'As a 10-year-old, it was class... I just really enjoyed being a Munster fan'

Matt Gallagher has always had a strong link to the southern province.

Gallagher joined Munster last summer.
Gallagher joined Munster last summer.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

WHEN MUNSTER MADE contact with Matt Gallagher back in 2019, it didn’t take a great mental leap for him to imagine playing for the Irish province.

24-year-old Gallagher is a native of London and was playing with Saracens at that stage but his family roots in Limerick meant he had been on regular childhood visits to his grandmother, Ann, who lives in Corbally.

Indeed, Gallagher was a genuine Munster fan growing up. He was at the 2006 and 2008 Heineken Cup finals roaring on the likes of Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer.

“I went with my family, friends, and my Dad,” recalls Gallagher. “The games were in Cardiff so we ended up getting a big bus up with the local rugby club.

“We spent the night there and as a 10-year-old, it was class. You get swept away with the day… I just really enjoyed being a Munster fan.”

Gallagher’s father is former All Blacks fullback John Gallagher, who won 18 Test caps and was a World Cup winner in 1987. Born and bred in London to Irish parents, John was initially moved to New Zealand to play club rugby but rose through the ranks rapidly after impressing for Wellington.

He returned to the UK in the ’90s to play rugby league and ended up being capped by Ireland A in union in 1996 – qualifying through his parents.

So it’s little surprise that Matt feels an affinity with Ireland. He was viewed as a player of high potential as he broke through with Saracens but the presence of the likes of Alex Goode, Liam Williams, and Max Malins meant competition was strong at fullback.

Gallagher’s connection to Munster made their approach an attractive one, while playing for Saracens against the province at Thomond Park in December 2019 only strengthened his conviction that shifting his career to Ireland was the right call.

matt-gallagher-goes-off-injured Gallagher was injured while scoring a try. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Gallagher, who can also play on the wing, joined last summer after the pandemic had kicked in, meaning his first year wasn’t what he was initially expecting, although he says “the lads, the people around Munster, and the fans, everyone has been fantastic” in making him feel at home.

Gallagher is looking forward to his family being able to visit Thomond Park when restrictions ease. His bid to settle in has even extended to giving another sport a go.

“I’ve got myself a hurley and I forgot the name of the ball… sliotar, my bad, so I’ve had a bit of a puck around with the lads in some of their gardens and stuff,” says Gallagher with a smile. “It’s more difficult than you think, isn’t it?”

His hopes of making a positive impression on the pitch this season were dealt a blow when Gallagher dislocated his shoulder on his fifth appearance for the province back in December, that injury keeping him sidelined for several months.

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“That was quite tough, I’d never really had a long-term injury before really, so that was a learning curve for me as well to figure that one out on the run.

“But we had quite a big group of lads who were injured as well, so we made it quite bearable for each other. Myself, Neil Cronin, RG [Snyman], Joey [Carbery] was there as well, we had a good little group.”

The former England U20 international will hope to finish his season with a strong showing tomorrow against Zebre in Munster’s final Rainbow Cup game, a dead rubber in terms of the competition but a chance for Gallager and others to impress.

Gallagher joined Munster on a two-year deal so will hope for an injury-free campaign in 2021/22 as he bids to helps the province to the kind of heights he reveled in as a Munster fan growing up.

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Murray Kinsella

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