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Saturday 27 February 2021

'He's my best friend and he's somebody I've always aspired to in Donegal and Glenswilly'

Captain Michael Murphy pays tribute to the recently retired Neil Gallagher.

A dejected Michael Murphy, Neil Gallagher and Patrick McBrearty Donegal's Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

MICHAEL MURPHY HAS seen a bunch of Donegal teammates shuffle off into retirement since last summer bur there’s a sense that the departure of Neil Gallagher last week had a greater impact on the senior captain.

Since Donegal’s championship exit against Dublin last August, the retirements have been plentiful.

Colm McFadden, Eamon McGee, Rory Kavanagh, Christy Toye and David Walsh all opted to hang up their boots before a back injury forced Gallagher to call time.

For Murphy, Gallagher was an inspiring presence in his career. As the first player from his club Glenswilly to enjoy senior status with Donegal, he paved the way for the 2012 All-Ireland winning captain.

“He’s my best friend and he’s somebody I’ve always aspired to in Donegal and Glenswilly,” says Murphy.

“He’s shown me a way for the club in terms of a player being able to play with Donegal and he’s shown me the way in terms of the club being able to compete at senior club level.

“It was down to him and everybody will admit that in the club. Obviously there are others in the club too but he has really, really shown the way and he’ll continue to keep doing so – he’s somebody we all aspire to.

Barry Canning, Neil Gallagher and Michael Murphy Barry Canning, Neil Gallagher and Michael Murphy celebrating Glenswilly's maiden Donegal senior football title in 2011.

“For the younger lads coming into the (Donegal) panel, they got very close to him – he has that kind of way about him in terms of personality. Obviously as a footballer, he was very influential but I was just delighted for them younger lads to get an opportunity to get to know him because I think that will rub off on them well for the rest of their careers.”

Gallagher was sidelined with a back problem for the 2016 campaign and Murphy was well aware of his difficulties over the winter in trying to launch a Donegal comeback.

“Last October, when you were kind of considering everything – we had won the county championship – and Neil had looked back on the year he had, he said he didn’t really want to bow out without giving it a real rattle.

“He wanted to get his body into good shape to give himself a chance because he hardly played any football last year with Donegal.

“In fairness to him, in the last three or four months since that, he tried everything to do the rehab as strongly as he could.

“But the pain just wasn’t subsiding in any way, so as much as I was trying to coax him to keep at it, I could see myself being with him most days that the pain was just getting too much

“It was unbearable. Things just weren’t really that enjoyable and to really keep grinding at it wasn’t going to make things any better.”

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The Donegal captain with Clermont and the Welsh rugby great playing for Glenswilly

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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