November 13, 1992
Offaly keeper Jim Troy with Andy Gallagher
Years and decades of service to Offaly Hurling
In light of Offaly's opening National Hurling League defeats to Down and Antrim, a greater sense of urgency is now certain to envelop Eamon Cregan's rebuilding exercise. Rocked by happenings at County Board level in recent days, the Offaly hurling camp is presently threading murky waters in what are surprisingly turbulent times for all on board the Faithful County steamship. Conciliation and patience are what's now called for. That of course, and a fair measure of renowned Andy Gallagher man-management skills and hurling acumen.
Just eighteen months on from their whirlwind National League title success, Offaly hurlers are in need of leadership, guidance and support. Messrs. Cregan and Company have their work cut out to revive drooping spirits but few would doubt that they'll turn things around. It's just a pity that Tullamore's Gallagher will not be close by to help steer the local ship to calmer waters.
Andy Gallagher's decision last week to officially sever his connection with the Offaly hurling management team was a sad finale to a disheartening chapter in the County's proud hurling history. His decision runs against the grain in every way but was inevitable given the happenings at Offaly County Board Meetings on October 22nd and November 3rd last. Reflecting back on moves by delegates representing twelve clubs to put on hold the appointment of selectors to assist Eamon Cregan, the Tullamore True Blue is typically honest and enlightening.
"It was an unhappy episode and one which I did not anticipate would happen, to be honest. I expected that the sub-committee's recommendations would have been accepted more readily by the delegates present at the meeting. This was something I had hoped would have been ratified without any of the headlines that we have seen".
A forthright, dignified exit from the Offaly County Board meeting in October represented Gallagher's parting shot in the battle of words that night. Prompted largely by his wish to facilitate open and honest discussion on the St. Rynagh's amendment to the sub-committee's recommendation, Gallagher's departure brought to an end, in the short term at least, a twenty year association with Offaly's Senior hurling backroom team.
A Placement Officer with FAS and based in Tullamore, Andy Gallagher is a figure who is simply synonymous with hurling and Offaly hurling. They are one and the same, have been since 1953 when as a brilliant Minor hurler, he first caught the eye. A natural athlete with a dare-devil approach to the game, a player who never liked losing, Andy Gallagher flirted with the game of football at County Minor and Junior level too but hurling always remained his number one sport. Being more than just competent in both codes did, of course, come naturally to the Tullamore terrier. His mother Elizabeth (nee Fahy) was of Athlone hurling stock while father, Matt, was a medal-winning dual player with the Tullamore Blues. There was no doubting the quality of the man's gaelic games pedigree and in the seasons that followed, the quickly maturing Gallagher proceeded to do his ancestry proud.
It was success all the way for the keen Tullamore youngster. He thrived on the promptings of local schoolteacher 'cum club coach Bill Ennis. Altogether a traditional football stronghold, under messr. Ennis, the young Gallagher gained County honours in both codes and in due course his versatility was recognised on the inter-County front in both codes. It was a time also when his home town club stood head and shoulders above the mainstream of clubs in the County. Players like Brendan Dagg, Eamon Fox, Noel McGee and Joe Bracken were equally talented and helped form the backbone of great Tullamore teams.
Gallagher and Company were an exceptionally talented bunch. The 'fifties represented a great purple period for the north County club. Between 1953 and '64, the local CBS graduate secured six County Senior Championship medals. A hat-trick of football tides were clinched by the Blues in 1953, '56 and '63 with the by-now highly acclaimed Gallagher on board. Intermediate hurling success for Tullamore in 1953 signalled equally bright times for the hurlers in tandem. Within two seasons of the '53 success, Tullamore scooped the Blue Ribband of hurling titles, a feat followed up by similar wins in 1959 and 1964. Although Andy Gallagher reflects with pride and nostalgic on those glory days, it's not without a tinge of sadness for Tullamore have since failed to repeat their win of eighteen years ago.
Arguably the only player to have won County football medals at Juvenile, Minor, Junior, Intermediate and Senior level, Andy Gallagher continued to ply his wares on the inter-county stage right up until 1969. It was to be another four years before he would opt out of the club football scene, but not until after he had added another County medal to his expansive collection. In 1972, as a rock-like corner back, he earned himself a well-deserved County Junior Championship medal. One of a family of six, Andy remained an integral cog in the Tullamore hurling machine until 1975 by which time his thoughts and loyalties turned to local administrative affairs.
As Tullamore Club Secretary and later as Treasurer, Gallagher's organisational abilities and his talent for allowing others perform to the best of their ability was a welcome asset to the burgeoning big- town club, destined to win the last of their Senior football crowns in 1977. Tullamore's football success ironically came in the midst of Andy Gallagher's reign as Offaly hurling manager. Having been an Offaly selector since 1972, his natural gradh for the game of hurling, his commitment to his County and his appointment in 1975 as County Team manager was an inevitably progression for the die hard Gael.
Whatever else about Gallagher's sincere motives for assuming the supremo's position, few could have seriously suggested that he was looking a gift horse in the mouth in '75. Then, Offaly was a fledgling hurling stronghold but theories which hinted at Leinster Championship success were something to be whispered rather than laid bare from any soap box positioned within pucking distance of Wexford Park or Nowlan Park. A dearth of interest among hurlers of the time in the Faithful County combined with a dire shortage of tradition left Offaly hurling languishing with the Country's hurling untouchables.
Hope was on the horizon though. Rock bottom status was about to be eroded by the seas of change, awash with the promise of better times courtesy of the County Under 21 side of 1977. The following year the self same squad won out in '78, the Leinster Championship was theirs and a new beginning was put in train for players such as Pat Finery, Joachim Kelly, Brendan Birmingham, Aidan Fogarty and Eugene Coughlan. Paudge Mulhaire, as manager, earned his just deserts. Andy Gallagher as one of the team selectors was a proud man too.
In an extraordinary sequence of provincial Championship campaigns, Offaly were to contest all eleven Leinster Senior finals between 1980 ad 1991, winning a magnificent seven in all. For a County that had only ever previously contested two Leinster hurling deciders, the run was an emphatic reminder to the traditional powers that the winds of change were about to transform the hurling scene like never before. Offaly's campaign laid the groundwork for future Tipperary, Galway and Antrim revivals.
As Offaly's Leinster Council delegate, along with Brother Dennis, the change in the province's hurling status quo was doubly satisfying for the trojan Tullamore Gael. As the champion of the Open Draw in Leinster, Andy Gallagher is to this day credited with persuading the Leinster Council to dispose of the seeded draw. For counties like Laois, Westmeath and Offaly, of course, the decision opened the door to a possible Leinster final appearance. Above all, the Open Draw levelled the playing pitch for the hitherto so-called "weaker" counties. Andy Gallagher's labours in swinging Leinster Council thinking around has not been forgotten.
Holding court in 1981, along with the aforementioned Mulhaire, Dermot Healy, Mick Spain, Charlie Daly and Tom Erritty, Andy Gallagher became a household name right across the Country when Offaly managed the unthinkable to win the impossible. An All-Ireland tide came to the Faithful County. Gallagher and Company were hailed as gods in the making. When the success was repeated four years later, the manufacturing process, the Work in Progress going on in the Heavens was complete. New blood had been brought in between '81 and '85 and duly delivered the goods. Men like Jim Troy, Joe Dooley, Tom Conneely, Danny Owens and Paddy Corrigan had come on the scene to help catapult the new hurling power back on top of the hurling pile. For messr. Gallagher and colleagues, the memory of having lost out to Galway in three All-Ireland semi finals was just a fading nightmare. All-Ireland Minor titles in 1986, '87 and '89 would keep Offaly hurling on the boil and Andy Gallagher on cloud nine.
Presently on the Tullamore club committee, Andy Gallagher expresses delight and a great deal of optimism in light of Eamon Cregan's recent appointment. Hurt personally by the shenanigans which overshadowed Cregan's appointment, Andy Gallagher describes the ex-Limerick star as "a very knowledgeable guy who has the will and the desire to do a good job with Offaly".
As in Offaly's fixture with Antrim at Birr last Sunday, Eamon Cregan will be backed to the hilt all the way by Tullamore's and Offaly's most loyal of servants. Andy Gallagher has no axe to grind. Just an Association to enhance and a team or two to cheer on from the sideline.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
13th November 1992
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