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Rory Gallagher having a profound influence on Kilcar

By John Campbell

This time last year, Rory Gallagher was patrolling the touchline as No 2 to Jim McGuinness when Donegal made their pitch for All-Ireland title glory.

But a shattering quarter-final defeat to Mayo not only sent the north-west side out of the championship but triggered a parting of the ways between the 'big two'.

While McGuinness has since brought Donegal to their third Ulster title in four years and into the All-Ireland semi-finals in which they will meet Dublin on Sunday week, Gallagher has been quietly laying his plans for championship success with Kilcar.

The former Fermanagh and Cavan player, who was also linked with Dublin at one stage while he was playing with the St Brigid's club in Blanchardstown, has been widely credited with much of the tactical nous that has kept Donegal almost constantly in the limelight since McGuinness took charge.

Immediately prior to becoming involved in team management, he proved a cultured full-forward in the St Gall's side that won the Antrim and Ulster club titles in 2009 before going on to claim the All-Ireland club title in 2010.

Club fare in Donegal may be somewhat removed from the trappings of major showpiece fixtures at Croke Park but Gallagher, always very much his own man, has made a seamless transition from county mentor to club overlord.

And it's hardly surprising that his influence within the Kilcar club is already pronounced.

The west Donegal side look certain to win the All County league as four points from their last four games will suffice to give them the title but it's the championship crown on which Gallagher has his sights.

The prospects of his team making a robust pitch for the top prize have been boosted, too, now that Mark McHugh is back in the fold and Patrick McBrearty has recaptured his scoring touch.

McHugh, brother of Ryan, who has been a key cog in the Donegal side this year, has just returned from the US and his experience and guile could yet prove invaluable weapons in the team's championship mission.

He played a big part in helping Donegal win the All-Ireland title in 2012 but earlier this year he sent shockwaves through the county when he stepped down from McGuinness's panel just before the Ulster championship got under way.

As well as linking up with his sibling, he will also join the McBrearty brothers Patrick and Stephen and ex-county ace Michael Hegarty in a Kilcar side that Gallagher is priming for championship battle.

Kilcar's most famous son, Martin McHugh, hero of Donegal's 1992 All-Ireland coup and the father of Ryan and Mark, believes that Gallagher's influence within the club is pronounced.

"He is a visionary and he's doing a great job with us. Obviously everyone is keenly anticipating the championship and with Mark back and the likes of Ryan and Patrick going well, we would hope to make an impact," says Martin.

Meanwhile, the stage is set for tonight's Derry senior football championship championship re-fixture between Lavey and Magherafelt O'Donovan Rossa at Owenbeg.

The original game between the sides last week had to be abandoned when Lavey skipper Kevin McCloy was taken suddenly ill in the 11th minute and had to be rushed to Altnagelvin Hospital.

Now Lavey manager John Brennan, the former Derry boss, is hoping that this side will be able to re-focus to deal with what is certain to be a combative Magherafelt challenge.

Brennan may be without the inspirational McCloy but Colm Murphy is due to return from suspension and there is also the possibility that Cailean O'Boyle and Caolan McGurk may be available.

Admission to tonight's game is free but there will instead be a voluntary collection with the proceeds going to the Cormac Trust Fund and this is expected to raise a sizeable sum.

Belfast Telegraph


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