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Hugh Gallagher's insight into Slaughtneil can pay off for Omagh

By Declan Bogue

If Omagh need an insight into what they will be facing as they take on Slaughtneil in this Sunday's Ulster club football final, they will be well-prepared by captain Hugh Gallagher's venture into Derry territory earlier in the year.

The 27-year-old trainee doctor spent a year in Australia as part of his medical training alongside Derry footballer Brian Óg McAlary. When he went up to see McAlary play this year for Kilrea in their Championship, it was against eventual champions Slaughtneil.

"I was very impressed by them," admits Gallagher.

"They are a really, really solid team. They have a good defence, six men that you would be happy to go with toe-to-toe. In midfield, Patsy (Bradley) and big Paudie McGuigan are good, then in the forward line, you have Chrissy Bradley and everything seems to go through him, then Paul Bradley and Pa Kelly as well.

"They have county men, ex-county men. A good, strong solid team."

He concedes that he only came back home from the sunshine of Australia for football.

And a wise decision it was as he has led Omagh to their first county title in 26 years and all the way to the Ulster final. However, it is tinged slightly with the absence of his two siblings who are out for different reasons (Micheál is travelling while injury has ruled out Turlough).

"I have grown up and done nothing but play with Micheál all through my career and it's that bit of back-up, you know he's there, you know what's he's capable of and he is dependable," Gallagher relates.

"So you miss him and you miss the build-up to the games as well. I have a younger brother Turlough there too, but he has a shoulder injury. We have gone from three in the team to just one."

Still, he would not change this year. After spending successive seasons failing to deliver on their promise under Paddy Crozier and Liam Grugan, it's finally happening for them.

A key reason for that, he insists, is their age profile.

"Those boys were all young, 18, 19, 20. Now they are 22, 23. I am 27. Joey is 30, 31, but you need that age bracket rather than everybody being under 25.

"You need everything going right as well, as it is under Larry (Strain, manager). People ask what is the difference but there is no difference. No magic formula, just getting the simple things right, and the wee bit of luck."

And they hope the luck stays with them this weekend as they bid for the McFerran Cup.

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