Niamh Gallogly is challenged by Kerry’s Anna Galvin during the NFL Div 1 game on St Patrick’s Day in Ashbourne. Photo: Paula Greif/

Flying Gallogly hoping to recapture the glory days

Still only 27 years Dunshaughlin Royal Gaels' Niamh Gallogly has seen it all in the green and gold with Meath Ladies.

The lightning quick wing forward (sometimes wing back) came on board the senior panel out of minor in 2016, just a few months after that now infamous 40-point All-Ireland SFC drubbing by Cork and made her debut in a 2-12 to 1-9 NFL Div 2 victory over Sligo in Drumree - she must have wondered what all the fuss was about.

Losses to Cavan, Laois, Donegal, Westmeath, Clare and Kildare quickly followed and when Sligo gained revenge in a relegation play-off Meath found themselves in Div 3 - a new low.

Things could only get better - but it took a while.

After a variety of managers including Eoin Hennessy and Diane O'Hora had tried to steady the ship the Meath Ladies turned to Eamonn Murray and the rest is history - but Gallogly doesn't dwell on history, she is hungry for more success.

"It was difficult back then (in 2016), but all I wanted to do was play football. I didn't even think twice about it. The chance to get to play on the Meath senior team was a big deal, then when I was starting I was overjoyed with that," said the secondary school teacher.

"There weren't any serious expectations on us back then. I think we were in Div 2 of the league, we were still in senior championship, but there was no coverage or attention on us, no one knew too much about Ladies Football in general and especially Meath Ladies.

"We just went out to play football as if we were playing with the minor team that we had just come from, there was no real difference because of the lower expectations.

"Don't get me wrong, there were goals set out, but things obviously didn't go the way we wanted for one reason or another.

"For me back then I was happy to be on the senior team and just get a chance to play."

When Eamonn Murray and his management team of Paul Garrigan and Paddy Dowling came in the tide started to shift.

It took a couple of bites before the taste of success in the All-Ireland IFC was secured, but there was no stopping Meath and Gallogly who was a key figure.

The ultimate senior success arrived in 2021 and while Gallogly found herself playing the role of a hugely influential and impact sub, she admitted she was happy to do whatever was needed for the team.

"Back then that was the role I had to play at the time, I had to accept that and do whatever I could when I came on," she recalled.

"Now I'm lucky that I'm getting my chance to start games and it is up to me now to keep that jersey.

"Every time I go out onto the pitch I need to prove to myself that I deserve to keep that jersey, so I keep pushing myself every game to get better and better."

Gallogly's expectations are sky high - as all winners are.

She admits that because of the success Meath enjoyed in winning back-to-back senior All-Irelands there is now added pressure on them to be always in contention.

However, Gallogly is pragmatic enough to understand that success isn't guaranteed every year and while Meath have undergone huge changes in the last couple of years she is confident that her and her team mates can push on again.

"Because of that great win in 2021 there are high expectations of everyone to push themselves and be there for the team, driving forward and doing whatever needs to be done for Meath Ladies," said Gallogly.

"It is fairly different from when I first came in in 2016, there has been a lot of change over the last couple of year - different players, different management.

"Luckily we have been going in the right direction over the last few years. The desire was always there, it was just about getting a good culture in place, a good environment and then getting the core players to keep pushing that on each year.

"There is not as much pressure on us this year, last year there was more pressure.

"At the same time within our camp we know what we are capable of, so as players we want to push ourselves because we know what we can achieve so we put pressure on ourselves.

"There is belief within the team, we know that if we play like we did last Sunday (against Tipperary) we can push on and be looking at going one step further than last year.

"We will also try our best to drive on our standards. There was pressure last year because we were coming off two-in-a-row and trying to do it again, but then again we have to look at the bigger picture and there was massive amounts of change, even just in player turnover.

"All that has to be taken into consideration and you do have to realise that not every year is going to be like 2021 or 2022, you do have to accept that.

"Obviously that would be the ideal scenario, we want to be winning the All-Ireland, we want to get to Croke Park every year, but you have to look at Meath Ladies as a whole and keep building and getting as far as we can each year to encourage the younger girls coming through to want to play for their clubs and the county."

Next Saturday Gallogly and her team mate will travel deep into the heartland of Kingdom territory and try to upset Kerry in their own backyard in Tralee.

Gallogly admits that a very significant rivalry has developed over the last two years between the Royals and the Kingdom.

Meath defeated them to win the All-Ireland SFC title, but since then Kerry seem to have the upperhand.

However, Gallogly doesn't mind wearing the underdog tag and she is expecting, and relishing, a very tough physical game.

"I think every team loves to wear the underdog tag because it takes a little of the pressure off and you end up going out there trying to prove something," she said.

"It gives you a bit more fight and hunger to produce a 'we'll show you' kind of performance.

"We enjoy the underdog tag and it certainly brought out the best of us in the past and hopefully we'll be able to do that again next Saturday against Kerry.

"The games against Kerry have definitely become a rivalry. You always know when you play them it is going to be a tough physical battle. They are a very physical side, but I feel that brings out the best in us.

"They bring out that energy and that hunger in us and we are really excited to go down there and play them.

"Last year we went down there, but we didn't get the result we wanted. We did come close.

"We know we will need to put in an even better performance than we produced against Tipperary if we are to get the better of Kerry.

"I do love playing against Kerry, they're a great side, top class forwards. They are very physical, very fit and their style suits us so it should be a great battle and a great watch," concluded Gallogly.