GAA Football

Donegal starlet Oisin Gallen looking forward to Croke Park debut

Oisin Gallen celebrates after Jamie Brennan (15) celebrates a goal against Kildare at Ballyshannon on Sunday.
Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

THE absence of Donegal’s Gweedore players and injuries to Michael Murphy and Paddy McBrearty helped to open the door for Oisin Gallen and the 18 year-old Ballybofey forward has grabbed his chance impressively.

DCU student Gallen has started the last five games for Declan Bonner’s side and contributed four points on Sunday as the Tir Chonaill men clinched promotion with a commanding 13-point win over Kildare.

Playing as an inside forward, Gallen was full of clever movement and kicked three points with his right foot before adding a fourth off his left to cap a man of the match performance.

After missing the games against Clare and Meath, his first two League outings ended in defeats to Tipperary and Fermanagh but he kept his place for the three in-a-row winning run that saw Donegal edge out the Ernemen in the promotion race.

“It’s good to be playing inside and if you’re playing off boys like Michael (Murphy) and Jamie (Brennan) you are learning every training session and every game and it’s just a good experience,” he said.

“It was a surprise (to be selected to start) but I tried to keep my head down in training and push on – thankfully I got some reward for it. You keep working hard, that’s all you can do, and hope somebody notices.”

Gallen made his senior debut in this year’s Dr McKenna Cup and, a couple of months’ later, is now looking forward to a first appearance at Croke Park in next Saturday’s Division Two final against Meath.

“Our aim all along has been Division One,” he said.

“It’s where we want to be and we did bounce back after two poor defeats.

“We learned lots from those defeats but we fixed ourselves up kicked on for the next couple of games and thankfully we got two points in the last three.

“Today was a great performance and we are back (in Division One) now and we have to kick on next Saturday in the League final. We’ll be going to win it.

“It’s the first time (playing) in Croke Park for me so I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure all the other boys are too. You don’t take it for granted when you’re playing in Croke Park, it should be a good game and we’ll put the heads down in training and look forward to it.

“We’ve got to go there and get a win.”

With Kilcar star Paddy McBrearty returning to training this week and Odhran MacNaillais still not ruled out, Gallen expects to have a fight on his hands to keep his place for Donegal’s Ulster Championship opener against Fermanagh on May 26.

“It’s not going to be easy (to keep my place),” he said.

“It’s never easy at this level but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few weeks bring.

“Playing with better players makes you better yourself. It is a challenge but a challenge pushes you on and makes you better.

“It has been a good few games but look there is competition for places there and there’s nothing guaranteed; it’ll be a long few weeks now preparing for next weekend and for the Championship too.

Kildare travelled to windswept Ballyshannon hoping to end a stop-start League campaign on a winning note but they were literally blown away in the first half. Struggling to cope with the conditions and a focussed Donegal, they went in at the break 0-13 to a point behind.

“When the score was on we just chipped it over, kept the scoreboard ticking and got a good lead going in at half-time,” said Gallen.

“The second half was about playing with the conditions and doing what was best and we did that – it was a very good performance from everybody.

“The boys worked the ball well up the field, there weren’t too many shot from out the field and it was all about getting into the best positions. 1-6 into the wind is a good return in Ballyshannon.”

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