Glenavy’s Charles Gallagher will be better known to most of you for his prowess on the football field for St. Joseph’s GAC and he has had his fair deal of success with the Chapel Hill side. One of seven brothers who play for Glenavy, with both Patrick and Owen having represented the county and Patrick still very much an intricate part of the Saffron setup.
What many of us didn’t know was that the big Glenavy full-forward is at present in the front line in the fight against Corvid19. Charles is a doctor at the Mater and Royal Victoria hospital and he took time out from his vital work to speak to the Saffron Gael.
Hi Paddy, good questions, bit harder to answer writing down though so I hope this is appropriate.
By the way there are seven boys & two girls in my family, so I’ve six brothers, I also recently took a contract in Craigavon A&E after working in the Mater, Royal and six other A&E departments in the north.
Saffron Gael: Charles tell us about your career with Glenavy, about playing alongside your brothers and about the honours you have achieved with the club?
Charles Gallagher: There’s nothing like playing with your brothers. That’s what Gaelic football has on other sports, the parochially knitted community that feels like family. We got to an Ulster Intermediate Championship Semi-Final in Newry in 2015, lost because we didn’t have Francie, may he rest in peace. I’ve never been able to have a full season in my ten years as a Senior, which broke my heart about this season being postponed, it was looking like my first.
S.G. Who were the people who inspired you during you Gaelic career?
C.G: Francie Doone (RIP), Paul Loney (RIP), James Heatley, Ollie Cormican, Stephen Ramsey, Ronan Hamill, not to mentioned my Dad’s motivation and Mother’s shrill support from the sidelines!
S.G. How long have you been a doctor, where did you train and qualify and what made you follow such an important but demanding career?
C.G: Trained in Glasgow for six years. Houseman in Stoke-on-Trent, County Staffordshire for two years. I suppose I wanted to be a man like my Dad and enjoy helping people. I knew quite early on I wanted to be a doctor. It’s an honour to be a Public Servant.
S.G. You now find yourself in the frontline of this terrible pandemic. Tell us about a typical day at work, about the challenges you and your colleagues face in a typical day and anything else you would like to add.
C.G: When this pandemic really took effect in mid-March there was tangible panic in A&E at times. The bosses (consultants) had the majority of the labour and stringent new protocols were put in place nearly every day. With Government guidance we seem to have averted the terrific bedlam in Italy which will have saved many lives. That does not mean this is clear: worse is still to come by many projections, but we are ready.
Due to all of this everything is at ease in the hospital. I’m of the opinion Government should step up trails of appropriate relaxations on social distancing. We must balance with old normality to treat non-covid patients again and ensure the economy for our future health care.
S.G. I suspect, like the rest of us you will be looking forward to lacing up the boots again when this awful Covid19 passes even though Gaelic football is of no real importance given the scale of this pandemic but we all dream of the time when we can all return to some form of normality whatever that normality will be. Give us your thoughts?
C.G: I hope the GAA thinks of the grassroots first and club football is first on the agenda. Maybe I say that because I’m not county, so you can’t blame me! Oh and hurling too of course, for the folks in the Glens.
Got to take enjoyment in what you can now though. Glenavy seniors are digging vegetable patches. I wonder if the McKinley’s in Loughgiel or McCaughan’s of Armoy could do better? Vegetable Patch Championship in the summer instead?
S.G. I’ve a granddaughter who is a student nurse and another providing care to the elderly in the community. I’m obviously concerned for their welfare while very proud of the contribution they are making. How has working in the front line affected you and your family?
C.G: I’ve been going to the family home and getting passed cups of tea out the back, maybe a plate of food. There’s seven in the house at the moment and I’m sure like most households going through these surreal times it’s nice to see everyone trying to pull together. My big brother Patrick & wife Niamh just had their first child, Peter Thomas Francis, that’s brought great commotion and joy! I go up and stand in my granny’s yard too, must be very hard on the elderly losing their social lives without the likes of work or social media.
S.G. Charles if there is anything else you would like to add feel free. Thanks for taking time and hopefully we will meet up at a game in the not too distant future?
C.G: Hopefully it’s a warm late summer evening after a hard fought, skilful game of football and you wink at me as I’m walking off the pitch and say ‘I may just have caught a good picture of that pass you made.’ Life’s in little moments. God Bless. Charles
My thanks to Dr Charles Gallagher for taking time out from his busy schedule to take part in this interview. I think I speak for all Antrim Gaels when I say, you are part of a remarkable group of people in the NHS who have gone far beyond the call of duty to ensure that those who need your care and expertise are provided for and if I’m lucky enough to get that great photograph of you in action it will be a pleasure.