Neil Gallagher - the Donegal Snooker ground-breaker

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NEIL GALLAGHER’S career in North-West snooker - which began when Letterkenny’s CYMS Club entered the competitive circuit back in the mid 1960’s - is dotted with a string of benchmark achievements.

1967 provided him with his first career highlights - a League Division Two winners medal and call-up to a North-West Select to play in a professional snooker bill and, as evidenced by the following ‘Derry Journal’ extract, he justified his inclusion - “Jackie Rea, the Irish professional Snooker Champion, gave an exhibition at the Foresters Hall (Magazine Street). During the evening he played and beat Paddy Harkin, Patsy McDermott, Anthony Horwill, Liam Lynch and Teddy Stewart, his only loss being a 48-36 reverse against Letterkenny’s Neil Gallagher.”

The CYMS cueist greatly enhanced his reputation during the 1970’s, courtesy of a brace of landmark performances, initiated in 1970 when he teamed up with the late Dan McLaughlin to put Donegal on the Pairs Championship map. And he followed up that unique conquest by taking the Senior Championship runner-up honours (1977), the first from the county to reach the final of North-West snooker’s flagship event.

Gallagher subsequently went across the water and worked for London Transport on the Tube for some 18 years, before repatriation in 1995. He resumed his career in North-West snooker and, though not exactly the force of old, had still sufficient rubber left in the snooker tyres to complete a Championship ‘double’ in 1998 (pairs and junior titles). Neil’s second Pairs Championship success - co-pilot was his brother Paul - enabled him to carve out a little niche for himself, as no-one else has won pairs titles separated by 28 years.

Upon entering the twilight of his career in the early years of the new Millennium, the Letterkenny man opted for the less intense competition in the veterans’ code, the start of a ‘second career’ embellished by further landmark accreditation.

The first and only Donegal competitor to win the Veterans’ Billiards and Snooker Championship titles, he hit the snooker jackpot in 2006 and peaked again in this year’s renewal. He was crowned the billiards kingpin in 2011 and shined up his victory with a break of 49 (record for the final). Moreover, he holds the bragging rights as the Pairs Cup lone half-centurion (50 at St. Pat’s in 2011).

Apart from his ground-breaking exploits, Gallagher has pretty much played the anchor role in the Letterkenny club’s impressive strike-rate in the veterans’ team tournaments, not least last season when CYMS became the first club to annex the ‘Triple Crown’ (League Section One, Singles and Pairs Knockout Cups).

And finally, Neil Gallagher’s ultra-consistent record over the past two seasons has earned him back-to-back ‘North-West Veteran Player of the Year’ accolades, sure confirmation as the current superstar in the veterans code - the equivalent of compatriot Johnny Connors’ status in the senior snooker grade.