There will always be that slight regret for Raymie Gallagher that he wasn’t able to get his hands on that elusive Ulster medal but he is quite content with his lot all the same.

After all, success at schools’ level with St Michael’s, an Ulster U21 title and two All Ireland B crowns with Fermanagh as well as club glory in both Dublin and Tyrone and not to mention three Railway Cups with Ulster is not something to turn your nose up at.

“There are players and counties who have won a lot more but there are also people who have won less so I suppose I have done alright. During my time, Fermanagh haven’t won a whole lot but we did win and Ulster U21, two All Ireland B Championships and a McKenna Cup and I was lucky to be involved in all of those and very few players can say that apart from Paddy McGuinness and maybe a couple of others.

“But for any Fermanagh player it is about winning Ulster and we were never able to do that. Some of the years I played we would have been very competitive but we just couldn’t get to that next level which was needed to win Ulster,” he said.

For anyone that seen a young Gallagher playing football with home club Erne Gaels or with St Michael’s College there was the understanding that he was a special talent with his searing pace and a thunderous left peg having him marked out as future star.

And, it was when he got to St. Michael’s that Gallagher really started to make his mark on the pitch. He won a Corn na nOg when playing a year young and in 1992 he was a key player as the Enniskillen school landed their first MacRory Cup in 19 years.

“It was new ground for us, we hadn’t won it in nearly 20 years so to win the MacRory that year was massive for the school. My mother and father were a huge influence on me, my father would never miss a match even the midweek ones with the school.

“I’ve great memories from my time at St Michael’s and not just winning. I played football from first year to seventh year and I have to say I have a great respect for Dom Corrigan and Peter McGinnity,” he explained.

Gallagher hit five points in the final against St. Patrick’s Dungannon.

“I remember I was very nervous because while you tried to treat it as just another game, you know that it is a big occasion too. Looking back at it, the match itself was poor enough but it was a brilliant feeling to have won it,” he added.

The following year they set their sights on completing back to back MacRory Cups.

“We would have felt that we had maybe even a better side in 1993 and we went through the league and a load of good challenge games unbeaten. We had been going really, really well and we just got caught cold by Dungannon in the quarter-final. It was gut-wrenching and even more so because it was my last year,” he stated.

Gallagher left St. Michael’s as a two time Colleges All Star and was also selected on the Ulster Colleges’ Team of the Millennium such was the impression he made at the school.

In the summer of ‘93, the Erne Gaels forward was making his mark for his county, hitting 1-08 as he blasted a highly fancied Armagh out of the minor championship before then taking his place on the bench for the senior game the same afternoon.

“The Armagh side that we beat had been in an All Ireland final the year before and they would have had a fair sprinkling of guys who were still underage that year like Diarmuid Marsden, Oisin McConville and Des Mackin. At my time at minors, you went out more in hope than expectation so that was a big one for us.”

He didn’t come on in the senior game which ended in a draw but started the next week in the Athletic Grounds on his senior championship debut when Fermanagh famously blew a nine point lead in the closing stages to lose by a point. Gallagher scored 1-05 but was left wondering what had just happened at the final whistle.

“At that time I was still playing school football, county minors and county U21s so I never trained with the seniors at all. I think the only time I trained with them was that week between the minor game and the senior game and I only knew I was playing maybe an hour or two before the game.

“We had completely dominated them and looked like winning easily and that would have been some coup for Fermanagh at that time to have beaten Armagh up in the Athletic Grounds. What happened late on was as much naivety and mistakes on Fermanagh’s behalf than it was anything that Armagh did. The first goal was sloppy and the other two goals just came bang, bang and I was left wondering what had just happened.”

A groin injury ruled Gallagher out from the end of 1993 to spring 1994 but he returned in time for a memorable run to the Ulster U21 title.

“I had a bad groin injury and had it operated on in December 1993 and I was only back fully training a couple of weeks before the Donegal game in Irvinestown. We beat them and then Tyrone in the semi-final in Clogher before facing Derry in the final. Mark O’Donnell scored two goals that day.

“We had a good team, the nucleus of it would have been the MacRory Cup winning side from two years earlier. It was good times, Jim Carty was the manager and anyone who played under Jim will know the sort of character he was, it was great craic.”

Injuries though were to cost the forward the best part of the next two years.

“ I tore my cruciate in the autumn time in a challenge game against Sligo in Lisnaskea. I had only turned 19 and it wouldn’t have been common for a player so young to have had this injury so I was advised to rest and try and build up the leg for six to eight months. I remember then trying to play a club match in June or July of 1995 and it just buckled after the first turn I went to do and I had to get surgery on it. I probably didn’t get playing properly to late spring of ‘96,” said Gallagher.

And he firmly believes that he would have benefited much more from the professional care that players now receive, especially in their recovery from injury.

“Some people laugh when I say I would love to play in the modern game but I do feel a lot about the professional approach to it would have helped me.

“Back when I was younger you were basically left to yourself to rehab and, yes there is an onus on the player, but sometimes you need to be guided, especially when you are younger. I think that the way it is now were you are kept involved and have the medical treatment available all the time, be it physios or whatever, would have been a benefit for me,” he added.

He did get back for championship that year under manager Terry Ferguson but Fermanagh were thumped by Tyrone and Pat King replaced Ferguson at the helm for the next season. And Raymie felt Fermanagh started to take good strides forward under King.

“Pat would have been very well received, he was a good manager and the preparation was more professional. We had a good autumn in 1996 in Division Four in which we won all our games and we then won the All Ireland B which was a good competition back then, we beat Longford in the final.

“Things we felt were starting to move in the right direction. We pushed on in the league in the spring and got promotion. There was confidence building from winning those games and we actually went on to win the McKenna Cup in 1997, beating Tyrone in the final which just gave us that bit more confidence,” he commented.

The next target for Fermanagh was to start winning Ulster Championship matches. Other than a couple of wins over Antrim they had failed to make their mark in the provincial series since 1983 but that changed with a win over Monaghan in 1999.

“We played Monaghan in 1999 and got that win which was an important one for us. And we beat Donegal the next year before losing narrowly to Armagh in the semi.”

John Maughan was named as manager for the 2001 season and Gallagher believes that Fermanagh were now a competitive side albeit not a challenger for major honours.

“We might not have been among the elite but we were fairly solid. The leagues were mixed up at that time into 1A and 1B. We were playing the Meaths, Kildares, Downs, Derrys, teams who were good and competitive at that time, and we were holding our own.”

Another injury though put paid to his summer.

“I had a bit of back problem and we played Ederney in a club league match and I remember falling and the pain was unbearable. I was stretchered off and I had to get surgery on the back so I missed out on the championship.”

Dom Corrigan stepped up from number two to take over the manager’s position the next season and again Fermanagh showed they were continuing to progress as they defeated Monaghan in Ulster before going out to eventual All Ireland winners Armagh.

In 2003, Corrigan named Gallagher as captain and they enjoyed a strong season.

“We lost our first two league games that year to Down and Laois but the next five games we picked up and that got us through to the league semi-final. We played Tyrone in Croke Park, it was a big day for the county. We actually did alright in the first half but they came out and got two goals in the space of a couple of minutes and that was game over,” he said.

Ulster did not go as had hoped for the Ernemen with Gallagher believing that they wasted a big opportunity to make a final.

“We had a great win against Donegal in Brewster Park in Ulster but we were disappointing against Down in the semi-final. It was a great opportunity for us to get to a final but we were poor on the day,” he acknowledged.

The side though bounced back in style with a great run in the qualifiers.

“The first round of the qualifiers is always hard especially for a county like Fermanagh whose be all and end all is winning an Ulster title, but we had a good win over a good Cavan side and followed it up with a really good win over Meath. Then we beat Mayo in Sligo. There was a deluge of rain that day and they missed a few chances but we hung on. It was a great feeling after that win to get through to the All Ireland quarter-finals,” he said.

It set up a second meeting with Tyrone but the Red Hands were on a mission and Fermanagh simply had no answer to the side that would go on and lift Sam Maguire.

“Unlike the league game, Tyrone put the game to bed early and it was just the level they were at compared to us.

“We were competitive to a point but we were not at the level to beat the top teams. In fairness, Tyrone and Armagh were maybe the top two teams in Ireland around that time. Look, they were better than us,” he said.

From early on in the 2003 season Gallagher had it in his head that although he was only 28 years old, this was to be his last in the Fermanagh jersey as he was now living and playing club football in Dublin for St. Brigid’s. There was also to be another change of manager as Dom Corrigan stepped down with a number of players then opting out of the squad.

“I would regret the way it finished up but I didn’t think it would be right of me to try and encourage the management or players to stay on when I had more or less made my mind up that I wasn’t going back.”

The year though was to end on a high as Raymie and cousin Rory helped St. Brigid’s, who he had moved to in 2000, to the Dublin and Leinster titles.

“St Brigid’s had never won a championship so it was a big deal. I have a lot of good memories and have good friends at the club who I would still be in contact regularly with.

“We were actually bang average in the first few rounds in Dublin and coming into the semi-final we doubted whether we would go any further. We played well though that day against Na Fianna and things also went our way. Kieran McGeeney was missing because Armagh were in the All Ireland final, Jason Sherlock then missed a penalty and Dessie Farrell missed a great goal chance so we rode our luck a bit.

“In the final against Kilmacud it was as good a team performance as I have been involved in. We blew them out of the water in the first half and although they came back at the start of the second half but we clicked again and pushed on to win it.”

A Leinster title duly followed with victory over Round Towers from Kildare in the final but Gallagher admits to being disappointed with their performance in the All Ireland semi-final when they lost to An Ghaeltacht.

“I would say my biggest regret in football was that All Ireland semi-final. We lost by a couple of points but it was a game we could have won on the day. We were flat that day and we weren’t at our best,” he added.

Back on the inter-county scene, Gallagher had no change of heart and he missed out as Fermanagh, under Charlie Mulgrew, went on a remarkable run that almost took them to the All Ireland final, going down after a reply to Mayo in the semi-final. Gallagher though has no regrets about not being involved.

“I have absolutely no regret about that, I had already made my mind up although I did speak to Charlie Mulgrew two or three times. I was living in Dublin at the time and I felt Fermanagh had gone to a certain level and if there was any chance of me playing again they needed to go to another level, I didn’t want to be playing on just for the sake of it. I just didn’t feel that was going to be the case and I personally felt that the appointment was a backward step. The run the team went on in 2004 was great but ultimately in Fermanagh you want to win an Ulster title and that didn’t happen.”

He did though accept the invitation to return to the county colours in 2005 although he does regret that decision to an extent.

“In one way I do and in another way I don’t. I was working in the bank in Dublin at that time and a few people had been in contact who were involved in Fermanagh GAA and they helped me get a transfer back up north which was brilliant for me. In footballing terms there are a few regrets about going back but in many ways it put my mind at ease.”

Fermanagh’s defeat to Down in the qualifiers was the end for Raymie as a county footballer but there was more success to follow in 2007 on the club scene.

“The transfer at work took me to Dromore and my original intention was to go back to play for Erne Gaels after seeing out the 2006 season with St. Brigid’s but there was a few things happened with my father at the club that left a bitter taste and that put an end to that.

“Ryan McMenamin also came in to see me in early 2006 and asked would I be interested in coming to Dromore. I explained to him that I was after having an operation on my knee and St Brigid’s had sorted me out and I was going to see out that year with them. I trained with Dromore though that year and joined them the next year,” he said.

It was to be a successful year on the pitch but a very tough one for Gallagher off it.

“My father died that June so it was a tough time but Dromore were very good to me, the players were very supportive and made me very welcome and I was delighted to win a league and championship double and I regret that I couldn’t give more to Dromore.”

And so came an end to his playing career although he adds: “Strangely enough I never officially retired, I just haven’t played again! I’m happy though and I have a great wife and kids so life’s good!”