Prophetic one could say was the selection of RAYMIE GALLAGHER as out winner of the Merit Award for March 2002. The selection was far from a kiss of death for the Fermanagh senior football captain as he has started April in the fashion that he finished last month. But that's a story for another day!

This is Raymie's second Monthly Merit Award .The last was for October 1996. It is different this time, however, as he and his team mates have soared to new heights, having battled their way through to the semi-finals in the Allianz National Football Leagues for the first time in 68 years.

And to the Belleek man goes a large slice of the credit. During the month of March he celebrated his 28th birthday with a string of top class shows, leading his team by example in wins over Meath, Kildare and Sligo. From the centre-forward spot Raymie hit 1-2 against Meath, 1-1 against Kildare and a point against Sligo. The goal against Meath was a thunderbolt out of the blue in the closing minutes that polished off the Royal County.

"I am enjoying being captain of the team and also enjoying playing at centre-forward," says the Dublin-based AIB bank official. "I prefer centre-forward to the corner."

Raymie has battled back from serious injury on two occasions to be a central figure once again. A cruciate knee injury in 1995 put him out of the game for almost a year and a back injury two years ago cost him another 12 months on the sidelines.

Now playing with the St Brigid's Club in Dublin, Raymie Gallagher has collected quite a few awards at home. He won Corn-na-nOg and MacRory Cup medals with St Michael's College, an Ulster Under-21 medal, a McKenna Cup medal and two All-Ireland 'B' Championship trophies with Fermanagh. He also won a Fermanagh SFL award with his home club Erne Gaels.

Raymie Gallagher wins our Monthly Merit Award ahead of Cavan's Jason Reilly, Monaghan young lion Paul and Down hurler Martin Coulter.

As his award, Raymie collects sports vouchers from Bass (or is it Tennents) Ireland and Pro*Star Sports plus a Belleek China vase and two tickets to the Ulster GAA Writers' banquet next November. In his absence his father Raymond, senior, collected the award at a function in the Ulster Brewery on Wednesday, April 9.

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