Frank Gallagher had plenty of prowess at club level, Headingley supporters could certainly vouch for that, seeing he had kept them on tenterhooks with his scheming on numerous occasions, notably in 1921 at Thrum Hall, where a Dewsbury team depleted by an injury to Jenkinson, and five points down into the bargain, rallied to a man in the second half and might well have taken the Yorkshire Cup back to Crown Flatt had not Gallagher himself been hauled down inches short in the nick of time.
All in all, therefore, it was not his actual transfer on the evening of Thursday, September 15th, that occasioned surprise, more the fact that he had not been snapped up earlier and that the Headingley management had been uncharacteristically tardy in going for their man, due no doubt to a reluctance to pay more than £250, reputedly the agreed figure, for a player in the twilight of his career, however imposing his record. Be that as it may, Leeds now had a loose-forward with qualifications second to none. And not before time!
The benefits of experience, for which there is no substitute, were soon plain for all to see, his immediate rapport with newly-signed stand -off, Jeff Moores, and serum-half Evan Williams, being a constant source of inspiration on attack, and no less effective defensively as a ligature with which to strangle opposition moves at birth. Waxing increasingly confident, the men in blue and amber settled into a groove of commendable consistency, winning nine consecutive League matches in the late autumn and celebrating Christmas with a rousing win at Parkside, despite the dismissal of Moores, Frank moving out to the wing to show a clean pair of heels, for all his considerable bulk, as he stormed over in Mother Benson’s corner.
Twilight? He wouldn’t be taking his curtain call yet a while! Maintaining form and enthusiasm in the New Year, to warrant captaincy of the Reds in the 1st Tour Trial, he must have been sorely tempted to make a record-breaking third trip Down Under, along with’ Jonty’. As it was, he declined the selectors’ somewhat belated invitation, preferring to identify himself unreservedly with Headingley’s fortunes, and promptly fell victim to R.L. Cup fever, courtesy of Wigan Highfield, St Helens Recs and Oldham, the Loiners managing to survive on shoestring possession, by virtue of their brilliant backs, until they came up against Warrington in a disappointing Semi-Final.
Nor did the ‘First Four’ play-off offer any solace, for though 2nd place gave home advantage versus Featherstone Rovers, the absence of tourists Jim Brough, Mel Rosser and Joe Thompson proved too big a handicap, the ‘locals’ from Post Office Road qualifying for the Final on merit by 15 points to 12. Even so, there on the Headingley sideboard for the very first time was the Yorkshire League Cup. Having missed only two games out of a possible forty three, Frank had certainly earned his medal! Moreover, it was assuredly his recommendation that set in train the end-of-season signing of Billy(‘ Jerry’) Demaine, the Batley hooker.
Twilight? In 1928-29? A sunset to remember, more like! There he was at Crown Flatt in the Yorkshire Cup Semi-Final, out on the wing for the injured Desmond, yet alert and resourceful as ever, with little more than twenty minutes to go and the Loiners trailing by three points. A penalty in front of the posts, and a chance to reduce the deficit but quick-thinking Jeff Moores had other ideas. A finely judged punt to the corner, to catch winger Craven napping and the burly Gallagher was bounding up to touch down for an unconverted try. What’s more, just five minutes later, even as he was powering his way down the touchline from Rosser’s pass, he went into his party-piece routine, dropping anchor suddenly, and miraculously staying on his feet despite the frenzied efforts of a whole clutch of tacklers to topple-him, until his captain raced up to take the ball and seal Dewsbury’s fate.
Frank it was, too, who had the last word in the Final, played in absolutely appalling conditions at Belle Vue. A magical sleight-of-hand from Gallagher, a blind-side dart by Swift and there was former Welsh International winger, George Andrews, scooting down the touchline to evade the cover, yet only to brush the corner flag in his final stride. A jew seconds of creative sophistication, after seventy-nine minutes of sheer, hard graft! Leeds 5 Featherstone 0! And there was the Yorkshire Challenge Cup to prove it!
Going on to make thirty-five appearances in the season, apart from one more each with Yorkshire and England, whatever hopes he may have entertained of playing in the first-ever Wembley Final were shattered by defensive blunders in the opening minutes of the 1st Round at Wilderspool. Still, there was always the coveted Championship! And so there might have been, but for a couple of fumbles by Andrews and Davis in the Final, with tries going a-begging and Huddersfield taking the title by a mere two points to nil.
Such is football, as Frank knew only too well! Two magnificent seasons: his work was done, his fee amply repaid. When there’s talk of Headingley’s Golden Thirties, forget not the No 13 who helped lay the foundations in the late Twenties.