Premier League Career: 1992-2007
First Premier League Match: Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 Coventry City (19 August 1992)
Final Premier League Match: Liverpool FC 2-2 Charlton Athletic (13 May 2007)
Irishman Dermot Gallagher was one of the best referees in Premier League history. He was an official for the first 15 seasons of the league before retiring in 2007 and is still seen a lot nowadays, working as an assessor and pundit on all of the weekend’s major talking points for Sky Sports.
Gallagher was born in 1957 but was late to the take up of a career in officiating. It was only on the advice of ex-Football League linesman Dick Bartlett that saw Dermot pursue this path. His first game of any kind came in regional football in 1978 and seven years later, he progressed to the Football League assistant referees’ list. By 1990, he was a referee in the Football League and was a prime candidate for promotion to the Premier League when the new era of English football got underway in 1992.
He wasn’t appointed to a fixture on the opening weekend of the league but took charge of a midweek duel between Tottenham Hotspur and Coventry City at White Hart Lane. John Williams scored both goals as the Sky Blues left London with all three points after a 2-0 win. It was the first of 378 fixtures Gallagher would oversee during his lengthy and successful career.
Dermot gave out 636 yellow cards during his Premier League time and 39 red cards – nine of those dismissals in his penultimate campaign (2005-2006). Here’s a list of some of his key dismissals:
- His first red card came in February 1994 and it went to a goalkeeper. Bryan Gunn was given a straight red in the 87th minute of Norwich City’s 2-2 home draw with Liverpool FC.
- On the opening day of the 1994-1995 campaign, he gave out two red cards in the Manchester United vs. Queens Park Rangers fixture with Clive Wilson and Paul Parker being the unfortunate recipients.
- In a thrilling 3-3 draw between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in May 1995, Dermot dished out red cards to Newcastle goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek and Spurs defender Colin Calderwood.
- Matt Le Tissier collected a rare red card in his career from Gallagher. He was red-carded in a 3-1 home defeat for Southampton against Liverpool FC in October 1995.
- Chris Sutton received his marching orders late on in Blackburn’s home defeat by Arsenal in October 1998 for a wild lunge on Patrick Vieira.
- Back at Ewood Park two months later, a straight red card was given to Aston Villa goalkeeper Michael Oakes in their 2-1 loss to Blackburn for handling outside his area.
- Liverpool FC’s Salif Diao was sent off on New Years’ Day 2003 in the Reds 1-0 reverse at Newcastle United.
- Defender Stephane Henchoz was the final recipient of a red card in Gallagher’s Premier League career. He was dismissed after just 40 minutes of Blackburn’s 3-1 home defeat to Newcastle United in December 2006.
Gallagher’s strongest years were in 1995 and 1996. He took charge of the curtain-raiser for the 1995-1996 season between league champions Blackburn Rovers and FA Cup holders Everton. The Toffees won the FA Charity Shield thanks to a goal from Vinny Samways. Also in 1995, he was in the middle for the FA Trophy final which Woking won at Wembley, beating Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 and to finish a busy year, Dermot went out to Qatar and took charge of the Under-20 World Cup final between South American rivals Argentina and Brazil. Argentina triumphed 2-0.
In 1996, he was appointed to the FA Cup final between Manchester United and Liverpool FC. It was a day best remembered by Liverpool’s terrible choice of suit colour before the game and the match itself was a real disappointment. We were spared extra-time by a late winner from Eric Cantona, ensuring a second double in three years for the Red Devils. Gallagher’s strong performances also led to him being appointed as a referee at the 1996 European Championships in England. He took charge of the group game at St James’ Park between France and Bulgaria. France won 3-1 and he booked four players but there was a nasty sting in the tail for him. He suffered a serious injury whilst refereeing the match which kept him on the sidelines until early 1997.
He retired from FIFA duty at the mandatory retirement age limit of 45 at the end of 2002 but continued at the high levels of the English game. His extremely consistent performances led to him being the first referee since 1994 to be granted an extension beyond the domestic retirement age of 48 in 2006.
In his final season in the middle, Gallagher had one of his more testing incidents to deal with. In August 2006, Manchester City defender Ben Thatcher was widely condemned for a sickening elbow into Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes during a goalless draw at Eastlands. Mendes was knocked into the advertising hoardings and knocked unconscious. He suffered a seizure and required oxygen pitchside. Gallagher only gave the defender a yellow card for the elbow but the FA took a dim view to the challenge and gave Thatcher an eight-game suspension. He was also fined six weeks’ wages by Manchester City.
His last Premier League match was at Anfield in May 2007 between Liverpool FC and Charlton Athletic which was also the swansong for Robbie Fowler as a Liverpool player. The match ended 2-2 with Harry Kewell scoring a stoppage-time penalty for the Reds.
After retirement, Dermot Gallagher officiated in the Masters Football competition for several years. Alongside his regular Monday role on Sky Sports News to discuss the performance of his colleagues from challenging Premier League weekends, he is also an active speaker on both the after-dinner circuit and at coaching schools, offering advices to younger footballers and referees.