Yesterday was one very busy day for Dundalk captain for Brian Gartland. Between preparing for a UEFA Champions League tie against Riga FC and ensuring that he is fully prepared, away from Oriel he is preparing himself for the next big stage of his
Yesterday was one very busy day for Dundalk captain for Brian Gartland.
Between preparing for a UEFA Champions League tie against Riga FC and ensuring that he is fully prepared, away from Oriel he is preparing himself for the next big stage of his life…fatherhood.
Gartland, the long-serving guardian of the Dundalk defence, is about to move onto the next phase of his life with wife Bronagh in ten weeks time. With the new arrival due date looming and all the excitement it brings, he went one better and sat down to put pen to paper on a new two-year deal at the club.
The Guardian is set to remain at his post.
By the time his contract runs out at the end of the 2020 season, he will have spent eight seasons at Oriel Park, not bad when you consider he almost signed for Shelbourne, how different his life could have been?
“There's nowhere else I really wanted to be playing,” explained Gartland at the pre-match Champions League press conference. “I don’t think I had a choice!”
Gartland is acutely aware that despite penning a deal, that Dundalk with its expectations and ambition has meant the centre back knows he has a finite time at the top of his game. Described by Vinny Perth as being in ‘peak condition’ Gartland knows that the arrival of Andy Boyle back to the club is a sign of the future.
“This is the most competition we've ever had in the squad and if it doesn't you're not going to last long here. I'm realistic in everything I do. Andy is a smashing player. I played with him for years and the two of us had a great partnership but obviously, it's a challenge for me.”
“I'm getting older so the clubs are obviously looking forward to the next few years as well and looking to kick on. That's the realistic side of it but also on my side, I don't shy away from a challenge.
"Yeah, it's more competition for a position but also I feel the two of us had one of the best partnerships in football in this country for years so there's no reason why we can't play together as well as competing to play with other centre-halves. That's the nature of football and if you want to play at the top level that's what you're going to have in every position when you're here. It's not in me to walk away from a challenge like that.”
By the time Gartland finishes this season, the minimum amount of games he will have played in Europe is four, adding to his already impressive stat of twenty-three career games in Europe it’s something he relishes.
“Especially when we're needed. If you go back to the year we qualified with FH, I was watching it because I broke my wrist in the first leg and didn't travel then for the second leg. We went 1-0 down having conceded a late goal here first.
"Everyone thought that was it. I was sitting on the couch myself thinking it's a big hill to climb. Levadia last year as well, everyone was thinking Dundalk should progress past then and we did but it was no walkover. It was two tough games.
“When it comes to European football, any football fan knows it's different. They'll be coming over here to keep things tight and to bring it back home.
"I think the signings they've had in the last few weeks, Debelko and a couple of other lads, are quality signings and that shows their ambition. They're looking at this tie and thinking we have a chance of getting through here. Nothing can be taken for granted and you really have to be at it to get through.”
Fresh in the memories of all involved on and off the pitch at Dundalk was 2016, the vintage year, the year of the great European journey. Dundalk has invested heavily this season with ambitions to equal or even better the class of 2016. Gartland a member of that group will call on that experience to lead this years team on. However, head to head who is better?
“I suppose I can answer that in a few months' time. I think we have the biggest lead we've ever had at this time of the year in the league in terms of points but then we always like testing ourselves against the best competition in Europe so I suppose that will be the barometer for that.”
“It's funny you say that because we were in the gym the other day and we were saying if you had to play against yourself three or four years ago how do you think you'd do. It's an interesting question but we'll see where we're at over the next couple of months.”
In a few months time everything will change irrespective on the pitch for the better for Gartland but one thing is for certain, the best is yet to come from the man who is now everything Dundalk expects him to be.