Dundalk defender Brian Gartland is anxious to see the League of Ireland return as soon as possible but understands further delays could be possible due to the large number of Covid-19 cases across the country right now.

As things stand the 2021 season is due to commence on March 19th but a combination of the current lockdown and other factors means that there is no real clarity on the situation just yet.

At present clubs are in the dark over whether there will be a sponsor for the league next season, if there will be a TV deal and what financial supports are available from Government – something which was vital in completing an 18-games season last year.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on January 19th 2021

While the lack of clarity around the forthcoming season is a concern for many, Gartland said he had sympathy with the FAI over the current predicament they found themselves in.

“We’re going off the dates that the FAI have given us,” he said.

“I know they haven’t announced a sponsor yet for the league so maybe they’re trying to sort that or finalise that. They’re also trying to see what Government funding is there before committing to the season.

“I do have a bit of sympathy for the FAI in that regard because we saw last year that some clubs were saying they wouldn’t come back until the fans did and they were digging their heels in, literally for their own proposes. I understand that because it’s survival of the fittest and everyone is out to suit themselves but that seems to be the way it is again.

“As soon as there was a deal done last year on Government funding there were clubs throwing money around who didn’t want football back until the New Year. All of a sudden they were throwing money at players and there was a completely different make up of some teams compared to before the lockdown started. The FAI have to deal with that so I can’t lay all the blame with them.

“I can’t be too critical given everything that is going on right now but at the same time you want as concrete plans as possible for whatever scenario, whether it be an extra month or two weeks later than what they proposed.

“The funding supports, whatever they are, should be in place by now. I’d be very disappointed if it was a case of them making it up as they go along so I presume in the background that all this is being done and that there are plans for this scenario.”

Gartland and the rest of the Dundalk squad are currently on personalised programmes ahead of a planned return to pre-season training at the end of this month but he said those plans may need to be altered depending on whether or not the league starts as planned on March 19th.

“There is a management to it and we just have to go off the date that we’ve been given at the moment,” said the defender.

“If it does change and we have a plan that is already in motion then that then has to change and we have to adapt and change our plan. Everything we do and everything Graham Norton does for us up there, it is tailored for the players. Every day is planned well in advance from a certain date. He could then have to taper it back because he doesn’t want us to be overworked before the season starts.

“You want to make sure that you are primed right so it’s a juggling act in that regard for Graham but, as a player, you just want to get back and get the league going but we can understand why it’s not. When we’re told we’re playing we’ll play and that’s just it but to get yourself primed and right, it can be frustrating,” he said.