Football is a funny old game.

If you had said just a couple of months ago that Dundalk would be preparing for the Europa League group stages, many would have laughed at you.

Equally, if you had said Brian Gartland would be at the heart of the side for that run, it would have been even more unbelievable.

Largely frozen out at the start of the year, the centre half has enjoyed a new lease of life under Filippo Giovagnoli.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on October 20th 2020

He admits that his enjoyment for the game had waned during the difficult days but it’s doubtful that anyone will have a bigger smile on their face when the sides line up at Tallaght on Thursday night than Gartland.

“You’re right. I wasn’t enjoying it,” he said.

“I really wasn’t, for different reasons. Now, it’s just nice to be able to concentrate on football and no other shite. I can just concentrate on getting my game right and having my mental side in a good space.

“I think my performances have improved and I’m happy enough with where I’m at. There’s always more, like there is in every player in the team and personally I hope there’s more levels for myself but to be back playing and competing, you can only but enjoy it and I’m a firm believer you’ll play your best football when you’re happy and carefree and enjoying it. That’s what football is about. It’s a game. Obviously it’s a job and everything that goes with it and we’re lucky to be able to do it for a living but when you’re enjoying it and carefree you’re playing your best stuff and getting more out of yourself.”

Gartland admits being written off by some people as “finished” was a driving force for him to get back to his best.

“Looking back I didn’t expect this but in life and particularly in football you can’t give up hope and you can’t stop trying. If you do then whoever is against you is winning. Whoever thinks you’re written off, you’ve proved them right.

“I tried to keep myself in a mental place where I kept working hard and kept myself right so that if I was called upon at any stage I could do a job for the team and wouldn’t let them down.

“I want to prove people wrong. A week is a long time in football and anything can be flipped on its head in a minute. We’ve seen that in the last while but if I hadn’t kept myself right I wouldn’t be in the team now.

“It’s the same for other people here. Look at Sean Murray and the role he has played in the last few weeks. Every player goes through that and thankfully it has come good. It could easily have went the other way and continued the way it was but I’m lucky it has come good and that I’ve had a bit of fortune and played a few games.

“I’m delighted to be fairly involved at the moment and hoping it can continue but nothing is certain so you’ve got to treasure every moment, especially the older you get in football.”

Thursday night will be another moment to treasure for Gartland. He’ll be hoping for a win, of course, but regardless of the outcome he’s happy to be where he is right now: back in form and enjoying playing again.

That in itself is priceless.