While it might feel like a long way away right now, Brian Gartland cannot wait for the day he runs out at Oriel Park again to the roar of a packed crowd.
The veteran defender produced some of the best football of his career in the second half of last season under Filippo Giovagnoli to earn himself a new deal for 2021. However, not even the silver lining of a second Europa League group stage campaign and another FAI Cup win could make up for the fact that all bar five minutes of competitive action for him last season took place behind closed doors.
While it is unlikely that fans will be present whenever the 2021 season gets underway – currently pencilled in for March 19th – Gartland is hopeful that sometime this year supporters will be back cheering on their teams.
“It’s a massive loss,” he said of fans being missing for almost a year.
“When we went on the European journey and to the Cup final it was never moreso evident than there. There was half the buzz to it than there usually was when you’re winning the Cup or when you’re going out to play in the Emirates or the Aviva against Arsenal. Usually you’d have tens of thousands there and you do miss that and the buzz that goes with it when you’re going away to London etc.
“You’d usually be getting texts and videos sent to you from the fans in the pubs etc. The fans missed out on all that but we missed it too because you take so much joy from giving your friends and family these days out.
“They get so much out of it and as a player you take so much pride that you’ve given them that day. It’s not the same without them but I suppose we just have to get on with it for now.”
With Dane Massey having signed for Drogheda Utd and Jordan Flores departing for Hull City, it’s fair to say that Gartland’s contract extension for 2021 makes him the last of last season’s squad to re-commit for the forthcoming campaign.
While he might have been the last man in of last year’s squad, the 34-year-old admits he never doubted it would happen.
“The club and the gaffer had told me a couple of months before that they wanted me there and wanted me involved. Filippo said it again before the end of the season so it was just a case of getting the offer formally in writing and then getting it done.
“There is always talk when something isn’t announced but Filippo, Giuseppe and Shane had let me know they wanted me to stay and we had talked about what was on offer so it was always going to happen in my mind but it was just slow in terms of completing it. That was it.”
While confident he brings quality such as leadership to the fold, Gartland was delighted to hear his manager said he had been re-signed first and foremost on the back of a series of impressive displays since he took charge last August.
“Especially the experienced players and lads who have been at Dundalk a while, we like to think there is a humbleness about us and a realism. We know when we’re good and we know when we’re crap. There’s no papering over cracks with a lot of us and yeah I was happy with a lot of my performances in the second half of last season. I enjoyed my football too so it’s nice to hear he said that because for the last couple of years a lot of focus was on people thinking you’re winding down or you’re there for other reasons other than for what you do on the field.
“First and foremost, I’m always there to compete. If I can’t compete I don’t want to be in a team just being carried along.
“I like to think I do bring that other stuff to the table but first and foremost you’ve got to bring performances and contribute that way,” he said.