The performance of Brian Gartland in Sunday’s FAI Cup final was one of the major silver linings to take away from a day of defeat for Dundalk.
Unanimously voted the local media’s Dundalk FC man of the match, which will ensure he picks up a TV sponsored by Lally’s, the centre half was a surprise inclusion in Vinny Perth’s team on the day.
The Pearse Park man, who turned 33 on Monday, certainly backed up the head coach’s faith in him by putting in a superb performance.
He admitted to The Argus afterwards that he had feared he might not even make the bench for the clash with Shamrock Rovers.
“Yeah, I was,” he said when asked if he was surprised to start.
“I’m old enough and experienced enough and around long enough to know the likelihood that I wasn’t going to be playing. It was coming up to the week before before we knew Shieldsy was suspended so I was thinking am I even going to make the bench here? That’s the way the last few months have gone.
“I’ve said it in an interview before that you just have to always do your bit for the team and sometimes you need to put personal stuff aside and keep yourself right because you never know. Maybe it’s just my age and I’ve seen it all but you have to keep working for yourself so that if you are called upon you’re ready but it was a surprise for me.
“I was delighted with the faith that was put in me because obviously not playing so many games, do you put someone in for a game on a big pitch there against two up top. There was a lot of running in that game for a centre half compared to some other games when you’re playing against one so I was grateful for the confidence.”
Gartland said he is aware that a section of people have written him off as finished but he feels there’s life in the old dog yet.
“I read stuff and I know what people say but that’s been the case throughout my whole career because of the nature of the player I am. I have people that doubt me, that knock me and are ready to write you off. Once you turn 30 that was always the way.
“I’m 33 tomorrow and I’d like to think I look after myself and always keep my standards as high as I can. Playing with these boys they keep you that way,” he said.
On the game itself, the player welled up when talking about the outcome.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
“I think I’m worse after this one than any of the other two we’ve lost. It’s just hard to sum up.”
Gartland admitted he thought the game was over once Aaron McEneff scored from the spot on 89 minutes but praised his side for taking the game to extra-time.
“You do think it’s over at that stage but you have the throw the kitchen sink at it and see what happens. It just shows what happens when we did.
“The ball drops and what a finish! Maybe that’s something we didn’t do enough of in the game at times but at the same time you don’t want to be too open and give it away.”
In a day of fine margins, it could all have been different had Alan Mannus not kept out Georgie Kelly’s effort right at the end of extra-time.
“Yeah, I haven’t watched it back but I thought it was going to nestle in the side or go in off the post.
“We’ve lost to a little deflected goal like that here before in the last second of extra-time so I was thinking it might come back to us but it’s fine margins.
“We didn’t perform to the best of our ability. Everyone saw that and we know that but Cup finals aren’t about that. They’re about lifting the trophy so it didn’t matter if we got through and won on penos or whatever but ultimately it’s a disappointing day for us.”
Thankfully for Gartland and co, the season isn’t over quite yet as they now turn their attentions to the Unite the Union Cup tie with Linfield, the first leg of which takes place in Windsor Park on Friday night.
“Why I’m really looking forward to it is after watching Linfield in Europe. I thought they were tremendous. Their game plan and the attributes of the players is something I didn’t see when I was up there before (with Portadown) so I’m looking forward to us having a good battle against them but also we’ve had a great season and a great year this year but if this was the end of it we’re ending it on a downer.
“We can fix that next week whereas usually you’re waiting a few months. We can go next week, fix that, win it and lift a trophy,” he said.