Gartland determined to seize his biggest opportunity
Published 30/11/2016 | 02:30
Dundalk defender Brian Gartland believes that next week's Europa League date with Maccabi Tel Aviv will be the biggest game of his career and he reckons the strong characters in Stephen Kenny's dressing room are capable of plotting an upset.
The League of Ireland champions are in the middle of a training week after the painful loss to AZ Alkmaar last Thursday and they are due to play a behind-closed-doors friendly with Northern Irish side Warrenpoint as they step up preparations for their concluding trip to Israel.
They need AZ to drop points at home to Zenit in their final game to make Dundalk's showdown with Maccabi relevant and Gartland thinks that the Irish side have the personality to thrive in another tough away match.
"It is a different level, these games," says Gartland. "We have great characters in the team and I know that sounds clichéd but we've got players who lead all over the park in different ways. We have lads who are vocal, lads who lead by example in how they play and then some lads who wouldn't be as vocal but go about their jobs so well. They are always there and are so consistent. We have diverse and dynamic players in this team, characters who stand up when it's time to be counted.
"This is absolutely (biggest game of career), by a mile," he continued. "You look at the level you're at. Sometimes you might take it for granted but you have to snap yourselves sometimes and say, 'Look where you are, and look where you can go'.
"The gaffer is great for reminding us about that, all of the time. We're in the group stages and we're competing. We're at that level. It was only a year ago, or six months ago, where the dream was to get into the group stages. People don't think you're going to have too much of a competitive nature when you get there. But we've a chance to get into the last 32."
Having grabbed Ireland's attention, the players don't want to let an opportunity slip.
"We take great pride in representing this country in this tournament," stresses Gartland. "I wouldn't say the word 'pressure', but we don't want to let people down, let ourselves down, let our families down, let the club down. We're trying to drag the levels up and set the bar."
Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers have continued to work on their squad ahead of a title tilt next term by agreeing a new contract with defender Dave Webster.
Stephen Bradley is also close to agreeing a deal with ex-St Pat's, Sheffield United and Shrewsbury midfielder David McAllister who trained with the club in the closing weeks of the 2016 season.
Bohemians midfielder Keith Buckley has confirmed he is leaving the club for a fresh challenge and a full-time switch to Bray Wanderers is on the cards. Bray's Karl Moore has also signed a new contract, while Drogheda have re-signed Dundalk-born striker Marc Griffin.