Monday 27 May 2019

Brian eyeing big birthday bash at Aviva

James Rogers

Brian Gartland knows exactly what he wants for his birthday this year - an FAI Cup final win.

The centre half will lead Dundalk out in next month's final at the Aviva Stadium against either Bohemians or Cork City on what will be his 32nd birthday.

Defeats around his birthday in the last couple of seasons have seen his celebrations of turning a year older curtailed but he's anxious to put that right this year.

So Brian, what are you doing for your birthday this year?

'Hopefully winning a cup,' he beamed.

'I've had mixed emotions around my birthday for the last few years whether it be the day before or the day after but it's landing on the cup final day this year so I'll be hoping to celebrate it with the cup.

'It's just another day but I'm looking forward to it. The main thing is we're in the final. I thought we were excellent in the first half. Credit to UCD, they're a smashing side. I was really impressed with them but I thought we should have had more in the first half.

'In the second half then we looked a bit leggy. Maybe Tuesday night was catching up on the lads a bit. Credit to UCD, they kept playing and made us work but I thought we limited their chances. They had the one shot which Gary (Rogers) made a save from a free but apart from that they hadn't too many chances but it wasn't very comfortable either.'

While the league and Europe often take precedence for Dundalk fans, Gartland revealed the cup was high on the players' agenda each year.

'We won the league in 2016 and did well in Europe but the way you lose to a deflected goal in the last minute of injury time in extra-time is heartbreaking. It's a big day out and even after all we did that year it does take a little shine off it. Then obviously penalties last year is tough so we want to write a few wrongs and lift the cup this year.

'Doubles, leagues and cups, aren't easy to come by for a lot of players. We're blessed we have so many opportunities here. We've already got one double under our belt from a few years ago but to get another would be phenomenal,' he said.

Gartland also had special praise for his goalkeeper Gary Rogers after he helped his side to a 28th clean sheet of the season on Friday night.

'He's like Benjamin Button,' he laughed.

'He has got better every year that he has been here. I said to him last year that's your best year with us because I thought he was excellent last year but he has been even better again this year.

'A couple of his kick-outs today were superb. One he was under pressure for but he managed to find Jamie out on the right wing. They're things he works on and he's brilliant behind us.'

There was also special praise for match winner Patrick McEleney and the squad as a whole.

'You see him score like that in training all the time. You try to stop it in training but you just can't because he's so powerful and he can do it with his left or right.

'He's a phenomenal talent and it's great to have him back. We can only expect better from him going forward. He has shown how good he is but there's so much more to come from him.

'When you have three games in a week it's very difficult to get three wins, no matter who you're playing because fatigue sets in be it mentally or physically.

'To be able to raise your standards and keep your standards so high consistently is something that is tremendous about us. We don't let our standards drop.

'There's just a willingness to win there and they're a great group of lads so it's brilliant to do it with them,' said Gartland.

The Argus