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'Winning is what drives me on' says Dundalk's Gartland

No let-up in quest for success from Lilywhites stars ahead of Cup final

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Dundalk captain Brian Gartland has signed a new deal with the Louth club. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Dundalk captain Brian Gartland has signed a new deal with the Louth club. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Dundalk captain Brian Gartland has signed a new deal with the Louth club. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Medals have rained down on the players at Dundalk FC since Stephen Kenny took over.

This Sunday is another FAI Cup final day, the chance for another medal, another trophy.

Yet Brian Gartland, one of the stalwarts of the Kenny era, insists that the hunger for more silverware has never dimmed and is stronger than ever.

That's not just idle talk from the 32-year-old. He says he has embarked on his own fitness regime to prolong his career and keep up that steady diet of medals, a move that saw Gartland lose a chunk of weight this season.

And with another Cup medal on offer in Sunday's final against Cork City, Gartland is looking forwards, not backwards.

"There can be highs and lows and the lows are awful, let me tell you, but I am lucky to have had highs here," the Dubliner told The Herald.

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Brian celebrates with his Dundalk team-mates after lifting their fourth Premier Division title in five years last month. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Brian celebrates with his Dundalk team-mates after lifting their fourth Premier Division title in five years last month. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Brian celebrates with his Dundalk team-mates after lifting their fourth Premier Division title in five years last month. Photo: SPORTSFILE

"Winning is what drives me, being the best I can, the goal for me as a kid was always to be a professional footballer, to get to England.

"When that wasn't going to happen for me, the best I could do was to go to the highest level here and keeping working at it, no matter what I do, I want to be the best and football is what I do, it's what I have always loved, that competitive edge drives me to be the fittest, the strongest.

"I am 32 now and I am on a programme to increase my speed, get a bit faster and work on my weaknesses, that's how I view everything. Football is the forefront of my life, it consumes our lives here at this club and if you are going to sacrifice things for it, you make sure you are doing it right.

"I have plenty of years left in me, I had a good season this year and feel in good shape. I am interested in the whole sports science side of things, it steps up every year and we have plans in place to prolong my career, I took 5kg off myself during the season so there is less weight for me to move, less weight on the joints, hopefully fewer injuries. And it has paid off for me."

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AGONY: Dundalk players and fans will be hoping striker Patrick Hoban makes a full recovery from last week’s injury sustained against Bohemians for Sunday’s FAI Cup final. Photo: SPORTSFILE

AGONY: Dundalk players and fans will be hoping striker Patrick Hoban makes a full recovery from last week’s injury sustained against Bohemians for Sunday’s FAI Cup final. Photo: SPORTSFILE

AGONY: Dundalk players and fans will be hoping striker Patrick Hoban makes a full recovery from last week’s injury sustained against Bohemians for Sunday’s FAI Cup final. Photo: SPORTSFILE

One of the stories of the Kenny era is how he took players who were plodding away in relative obscurity with other clubs and turned them into stars. As Kenny's assistant Vinny Perth said recently, other clubs were not queueing up to sign the likes of Andy Boyle from Shels or Gartland from Portadown.

Gartland learned his trade with Bray Wanderers and Shelbourne but it was a spell with Monaghan United (2008-10) which caused him to sit up. "When I was playing for Monaghan, the likes of Bohs and Pat's were the top teams," he says. "I would look up to their defenders, like the likes of Owen Heary and Simon Webb, Brian Shelley, Jason McGuinness, Jamie Harris. I was 20 or 21, they were older pros and I wanted to work to get to their level."

Now Gartland has come through to become one of the top defenders in the league, vital for Dundalk this season despite missing the first 13 league games of the season due to illness.

Now, the league title has landed and the Cup is in sight. How can it also be won?

"The key to beating them is that we have done well this season in the head to head, that gives you confidence but that won't matter if we don't win on Sunday," he says.

"The least you can give is pure, honest, hard work, determination and attitude and a will to win, if you lack in any of those departments you won't come out of the game on the winning side.

"We have our style of play, we are attacking, we try to play football and Cork are more direct, the Cup finals haven't been the prettiest of games. Compared to the first final I have half the number of mates wanting tickets as the finals haven't been great spectacles.

"But you know what Stephen Kenny is like, he wants to entertain, not just win, he won't compromise his way just to win."

FAI Cup final, Cork City v Dundalk, Sunday November 4, Aviva Stadium, Live RTE2 (KO 3.40)


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