There was an exodus of League of Ireland stars from Dublin airport on Saturday morning with the mid season break affording players from all 20 clubs a rare opportunity to forget about the rigours of football - for a few days at least.
Dundalk centre back Brian Gartland - along with Lilywhites midfielder Richie Towell - will unwind by a pool in Marbella before returning to training on Thursday as Stephen Kenny’s side prepare for a busy second half of the campaign.
And speaking to the Dundalk Democrat following Friday night’s victory over Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds, Gartland said that the break had come at the perfect time for the champions.
“For us, this is a massive win going into the break. It’s not just a run of the mill three points and it means a lot to us in the dressing room. That’s a very good Sligo Rovers team and I think the league table is a bit false on them,” he said.
“People were asking questions of us after the defeat to Bohemians and although you don’t get too down, you want to answer those questions. You want to show that one defeat won’t put us off.
“We’ve got get a few days off to recharge the batteries and mentally that’s a great thing,” he continued.
“I don’t think people realise the pressure and stress you are under. When you’re training every day and you’re constantly thinking about things like your diet, your gym sessions, your games, then your personal life has to take a backseat. When you can switch off for a few days, then that’s a nice thing to have.”
For Gartland, the break is even more valuable than normal.
Friday night’s game in Sligo was his first in over a month following the hamstring injury he picked up against Longford Town in May and he feels that the 14 day gap until the home game with Limerick on June 26 will allow him to get back to 100%.
“The break gives me time to get up to speed. Endurance wise I feel okay but I need to be a bit sharper and I’m delighted that I have an extra week to get up to the same level as the other lads.”
Dundalk went into the break with a three point lead over Cork City at the top of the table. One slip up could see the Lilywhites lose their position at the summit but Gartland said that the players were fully intent on staying ahead of the chasing pack.
“If you have a bad week, and lose two games, then you can go from being in the title race to being out of it,” he said.
“There is always pressure on us but it’s just a matter of trying to block stuff like that out,” he continued.
“We’re three points ahead with a game in hand and we still have people questioning us. Realistically, how far do people expect us to be ahead at the halfway stage?
“The great thing is that we don’t need to worry about anybody else. We showed last year that we can handle ourselves and it’s up to teams to try and stay with us.”