ONE man who certainly has painful memories of Gortakeegan is Dundalk central defender Liam Burns.
The 34-year-old, now in his third spell at the club, endured a terrible night during Dundalk’s EA Sports League Cup semi-final defeat to the Mons in April 2010.
Cathal O’Connor’s late strike killed off Dundalk’s last chance of silverware that season but, by that stage, Burns had already departed the venue – in an ambulance.
“My last game there was in the League Cup game two years ago”, he recalled. “I ended up with a concussion; Peter Cherrie came out and punched me in the head!
“Over the years its been one of those grounds were Dundalk have not had a good record but we’ll be going there to put things right.
“A lot of people don’t look forward to going to Gortakeegan”, he added. “It has no atmosphere and it’s not the best of pitches but at the end of the day, it’s not what Monaghan do its what we do and the way the manager has set us up, we’ll be going to win the game.
With almost 200 League of Ireland appearances under his belt, Burns is by far and away the most experienced player in the Lilywhites dressing room.
Sean McCaffrey’s policy of recruiting youngsters with little experience in the country’s top flight has left many supporters anxious of what lies ahead but Burns feels his young team-mates will not only surprise a lot of people but go on to become household names.
“Having a squad with a lot of players new to the League of Ireland could work to our advantage”, he said. “We could be a surprise package.
“Every year you see the same players playing and changing clubs. It’s a a merry-go-round of the same faces. It’s great for the League of Ireland as a whole to have fresh young players coming in. To be honest I didn’t know a lot of the new players but seeing them in training and in pre-season games, there is an awful lot of talent there.”
After spending last season at a youthful Bohemians, does he feel in familiar surroundings?
“Maybe you could say that but at Bohs we had six or seven experienced players. The main difference is that I feel the young lads we have here are better than what were at Bohs last season.
“They are young but they want to make a name for themselves. They are at good club with great coaches. If they want to progress, they couldn’t be at a better place right now. Dundalk will give youngsters the chance.
“We wont be shouting off the rooftops saying we’re going to do this or that but as a player you want to do the best you can and you never know where the season might end up.
But would the lack of experience in McCaffrey’s squad cost Dundalk this season?
“It’s always good to have a bit of experience”, said Burns. “If you’re coming towards the latter part of the game and you’re winning 1-0 then sometimes it’s important to know when to see a game out rather than going all out for a second.
“That experience will come though as the games go on. You can’t see this as a six month project, it’s a long term view and if the club want success, this is the right way to go about it.
“The way Sean is doing thing is correct”, he added. “Nowadays in this league you have to plan for the future. If you look at the teams throwing money around, Sligo Rovers, St Pat’s, Cork City, you wonder how long will that last. Some clubs now are starting to bring youngsters through. Sean wants the club to go that way and I think that’s the right way to do things now”