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26 Jan 2022

Dundalk FC strengthen their defensive options as preparations for 2022 intensify

Dundalk U15 play their inaugural LOI game today

Oriel Park. ( Credit: Ciarán Culligan)

Dundalk FC stalwart Brian Gartland will remain at Oriel Park for what will be his tenth season at the club after signing a new one-year contract on New Year’s Day.

The 35-year-old veteran – who played just once last season because of a serious knee injury – joins a central-defence already comprising of Andy Boyle, Mayowa Animasahun and Sam Bone, who has recently linked up with The Lilywhites from St Patrick’s Athletic.

Heading into his tenth year as a Dundalk player, Gartland’s spell is the longest uninterrupted of any of the current squad, and his experience could prove invaluable for what is set to be a new-look side heading into the forthcoming 2022 campaign.

“I’m delighted to be staying here and going into my tenth season at the club. There is nowhere else I wanted to be,” said Gartland.

“Last year was one of the toughest years of my life, on and off the pitch. Mentally, it was so hard seeing where the club was going and because I had the injury, I felt helpless and couldn’t do anything about it.

“Thankfully, my recovery is going very well and with the new owners and management team, there is a real buzz around the club again.

“I feel that I have a lot to offer and I can’t wait to get back out in front of the crowd at Oriel Park. It’s been that long since I played in front of them and there were times last year when I was wondering if I’d ever get the chance to do that again.”

Like many of the players signed up for next season, Gartland is a link to the glorious Stephen Kenny era which yielded unparalleled success for The Lilywhites, but the Dubliner – whose autobiography is set for release this coming April – feels now is very much the beginning of a new chapter in the club’s history under Stephen O’Donnell.

“Like everyone else, I’m so excited about where the club is going,” added Gartland. “It feels that a reboot is taking place and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of that and being part of the journey.

“I have massive respect for Stevie (O’Donnell). He was my captain when I played alongside him and I love his ideas and philosophy on the game and I’m really looking forward to working with him, Padge Cregg and Dave Mackey.

“It’s a new era for the club and, knowing Stevie, and from speaking to the new owners, the environment will be right to help us rebuild, consolidate and get this club back to where it was and where it should be.”

Another player who will shore up Dundalk’s defensive options is 23-year-old Englishman Bone, who has followed O’Donnell, Robbie Benson and John Mountney from St Pats.

Bone came through the academy at Charlton Athletic before embarking on a career in Irish football which has seen him represent Shamrock Rovers and Waterford as well.

“I’m similar to John Mountney,” said Bone, who is also eligible to represent Malaysia at international level. “When it was announced that Stephen had moved to Dundalk, I was hoping he’d phone me as well. I had a really good relationship with him and I learned a lot under him and Padge last year.

“I think Dundalk were in a false position last season. It’s a huge club and I’m really looking forward to playing in front of the fans and the people of the town and hopefully, we can get them back to where they were a few years ago – winning the league, the FAI Cup and back into Europe.

“I can’t wait to work in an environment full of winners. You look at the likes of Patrick Hoban, David McMillan and Andy Boyle – they have been at the top for most of their careers. I am still young and I am looking forward to learning from them.

“It will obviously help me that John Mountney and Robbie Benson are there already and I know John Martin from my time at Waterford, so it will be nice to reunite with them. I’m really looking forward to getting started.”

Meanwhile, another defender, Daniel Cleary, has completed his long-awaited move to Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone, where he’s penned a two-and-a-half-year deal.

Sonni Nattestad on Sunday afternoon signed a two-year contract with Norwegian top-flight outfit FK Jerv – only to have the agreement ripped up on the same day.

The arrival of the Faroe Islands international – who departed Dundalk at the end of the last campaign – was negatively received by supporters of the Norwegian side.

A translated statement from the club read: “FK Jerv and Sonni Nattestad have today decided to cancel the announced contract. The background is an issue the player has been involved in, and which we should have been aware of.

“The case Nattestad was involved in is not something we as a club can vouch for or be associated with. FK Jerv would like to apologise to everyone involved that we did not do a good enough job prior to the signing.”

Dundalk began pre-season training on Monday, with a schedule for friendly matches ahead of the big kick-off on February 18th to be announced in due course.

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