Brian Gartland and Stephen Kenny at a Homecoming event in Dundalk. (Pic: Sportsfile)
A new book which will be a treasure trove both now and well into the future for Dundalk FC fans and soccer supporters across the country called “One Last Shot”, comes out on 4th April and is the autobiography of Dundalk skipper Brian Gartland.
It will be a magnificent source to soccer historians of the future as well. The promotional advert of the book says it’s the heart and soul and head to toe of the League of Ireland revealed. Brian’s autobiography is written by the well-known Irish Daily Star Journalist Mark McCadden.
The forward of this book is written by Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. The idea of Brian doing an autobiography came from Liam Hayes of Hero books in 2019. Liam won a Sam Maguire Cup with Meath.
He wanted to get a number of League of Ireland books on the market, and he earmarked Brian and former Cork City manager John Caulfield for two. Both were seen as symbolic of the keen Dundalk-Cork City rivalry that dominated the League of Ireland a few years back.
Brian seemingly was reluctant to do the book at first. But Hayes wouldn’t take no for an answer and the gentle giant of Dundalk FC eventually agreed to do it. Liam got in touch with Mark McCadden who had expressed an interest before in ghost writing an autobiography.
The contact was made with Mark in November 2019 a few weeks after Dundalk had won their fifth League title in six years. Mark immediately agreed to take up the idea of writing the book.
He contacted Brian and sat down with him for a first interview in January 2020. The plan was to do three months with a series of interviews. Mark was to spend 3 or 4 months writing the book which was aimed for the Christmas 2020 market.
Both men were three months into the project when Lockdown happened, with the duo hoping the Lockdown would not last long. They decided to leave things for a bit.
In the summer of 2020, they decided that they would do some video calls to start moving things along again. However, things got delayed as the video calls were not seen to be as good as face-to-face meetings.
Luckily the printers were not putting pressure on them for copy, given the severity of the pandemic. The process got dragged out as a result. But as all this was happening things started to get very interesting at Dundalk, on and off the pitch.
Author Mark McCadden says this turned out to be a blessing in one way. The book could now cover this period when things went pear shaped at the club and how a rift developed between the club and the local community.
The book goes right up to the time Andy Connolly and Stat Sports took over in November 2021 and gets Brian’s experience and views of the turbulent times at Oriel towards the end of the autobiography.
It also takes in Brian’s injury at the beginning of the 2021 season and his fight and courage to get back playing. It clearly shows the complications to his recovery and the courage he showed to battle back to fitness.
McCadden says that one of the things that surprised him was the ease at which Brian spoke about very personal things. This includes his family and setbacks in his career and the events of last year while he fought to overcome his injuries.
The writer agreed that Gartland’s injury would force many players to retire but not this man. He says this will all come out in the book.
McCadden stated Gartland was just so determined. The title of the book was thought up years ago but as he fought to overcome his terrible injury it became his mantra.
Gartland did not want the injury to be the end of his football career. He did want One Last Shot. Gartland was determined to comeback and did battle against some adversity.
The book goes into what happened at Oriel in the two seasons, 2020 and 2021. In 2020 Vinny Perth moved on as manager and Filippo Giovagnoli took over as manager. In 2021 Filippo departed after a period in which he was appointed to the job in December 2020 before within a month being demoted, Shane Keegan taking over.
The book chronicles the comings and goings of 2021 in detail. It chronicles the period of Jim Magilton as Sporting Director and the departure of Shane Keegan, with Magilton taking over as caretaker boss.
It chronicles in detail the return of Vinny Perth in mid-season as manager and all that went with that, along with the arrival of the new owners. It does chronicle Vinny Perth’s initial departure as well in 2020.
Brian relates everything from his own perspective and how he saw things at that time in the two years and talks about the run ins with Peak6. He points out his frustrations at what he saw was wrong with the club.
Mark says a huge burden was put on Brian’s shoulders. He was one of the players who would have communicated with then chairman Bill Hulsizer. He goes into details about discussions with the American.
It’s a great eyewitness account over the bizarre period and everything that went with it.
Mark says Brian had a lot of time for Vinny Perth’s replacement in August 2020. Gartland talks about the respect he had for Filippo and his assistant Guiseppe.
He feels they got a bit of a hard time, mainly from the media and from fans. Mark says Brian’s respect for the two Italians remains. He gets on well with them and is still in contact with the duo.
Brian was delighted to see Stephen O’Donnell return as manager in December 2021. He says they are great friends. He was a big fan of what Stephen was doing at St Pat’s. It was the return of O’Donnell that cemented his decision to stay on at Oriel this season.
Gartland’s Early Career
Brian started his career in the underage team at Bray Wanderers. He was about to make a break-through in to the first team under Pat Devlin, but he did not stay with them after being sent off in the Enda McGuill tournament.
There was a big disciplinary process that followed. It ruined his time at Bray. Eddie Gormley came in as manager. He did not seem to be a fan of Brian. The Dubliner was sent to Shelbourne where he spent a year.
He played a lot during the first half of the season, but not so much in the second half when Dermot Keely brought in more experienced players. Brian moved on to Monaghan United where he enjoyed his football under Mick Cooke.
The gifted defender had so much time for Cooke and this came out clearly in the book. From Monaghan Brian went to Portadown, where he spent two seasons.
After this he decided to return to the League of Ireland. He was due to sign for Shelbourne. This was in January 2013. Then Stephen Kenny, in his first month at Dundalk, came calling.
Although Gartland had his mind up he was going back to Shelbourne, Kenny’s doggedness, and persistence to bring him to Louth finally worked and Brian came to Oriel. The chase Kenny gave Brian finally annoyed him into becoming a Lilywhite.
Tackling Tough Subjects
On his relationship with Stephen Kenny, Brian is full of praise for his former boss. In the book he goes into times when relations were not so great with Kenny and when their friendship was under strain.
Mark says this is where Brian talks about things that might not be comfortable, noting how it was surprising how easily Brian spoke about the issues and equally how easily it was to get the information from him.
Brian shows overall in his book how great his respect was for Stephen Kenny and how much regard he has for the Irish boss. Mark mentions how Stephen Kenny, in the forward of the book, gives his point of view of how he got Brian to sign for Dundalk.
Brian speaks of Kenny’s man management and how he gave him the confidence to turn out to be the player that he is. The Dubliner stated that when at Shelbourne at the very start of his career he did not like Dermot Keely’s style of management.
Dermot used a tough approach with his players that would normally be done with mature players. The Shelbourne team Dermot came to manage were full of much younger players. He came back to Shelbourne at a time the club were in big trouble.
He did not have to come back to Shelbourne. Dermot came back out of his love for the club. He spoke to the youngsters the way he was used to talking to hardened professionals. This discouraged Brian from being able to relate well with Dermot.
For a couple of years after leaving Shels, Brian says he did not like Dermot’s tough managerial style.
But as he got older, Brian began to appreciate the reason why Dermot was the way he was. He got to like and respect Dermot very much as time went on.
He realized that he himself learned the skill of how to toughen up and be able to deal with situations players come across in their careers. This all came from Dermot Keely. Brian has nothing but the height of respect for Dermot now.
There are lots of different stories from Brian about all the different clubs he played for. Mark says there is a lesson in the book for fans and for what he called foreign sugar daddies who come to Ireland to take over a league of Ireland clubs.
Brian’s book underlines that the foreign consortiums must get a unique understanding of the club they are taking over and the league their team will be playing in. Foreign owners also need to get a unique understanding of the community.
Brian spoke openly about the disconnect that emerged between the club and the people of the town. He says this was as a result of the chairman living in Florida and a Sporting Director living in Belfast and various people in key positions in the club who had no connections with the town.
Mark says for any league of Ireland fan who longs for a Peak6 type ownership, regardless of the money there has to be a connection to the community. Otherwise, that will be a loss to the club.
Brian finishes the book by reflecting on how he walked into Oriel Park under the new ownership and how people were smiling once again. Brian finishes by saying it was nothing like that last season.
I can’t wait to get my copy and I’m sure all supporters are the same. This is my first experience of a Dundalk player writing an autobiography on his time at the club. It’s my first experience of a book from a league of Ireland player that gives his unique thoughts on his experiences behind the scenes in Irish football.
Stephen Bradley won the Soccer Writers Player of the month award on Thursday last. Bradley revealed to the media at a press conference that he has suffered a crisis of confidence during his still early career.
The winger grew up on the same streets as Kenny Dalglish. But Stephen nearly packed in professional game. The Scotsman is 20 this St Patrick’s Day. He is a product of the Glasgow Rangers academy. He joined Rangers as an eight-year-old and enjoyed six good years there.
He was released by Rangers at the age of 14. Stephen said he was a striker and before he was let go, he found himself left on the bench. He said he was devastated at being released as he felt he was not good enough.
He later joined his local schoolboy club and banged in the goals there and his confidence gradually returned. He moved to Hibs despite the chance of a trial with Sunderland. He did get some first team football with Hibs.
But he jumped at the chance to join Dundalk on loan from Hibs. He is a top-quality player and I’m sure he will learn a lot from the League of Ireland.
It was great to see Stephen Kenny getting his contract extended with the Republic of Ireland. The extension brings him up to the end of the qualifying rounds of the European championships.
The FAI have already sold 18,000 season tickets for this year’s home games at the Aviva. This is a record. I think the Blackrock based former Dundalk manager will be a success.
As I write this column the situation in the Ukraine continues to worsen with many killed in battles with the Russian invaders. Ireland will rightfully be taking many refugees from the war-torn country.
The war means Ireland’s Nations League game with the Ukraine scheduled to be played in a couple of months’ time has been deferred. Have a safe week and please be careful out there.
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