Dundalk FC's Brian Gartland. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
The mental strain of setback after setback had Brian Gartland wondering if he would get back into the Dundalk FC team.
Gartland, at 31, felt he had the best pre-season of his career before injury and illness intercepted as the new season approached, and with the defence having started the campaign with eight successive shutouts, people began to question when, or if, the popular centre-half would return.
However, two impressive league performances in a week has Gartland firmly back in the picture, even if the Lilywhites lost last night’s fixture in Waterford.
“It was probably the toughest couple of months that I’ve had at this club, if I’m being honest,” Gartland told The Dundalk Democrat.
“Just because one thing after another went wrong for me. I had the best pre-season I ever had. I was flying, I was top of the runs, I was flying, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t play games and when I came into the start of the season I just had a niggly injury and two illnesses and another thing, it was just one thing after another just when I was getting back fit each time.
“It’s (future) in your head because you’re looking at the lads, eight or nine clean sheets in a row!”
He added: “The hardest part is dealing with it mentally, when you’re out and you have to try and get back in. When you’re having a tough time of it, mentally is always the hardest part.
“I didn’t need to be in contact (with Stephen Kenny) because he knows the type of character that I am; I just work hard. I didn’t say anything and I wasn’t coming and saying ‘blah, blah, blah, I’m ready to come back in’ sort of stuff because I had no right to. These lads, Daniel Cleary, Seán (Hoare) and Stevie (Folan) were playing outstanding.”
On the defeat to Waterford, Gartland puts it down to five minutes of madness.
“It’s a poor result for us, just a five minutes of madness sort of thing. They were bad goals to give away and we know that. We haven’t given many goals away this year, but we gave two easy goals away.
“It’s a cliché, but we showed massive character (after going 2-0 down). With new lads in the team, this is the first time that something like that has happened to us and the response we showed shows the character of the new boys. We know the boys who have been here years, we have been in situations like this before and on another night we come back and win that game. We had chance-after-chance and we controlled the second half, they maybe had one shot from distance sort of thing.
“We dominated the second half so it’s very disappointing not to come away with anything. They’re a good side, they have good footballers and the two lads up front are a handful, you won’t get a harder night in the league than the two of them, but I think we should have got something out of that game and like down in Cork we should have got something out of that game.
“You can say all you want, but, at the end of the day, it’s the points on the board that matter.”