As much as Brian Gartland feels for Chris Shields — Dundalk’s shock suspension for Sunday’s cup final against Shamrock Rovers — the Lilywhites stalwart also recognises that, in football, one player’s difficulty is another’s opportunity.
“Make no bones about it, every player wants to play in this,” says the experienced defender, who will turn 33 the day after the final. “It’s hard when you miss out, or you’re not selected, or you get an injury, or something like that. It’s disappointing for Chris. But it’s football; a lot worse things can happen. Even this year, lads breaking bones and legs and things. You just have to deal with it and move on.
“Everyone’s gutted for Chris, but in lads’ minds, it has to be: ‘This is my moment.’ Grab the bull by the horns and they’ll be the star out there, because Chris has been a star for us so many times.”
No longer a guaranteed starter at Oriel Park, Gartland goes into Sunday’s final unsure of what, if any, role he will get to play. “I played a hell of a lot until the end of June, but in football, everyone just remembers the recent past,” he says.
“Ever since then, you’re playing every few weeks. It’s been tough. I thought my performances have been really good. You’re going to be pissed off at times, but you need to respect your team. You’ve got to check yourself and say: ‘Right, the team needs you here.’ Especially as a senior player, you’ve got to lead by example and put yourself aside.
“Everything is put aside for the cup final, whether it’s me or someone in a different situation. Someone that knows they’re moving on in a week or two. All that’s put aside. You just do your job.
“We’re in good spirits and look very good as a team. That leads towards one thing and it’s, hopefully, winning a trophy on Sunday.”