The Lilywhite Book Club

Game 13

Dundalk 4-1 Drogheda

The Brennans! The Lourdes! The massive traffic jams going through the middle of town! Gary Kelly can you hear me? Gary Kelly! Your boys took a hell of a beating… your boys took a hell of a beating.

A Wardy masterclass, a dominant defensive display from Mark Connolly, Hoban one goal closer to the all time record, another John Martin goal off the bench. A perfect night, right?

Well it was almost a perfect night. I say almost because we didn’t keep a clean sheet. The reason we didn’t keep that clean sheet is because of an errand pass from one Brian Gartland.

This was of particular interest to my dad and myself as the next day Brian was due to appear in Easons in Dundalk at a book signing arranged by my brother. Dad joked the signing should get cancelled due to the error.

It wasn’t cancelled though, he showed up, signed everything that people brought to him and was a gentleman to each and every person who queued up to meet him. A true Dundalk FC legend and when I wrote last week about building for the future with the players from the past decade or so, Brian is right at the top of the list of priorities.

The book is excellent by the way. You don’t need me to tell you it is a must read for any Dundalk fan. I think I noted three WWE references? Maybe two and a half? Which is good but I would expect at least double figures when ‘One Last Shot 2 : One Last Time – How I Turned Dundalk FC into a Global Powerhouse’ comes out.

There are such a staggering number of highlights from his time at Dundalk that it serves as a reminder, when those accolades and achievements are listed, page after page, chapter after chapter, of just how lucky we’ve been to follow this club for the last decade or so.

What is most fascinating, as it is with most autobiographies, is the insight into the mind of the author. I’ve long been fascinated with how the minds of sports people work and how trying and difficult it can be to maintain their own standards both physically and mentally.

First of all, the bravery to take on this project has to be acknowledged and applauded. Being honest and open about some of his struggles on the pitch and off the pitch will no doubt spark a conversation.

One section of the book looks at the aftermath of the Cruyff turn in the snow of St Petersburg and how low he felt which serves as a reminder of the real life consequences for football players who have made a high profile mistake.

It again speaks to the bravery involved in publishing these thoughts and knowing that while he’s still playing and still very much in the public eye people may view him differently.

Which is why it did cross my mind that he might actually cancel the Easons signing on Saturday. Imagine you had a made a mistake in a game the night before and then invited a bunch of fans to line up and greet you one by one? Actually, on the mistake, I’m not even sure if it was actually his fault! I saw it at the time and I haven’t seen it since but the point still stands. If I made a mistake on Friday night, I would 100% cancel the book signing the next day!

Happily, there aren’t too many negatives to cover in the book. Win after win, trophy after trophy, sneaky pint after sneaky pint, they were incredible times as a fan and it seemed like an incredible squad to be a part of.

The book inevitably covers the last few years in detail. I’d guess in about as much detail as the publishers legal team would let him. Again, it’s absolutely mind boggling, when it’s laid out in front of you in black and white, just how far and how quickly things came apart at the seams.

You come away from those sections of the book again thinking of the players as people and as difficult as it was for all of us to witness it must have been horrible for people like Brian Gartland to find himself in the eye of the storm.

Everyone looking for answers on what was going on and as he says in the book, there were very few people around the Town to give people answers.

Something that you notice from the later stages of the book is just how much respect Gartland has for Stephen O’Donnell. From what he has to say about O’Donnell as a man and as a football coach we have the right man in place to take us back to the glory days. I think we all knew that anyway didn’t we?

I highly recommend getting your hands on the book and reminiscing on one of the greatest periods of Dundalk FC’s history with one of its greatest ever players.

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