For the third consecutive season, Dundalk FC are Airtricity League of Ireland champions. This season could get even better for Stephen Kenny’s side very soon. The possibility a second consecutive league and cup double as well as a potential venture to the last 32 of the Europa League leaves many Dundalk supporters in a crescendo of excitement. This is a scenario that many of them could not have foreseen three years ago before Stephen Kenny took over the reins at Oriel Park.
Many players have been integral to this success including towering central defender Brian Gartland and striker David McMillan. Gartland who sustained a wrist injury in July, recovered sufficiently to retake his place at the heart of the Dundalk defence. He would later go on to score the goal that ensured Dundalk clinched their third league title in a row in a 2-1 victory over Bohemians at Oriel Park in front of a 4,637 crowd in a bumper atmosphere.
When asked about his contribution to the team’s success, defender Gartland was quick to play down his exploits in a humble manner and instead praise the contribution of the whole squad. He said in his program notes ahead of the home game against Galway United last Friday night that every player has been invaluable to the club’s success this season. “We have sensational players in the dressing room” Gartland said. “They have all contributed immensely throughout the season. He added, “It has been a whole year of hard work; it is fantastic to get the job done and it has been a complete team effort throughout the season.”
During the time that Gartland was out injured, his replacement was Paddy Barrett who himself was superb and played his part in Dundalk’s European campaign. Barrett was excellent against BATE Borisov in that incredible night in Tallagh Stadium. Gartland epitomised the squad ethos as he lavished the compliments on Barrett. “Paddy is an exceptional player and he has had an outstanding season”.
Another player who has been exceptional for the Lillywhites and has been invaluable to the success that has arrived at Oriel Park’s doorstep in the last three years has been striker David McMillan. McMillan has been Dundalk’s sharpshooter this season, scoring 16 league goals and 21 in all competitions. McMillan has scored 5 times in European competition which includes a brace in that memorable victory over BATE Borisov.
McMillan has been integral to Dundalk’s hat trick of league successes and like Gartland he also wrote in his program notes ahead of Dundalk’s clash against Galway of his delight in Dundalk winning their third consecutive league title. “To win the title three years in a row is absolutely brilliant. It was a great night for us and a great win”.
Despite scoring 21 goals in all competition; McMillan is not willing to rest on his laurels and wrote in his program notes that he wants to continue his rich vein of form of goal scoring. “For me I want to score as many goals as possible between now and the end of the season.” McMillan explained. “In Europe I want to get goals and help the team as well. I have had a phenomenal year. I have scored more goals than I have in other years, and the run-in Europe and winning the league as well has been fantastic. It has been amazing.”
McMillan and Gartland have been wonderful for Dundalk this season and the icing on the cake arrived when news came through that PFAI Player of the Year Daryl Horgan and defender Andy Boyle have been called up to the Republic of Ireland international fold by manager Martin O’Neill. Both players expressed their sincere delight in this recognition. Horgan who has scored 11 goals including 10 in the league told the official Dundalk FC website of his delight in being selected for the provisional squad. “It is a huge honour for me to be in the squad” said Horgan. “I am a bit shocked but I am over the moon to be selected.”
Like McMillan, Horgan also told the website of his ambitions to make the final squad of Ireland’s World Cup Qualifier against Austria. “I am very excited about this and hopefully now I can make the final squad. That is the aim now. It will be difficult as there are some brilliant players in the squad already. It will be tough but to be considered is fantastic for me”.
Also, selected in the squad representing the Lillywhites is Dundalk’s vice-captain Andy Boyle. Former Shelbourne defender Boyle whose partnership with Gartland has been imperative to Dundalk’s water tight defence which has only conceded 28 goals all season. Only Cork City have had a better defensive record.
Speaking to the club website, Boyle echoed Horgan’s excitement and thrill at being selected for that qualifier against Austria. “I am looking forward to it” Boyle said. “The first thing is to enjoy this part of it and see where we go from there. But I am delighted to be in the squad, I will go there now, work hard and hopefully impress,”
The centre half has underlining ambitions to break into the final squad and become a regular fixture as an International player. “The aim is to get into the final squad.” Boyle explained. “It is a good squad so it will be tough, all you can do is go out there and perform to the best of your ability and hopefully that will be good enough.”