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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 23 February, 2020

'We haven’t been cocky or arrogant but we think we can compete at this standard'

Dundalk’s Brian Gartland is hoping the Lilywhites can finish the season strongly.

DUNDALK DEFENDER BRIAN Gartland believes the Lilywhites are more than capable of competing in the Europa League, but has warned his side must continue to raise their game on the European stage.

“We think we’re good enough and we can play football at this level. We can look after ourselves and keep the ball,” Gartland says.

“And I think against AZ, it was great for our confidence because we proved it. You’re only as good as your last game so you need to raise the level every game.

“We’ve always backed ourselves. We haven’t been cocky or arrogant but we’ve said we think we can compete at this standard.

“In saying that, if we don’t perform or don’t work hard enough and do the job on Thursday, people will forget about AZ,” the defender warns.

Gartland cup Brian Gartland was speaking at the launch of Aviva’s sponsorship of this season’s FAI Junior Cup.

The League of Ireland champions host Maccabi Tel Aviv tomorrow night in their second group game, after the Israeli side blew a three-goal lead with 15 minutes to go against Zenit on the opening matchday.

But Gartland feels Maccabi have already demonstrated that they are a side not to be taken lightly, especially after they comprehensive beat their city-rivals Hapoel 5-0 last weekend, which sees them top of their domestic league.

“Zenit had a few chances and they all went in the net but to be 3-0 up against Zenit – Zenit are going to top the group and win every game – it just shows their quality.

“No question, they’re top standard.

“They had a 5-0 win on Sunday night. It was good for us to see them like that. It was their most recent game and it was a game against opposition that might be more similar to us than playing against Zenit,” the Dubliner continues.

“But they showed even when they were one, two-nil up, that they went for more.”

Gartland hopes the fact the game is being played in Tallaght, rather than the Aviva Stadium, will give Dundalk a vital extra edge after losing to Legia Warsaw at the home of Irish football.

“Unless you have a big draw there is no point bringing a small crowd to the Aviva and losing the atmosphere and not having it behind you.

“We saw what it did for us against BATE, having Tallaght packed out and it was brilliant, It was so good to see other League of Ireland fans there.

“I was in the TV gantry looking down and I saw Rovers, Bohs, Shels, Pats jerseys and they were all screaming on and supporting.

“That was brilliant to see because, listen, we’re all against each other but when it comes to this, the league is a minority in this country and we need to take the good and make the best of it that we can and then all clubs will benefit from that.

“Hopefully we see the same again. When it comes to Tallaght, we like playing there.

“The pitch is good, the ground is on top of the pitch and the capacity suits us. Winning the league there, the BATE game, hopefully they continue.”

Brian Gartland celebrates scoring Gartland his League of Ireland career with Bray Wanderers. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Dundalk face a hectic schedule that includes six games that span three competitions in little over three weeks. After tomorrow night’s game Stephen Kenny’s side facing Derry City in the FAI Cup semi-final on Sunday, and with a potential title decider to come against Cork City on 11 October.

A league match against Sligo Rovers is sandwiched in-between those two domestic ties, but Gartland feels Dundalk have the quantity and quality to cope.

“We’ve had a few weeks of this where we’ve had games quite quick after we’ve just had a match,” Gartland says.

“You just have to get on with it. Without sounding over confident, it’s the price of success. We’ve had a bit of a break since Friday night to this Thursday, it’s nearly a full week. We’ve such a good squad that you can make changes and still have a strong team.

“It’s the best squad we’ve had since I’ve been at the club over three years, you can replace like for like the whole time.

“It’s six games coming up but if you get through those and you’re wining them, it should be looking good for the rest of the season.”

“It’s a mentality thing – if things are going good you look at the positive side of things, but if things are going bad then it might get to you a bit more.

“With the depth of our squad, people do get rests, there are fresh legs coming in and there is no drop in standard in the team.

“The gaffer always says ‘break records, set records’, and when we do he wants us to break those records again.

- With additional reporting from Ben Blake

Aviva’s FAI Junior Cup ambassador and former Irish international Kevin Kilbane was joined by Dundalk FC’s Brian Gartland and FAI Junior Cup holder, Sheriff YC’s, Adam McGuirk to launch Aviva’s sponsorship of this season’s competition at the Aviva Stadium this week 

The FAI Junior Cup, which begins fully this weekend with Round Two following the preliminary Round One, sees over 600 teams competing on the #RoadToAviva in the hope of walking out in the Aviva Stadium for the Final in May 2017.

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