Book Review: One Last Shot by Brian Gartland and Mark McCadden

Sun, Jun 05 2022
Brian Gartland ahead of a Europa League clash with Arsenal in 2020

Brian Gartland ahead of a Europa League clash with Arsenal in 2020 Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

If you’re reading this piece from extratime.com, the chances are that you know the footballer Brian Gartland - the central defender who Stephen Kenny signed in the middle of the 2013 season and has been almost a posterboy for Dundalk’s success in the league since.

However, Brian Gartland the person, the fan who partied through Poland in Euro 2012, the man who spent nights in hospital with his terminally ill father or the wandering soul in St Petersburg following a defeat to the local team - is what One Last Shot brings to a wider audience.

Football is an emotive sport and as an avid national team supporter himself Gartland could reel off examples such as Packie Bonner’s jig at Italia 90 while the nation held its breath, Ray Houghton’s rollover following his lob to defeat Italy or Robbie Keane’s tumble after levelling against Germany (20 years ago today). 

Ghostwriter Mark McCadden, who recently marked 20 years at the Irish Star, allows the emotions of the book to come to the surface in a balanced manner. Gartland’s feelings on a range of subjects of varying importance, including his relationship with his dad, the rivalry with Cork City and people’s perceptions of him as a footballer are laid out in a way where the reader can understand the story behind the Knocklyon native’s views. 

Much like the centre half’s playing style, this book goes about things in an unfussy manner yet covers a multitude. League of Ireland fans, while aware of how certain matches turn out, are treated to the views from the dressing room and the internal dialogue going on in the defender’s head during the game. Those not familiar with the league or the player himself are presented with the story of a young sports mad individual who endured setbacks of suspension, non selection before ultimately striking upon success and silverware.

Gartland’s career has had a number of standout moments such as the opening goal against Cork City in the title decider of 2014, his strike to seal the league against Bohemians a couple of seasons later and lifting league and cup trophies as skipper of the Lilywhites as well as earning rave reviews for his performance against Arsenal in the Europa League Group Stages in 2020. 

Similarly, a number of headline friendly stories appear in the book, particularly towards the end of the book - no surprise to those familiar with the goings on at Dundalk during their period of American ownership. Revelations, such as the potential player strike in the runup to the Vitesse Arnhem game, former chairman Bill Hulsizer asking if Gartland would like to run the club or the Epilogue chapter dealing with the health scare suffered in the aftermath of the season ending knee injury suffered by the defender in 2021 are insightful, bemusing and emotional - in that order.

You don’t need to be a Dundalk fan, a League of Ireland fan or even a football fan in order to enjoy One Last Shot as it’s not a traditional story of a boy done good - chronologically detailing matches and trophies without revealing anything in particular.

Rather, this is an emotional story of a young man who grew up in a supportive sports rich environment balancing a life off the field - dealing with emotions surrounding his father, developing a career outside football (including a spell acting!), discussing the challenges of spending time with his brother and his own kids and family and his admiration for his mother (a thread weaved throughout the book) - with an unusual footballing journey where success came following spells playing in both the League of Ireland and the Northern Irish Premier League.

This is the first book published by Hero Books which tells the story of a current League of Ireland player and, if the quality of the story told is any way indicative of what other stories are out there, it won’t be the One Last Shot they take.  


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