Dundalk star Brian Gartland is full of confidence for BATE test
BRIAN GARTLAND says BATE Borisov have set an example for Irish clubs but the Dundalk defender views this evening's Champions League qualifier (6.30 Irish time) as an opportunity for the League of Ireland champions to start their own special journey.
Dundalk did not want to land BATE at this stage of Europe's premier competition as they were arguably the most accomplished outfit on the other side of the draw.
The Belarusian champions have qualified for the group stages in five of the past seven seasons and have registered wins against the likes of Athletic Bilbao, Lille and, famously, a star studded Bayern Munich side back in 2012.
Certainly, they have come a long way since losing to Bohemians in 2003 when the Dubliners were managed by current Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny.
BATE invested heavily in youth structures and have kept the show on the road by selling on their best talent and producing replacements, with the funds from European progression also helping to build a new state of the art stadium.
Gartland drew a few smiles when he tweeted a picture of the respective arenas when Dundalk learned that BATE would be their opponent in a tie worth close to €1.2 million. Still, he asserts there is no inferiority complex in the away party.
"They obviously have a great pedigree," said Gartland. "They've been in the group stages three of the past four years. We've never even got an Irish team in the group stages so that shows the opposition we're up against.
"But we're a team brimming with confidence and belief in ourselves. We don't get ahead of ourselves but, at the same time, you have to have confidence and belief if you're going to get anywhere.
"If we want to emulate the success that BATE have enjoyed, well, they had to start somewhere ten years ago so why can't we do that now?"
Last year, Kenny's charges exited Europe despite a second leg rally to register a 90 minute win over Hadjuk Split in Croatia. The mistakes of the first leg in Oriel Park cost them.
"Against Split, we were possibly a bit naive in the first game, in terms of some defensive mistakes we made," added Gartland, whose regular centre half partner Andy Boyle is the major injury doubt due to a calf strain.
"We then realised in the second leg that we had nothing to fear, we were playing in Split in front of over 20,000 fans - a partisan crowd.
"For a lot of the young lads it was their first time in Europe and it was a good experience. You can do all the homework about teams but sometimes its on the day and you have to react to what's in front of you. They (BATE) have got their patterns of play but they can play off the cuff as well, like we can."
The challenge of trying to retain the league title has managed to occupy Dundalk minds over the past fortnight and it was only after last week's dramatic win in Galway that attention fully shifted to BATE.
Kenny wants to turn that sense of anticipation into a positive force.
"It is a test, the toughest game we could have got," he said. "But we're not going to talk them up much in the dressing room. We know they have good players but we're not devaluing ourselves and we will go out with an intention of getting a result."
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