Published: 05:00, 25 February 2022
Dartford midfielder Keiran Murtagh knows a thing or two about promotion.
Having enjoyed success with Boreham Wood and Wycombe, Murtagh’s aiming for the hat-trick at Dartford this season.
A composed individual on and off the field, his experience is going to be key as the National League South promotion race enters the final countdown.
Darts are seven points behind leaders Dorking after their 2-1 midweek loss at Hungerford. So Murtagh is well placed to know what matters most as they play catch-up in the weeks ahead.
“No individual wins a league, it’s all about the team,” stated the 33-year-old. “If you’ve got the team spirit that we have and all the players like each other, we’re all pulling in the same direction - that’s what you need.
“We were top of the league for a long time but no-one stays top from the beginning to the end - that’s unheard of really, unless you’re Man City maybe! But we’re not Man City.
“We’re still in there, we’re under the radar and when the teams have a blip, which every team will, we’ll hopefully be there to capitalise.
“We just think about three points. Every week we need to get three points because other teams will be doing that as well. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing top of the league or teams two or three places below you, everyone wants to get three points.
“That’s our aim, take each game as it comes and at the end of the season if we’re there or thereabouts then we’ll be happy.”
Promotion might be coming into focus for teams battling it out at the top of the table, but it was the lure of working with boss Steve King that persuaded Murtagh to make the switch.
He played for King at Macclesfield and carpenter Murtagh was happy to link up again after leaving Boreham Wood in the summer.
“I had offers, obviously at Boreham Wood they went full-time and offered me a contract but due to work I couldn’t do that,” he said. “I spoke to a few other clubs but Dartford was the best fit at the time and I’m glad I made that change.
“I’ve been with Steve King before. I know he puts together good teams. If I can help Dartford push that extra little bit this year then I’m happy to do that.
“I wanted to go to a club that’s trying to push for promotion, every player wants to do that. But the type of football that he plays and I know he always puts a good team together was the main attraction. That was more of a pull.
“To put another promotion on my CV would be unbelievable, and we’ll be close. If we don’t get there then, next season, I’m sure he will design a new team to push again. But our focus now is to get promotion however we can, and we’re on the road to doing that.”
Murtagh has well over 500 career appearances, also featuring for the likes of Woking and Yeovil.
It’s an experience figure in the dressing room that will prove priceless throughout the campaign - “you can’t carry those disappointments too far” is his pragmatic approach to their setbacks in both the FA Trophy and FA Cup to lower-league opposition.
“I’ve been at clubs when I was told I was going to play in a certain position or told I’d be the person that would get the ball down and play, but then when times start getting hard the luxury player gets taken out of the team,” reflected Murtagh.
“That’s part and parcel of football, I’ve had to deal with that throughout my career. I guess my experience now of being that player can hold me in good stead for when the times get hard.
“I can mix it now, I can go to war with anyone, and I can help the players that are sometimes in that position as I’ve been there.
“I’ve been that young player that breaks into the team and then you lose a game, and suddenly you’re out because you’re the youngest, the weakest or the lightest one.
“I’ve got both sides of that in my game so I can help the youngsters that feel that way now and give them the experience that they can get through it and we want them to play that type of football.
“I’ve been playing since I was 16. I haven’t stopped playing so when you get to 33, if you’ve been playing for that time and are not comfortable with your game then something must be wrong.
“I am what I am, I know what I’m good at, I know what I’m bad at. I try and put myself in positions where I don’t have to do the stuff that I am bad at and I get to do the stuff I’m good at.”