Larne defender Cian Bolger has revealed how he grafted tooth and nail to crown a famous result for the Inver Park club in Europe last week.
Not only did Bolger put his body on the line against Aarhus, he also imperiled his dental records as Tiernan Lynch’s men extracted a memorable 1-1 draw in Denmark.
To such an extent that two of the 29-year-old’s teeth were displaced while defending a late free-kick en route to a 3-2 aggregate win over the Superliga big-hitters.
“It probably made me better looking,” joked Bolger, who joined Larne last month after leaving Northampton Town at the end of last season.
“I was in the wall defending a free-kick and the ball hit me straight in the dish. My two front teeth came out and I chipped another one, so you could say two-and-a-half.
“To be fair, I’ve had my front teeth knocked out before and what came out in Denmark were plates, so it’s not the first time it has happened.
“I first lost my teeth when I was a teenager and up to half a dozen times since while playing football, so it’s something I’ve got used to over the years.”
After the ball cannoned off his face, Bolger managed to retrieve his teeth as Larne held on to register an historic result at the Ceres Park stadium.
“I spat them out and put them down my sock and carried on.. as you do,” he said. “I knew they were missing, but you’re not really thinking about it at the time.
“It’s one of those things. My main focus was on getting on with the game and ensuring we held on to get the result we needed to progress.”
How soon after the free-kick did Bolger, who played more than 300 games in England and represented the Republic of Ireland at U21 level, know he had a problem?
“Well, there was a bit more of a draught in my mouth and a big gap where my teeth should be, so I worked it out quite quickly,” he chuckled.
“The lads had a bit of a joke and a laugh in the changing room afterwards because I was sitting with no front teeth, but I wasn’t too fussed about how my mouth looked.
“The result was the most important thing. I got temporaries put in when I returned home and I’ll need a proper job done in time, but hopefully our European run puts that off for a while.
“Once I retire, maybe I’ll get a nice set of teeth sorted.”
Thursday’s 1-1 draw in Aarhus secured a memorable aggregate win for Larne whose reward is a Europa Conference League third round showdown with Pacos de Ferreira of Portugal.
The first leg against Pacos, who finished fifth in the Primeira Liga last season, is at the Estadio Capital do Movel on Thursday night, with the return leg at Inver Park next week.
“It was a big result against Aarhus, but as a changing room and a club, we were quietly confident we could get a result against them,” said Bolger.
Ronan Hale scored in 1-1 draw with Aarhus in Denmark
(Image: INPHO/Bo Amstrup)
“Beating a Danish club over two legs probably shut a lot of people up because I don’t think too many gave us a hope of getting through to the next round.
“It was a positive that we were able to show two sides to our game, home and away, against Aarhus and it was quite pleasing to prove a lot of people wrong.
“No one outside of the four walls of our changing room will give us a chance against Portuguese opposition, but we’ll go into the tie with belief and you never know what might happen.
“The club can be very proud of what it has achieved so far – three wins and a draw – in its first ever European campaign, but we want to build on that.
“We’ll be well prepared and hopefully we can cause another upset, get a result and keep the tie alive ahead of next week’s home leg at Inver Park.
“Paços de Ferreira will look to dominate possession, but we can’t just sit back and invite pressure. It’s important we go and put our stamp on the game.”
The winners of the two-legged tie will face English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in the play-off round.