‘The best moment of my career' – Hartlepool United midfielder Gavan Holohan on EFL promotion joy and 'worst feeling' watching from sidelines
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And the Irish midfielder, who netted 11 goals over the regular season, was delighted to see the hard work over the last 12 months pay off.
“I can’t describe it really,” he said afterwards. “It was a year to the day since we first came back for pre-season and it’s been a tough year.
"The work and the graft to get to this moment and for it all to pay off is just, pfft, you can’t describe it, just over the moon.”
The game itself proved to be a promotion final classic as Luke Armstrong gave Pools the lead before Torquay goalkeeper Lucas Covolan headed in a 95th-minute equaliser to take the game to extra-time and penalties.
Holohan had just been substituted in stoppage time before The Gulls equalised, meaning he experienced ‘the worst feeling ever’ of watching the additional 30-minutes plus penalties from the bench.
“I thought we played really well in the first half,” he told BBC Radio Tees. “Second half we let them grow into the game, played a bit too deep and invited on the pressure but we defended unbelievably and you just thought we’re going to hang on here.
"When we concede the goal it’s a sucker punch and you think it might not be our day but the lads regrouped in extra-time.
“It’s not good for the heart, I thought I was going to pass out at one point. I’d be less nervous if I was taking one!
"Obviously I came off and was just watching it so it’s the worst feeling ever. Hats off to the coaching staff because they had to watch the whole 120 minutes and the pens as well and all the fans here.”
Crucially, Hartlepool had the last laugh as Brad James parried Matt Buse’s decisive spot kick onto the crossbar to send the club back to the Football League.
“It’s the best moment in my career, simple as that,” Holohan admitted. “I’ve won the FAI Cup in Ireland [with Cork City] as a bit part player, in and out of the team but I feel like I’ve really contributed this season and it’s paid off.”