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DARREN O’DEA ON TOMMY BURNS, HIS SMALL PIECE OF CELTIC HISTORY AND BRENDAN RODGERS’ SIDE

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DARREN O’DEA, the former Celtic defender and current Dundee captain is our next guest on our #10IAR feature…

Darren played for Celtic for six years from 2006 through to 2012, having joined the club in 2005. He has 20 caps for Ireland and has played a role in Celtic’s history having won two League titles, one Scottish Cup and one League Cup.

He is recently back from Ireland having just lost his Grandfather and everybody reading CQN will want to pass on our condolences  to Darren and his family at this sad time. Darren told us that his Grandfather had a long and happy life and that making it to his nineties made him happy!

Scotty Alcroft asks the questions for CQN Magazine…

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 As a young player, how did you first hear about Celtic’s interest in you?

My schoolboy team (under15s) in Ireland travelled to Largs to play in a tournament and Celtic were involved. Celtic had a very decent young side that I later found out the club had high hopes for. We played against them and beat them 2-0. I scored the Two. Tommy Burns approached my then manager and asked would I like to travel back over to Glasgow in a few weeks to watch the Celtic vs Blackburn game in the UEFA cup. I came with my family. Tommy then came to Dublin with his wife Rosemary and I signed later on a couple of months after.

Who was your favourite Celtic player growing up and why?

Anyone growing up in my era only had one favourite player and that was the King of Kings. But when I arrived over to Celtic I loved watching Bobo play and with the team they had then I wasn’t short on role models to watch and learn from.

What can remember about your first team debut?

I remember being in the squad for a Cup game against St Mirren. I knew Lee Naylor wasn’t fit to play but I assumed the manager would play Stephen Pearson or someone else there. I actually came in early and did a gym session before the game as I thought I wouldn’t even be on the bench. I got told I was playing a couple of hours before kick off and did quite well. We won 2-0. Within a month I made my League and Champions League debut so quite a bit happened in a short space of time.

Who were the characters in the dressing room at Celtic? Any funny stories?

In our dressing room Chris Killen and Scott Brown were the ones you always had to be wary of, although they would probably say the same about me. I remember one time sitting in the physio room on an office chair. The two of them attacked me and taped me to the chair. I couldn’t move they’d put so much tape around me. It was time to train so they wheeled me out of the doors of Lennoxtown, but instead of going onto the pitches they rolled me down the hill. I don’t know how I didn’t get hurt badly but I ended up crashing into the gates. Obviously the two of them thought It was hilarious but I was just relieved I hadn’t been killed, ha,ha!

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Which person at Celtic was the biggest influence on your career and why?

Easy question!! Tommy Burns!! Signed me, believed in me, coached me, mentored me. I would say 80% of my career has been down to him. An absolute legend of life and not just football. I have his initials on my shin pads so he’s with me every game. A Top, top guy!!

Who was your toughest opponent at Celtic and why?

Kaka was in his prime when we played AC Milan. It was seriously tough to get tight to him. He glided across the pitch. Also, I can’t remember who it was but I played up in Inverness at the start of my career and one of the strikers up there threw me about. It was a lesson for me. It toughened me up. I got thrown about for the 90 mins. It was windy and frantic and I soon realised it wasn’t all nice football at Celtic. In some games, you had to fight your ground as well.

If you could have had one Celtic player to play alongside that you never got the opportunity to do so, past or present, who would it be and why?

There are loads of past ones I would have liked to play with but a recent one is Virgil van Dijk. I thought the guy was class. Huge in stature but has so much quality on the ball and very quick. I think he’s Celtic’s best centre back possibly ever. Well certainty in my time of watching them.

Who is the best Celtic player  that you have played alongside and why?

Aiden McGeady. His feet were so quick and as he grew older he got quicker. Impossible to stop in a one v one. He could go both ways. Playing left back behind him it was just a case of giving him the ball and I loved the fact that when he maybe lost the ball a couple of times and the crowd might be anxious he would never hide. H would keep taking it and was brave to try things. Tommy was a huge part of his mental strength too. He’d always say to him, it only takes one moment to win a game.

What is the best game you have played in for Celtic and why?

It’s got to be the 2-0 win in the 2009 League Cup Final against Rangers. To play was absolutely brilliant. To win was the best feeling. Gordon Strachan used to always talk of making small bits of history within the club. So to score and be a small part of a club like Celtic’s history was and is incredible. I’ve 2 League Titles, a Scottish Cup and League Cup. All small bits of Celtic history that I’m very proud of.

Finally Darren, what do think of the job Brendan Rodgers is doing and the current Celtic side?

Incredible! I’m not surprised with the style and quality of the team. But what impresses me most is how relentless they are. There is no let up or satisfaction. They want more always. Their unbeaten run reflects that. He has done a fantastic job and I can say first hand as I’ve played under him at Reading that he’s an absolutely top guy as well.

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Darren, thank you for your time today and your answers. We at CQN wish you all the very best. It’s amazing how Tommy Burns comes up in so many interviews. Tommy touched so many lives and influenced so many careers.

Interview by Scotty Alcroft for CQN Magazine

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