MATT O’RILEY has made only 12 appearances – and scored one goal – for Celtic since agreeing his £1.5million switch from English third-tier side MK Dons in January.
However, the gifted midfielder, who has just been called into the Denmark Under-21 squad for the first time, admits he is loving every “crazy” minute of his career at Parkhead.
O’Riley played his part in guiding the Hoops past Dundee United 3-0 at Tannadice to set up a Scottish Cup semi-final meeting with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox men at Hampden next month, with Sunday April 17 the more likely date.
The 21-year-old London-born playmaker was pitched into the February 2 derby where a double from Reo Hatate and a one from Liel Abada had Ange Postecoglou’s team 3-0 ahead at the interval as a 60,000 sell-out Parkhead rocked to its foundations.
BRING IT ON…Matt O’Riley looks confident ahead of kick-off at Tannadice on Monday night.
Now he is looking forward to an action replay at the national stadium as well as a Premiership encounter at Ibrox on Sunday April 3.
O’Riley said: “It was spine-tingling last time. I spoke to a few people and they said it was probably one of the craziest Celtic v Rangers atmospheres there’s been, which was pretty cool. I was grateful to be part of it.
“I don’t think you understand how crazy it is unless you are in the stadium. It looks amazing on TV, but It’s not until you are in there.
“My mum and dad were in the stadium and they were thinking: ‘Wow, this is crazy’.
“It has to inspire you to want more. That’s why we play football. The fans make it what it is. We all played numerous games during that lockdown period and it just wasn’t the same.
“You are obviously up for every game, but when you have the fans behind you, it gives you that extra 10 per cent.”
The last-four confrontation in the south side of Glasgow next month will see 52,000-capacity Hampden with equal amounts of supporters from each club.
ON THE BALL…Matt O’Riley takes charge against Dundee United.
O’Riley continued: “I’m actually really looking forward to that 50-50 split. It will probably create an even better atmosphere – with a bit of hostility towards both teams.
“I enjoy it, that’s what I buzz off.
“We’ll be ready for it when the games come around. These are the games I look forward to most. They are the games you are under the most pressure, you have to demand the most from yourself and the team.
“It should be good at Hampden. I’ve watched the Cup Final highlights from last time and I’ve seen how crazy the stadium looked.
“I’m definitely excited about it.”
O’Riley, who qualifies to play for Denmark through his mother, is in their Under-21 squad for their European Championship qualifier against Belgium a week on Tuesday.
Before that, though, he will continue to hope to impress Postecoglou and the next target is Ross County at Parkhead on Saturday afternoon with the Hoops three points ahead at the Premiership pinnacle with only eight games to go.
CUP THAT CHEERS…Matt O’Riley joins in the celebrations after Callum McGregor’s opening goal in the quarter-final confrontation.
Reflecting on the victory at Tannadice, O’Riley, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “We’re feeling good and the vibe in the changing room is really good. I think that, overall, it was a professional performance.
“We managed the game pretty well. There was a spell in the second-half when we weren’t at our best, but we managed it well and got the job done.
“I think, intensity-wise, we were probably better in the first-half in terms of our whole game structure, but in the second-half we knew the spaces were going to open up because they had to come out a bit more and we took advantage of that.
“I still think we could have scored a few more and been a bit more ruthless – that’s something to work on – but overall it was good.
“I’m buzzing for the semi-final, although it’s still a long way away and we’ve got other games to focus on before that, but when it comes, I’ll be ready.”