MATT O’RILEY stepped onto soccer’s rollercoaster on Saturday September 30 for a breathtaking 10-day spin.
The stylish 22-year-old midfielder kicked off the whirlwind sequence of events by signing a new four-year deal on the morning of the Premiership encounter at Motherwell.
On pledging his future to the champions, O’Riley, who arrived at Parkhead in January 2022 as a bargain £1.5million buy from English third-tier MK Dons, admitted: “I think everybody knows how much I enjoy playing here, especially at Celtic Park because I don’t think you get that anywhere else.
AIR WE GO…Matt O’Riley takes off as he sidefoots in the stoppage-time winner past Motherwell keeper Liam Kelly.
“I’ve said before that I’m just really grateful to be a part of a club like this and, hopefully, we can achieve more good things together.”
O’Riley celebrated his new contract on his 81st appearance for the Hoops when he netted the seventh-minute stoppage-time winner at Fir Park on an afternoon of high drama against Stuart Kettlewell’s side.
Luis Palma whipped in his first strike for the club three minutes from the end of break the deadlock, but, amazingly, the hosts levelled in the fifth minute of added-on time through Blair Spittal.
That left the way clear for London-born O’Riley to take centre stage as he executed a sublime sidefoot finish from a searching Greg Taylor left-wing cross to claim the points-clincher in the fading moments of a tense confrontation.
The matchwinner said: “First and foremost, I’m really delighted to sign my new deal and to take that momentum into the game and have a moment like that.
“It’s probably the most enjoyable moment for me on a football pitch.
A BIG HAND…Matt O’Riley and team-mates Gustaf Lagerbielke, Odin Holm and Alistair Johnston applaud the Celtic fans after their Fir Park heroics.
“I managed to stay calm which was nice and it was nice just to drift in towards the fans after I scored and the scenes speak for themselves.”
However, there was a jolt for Celtic’s Man of the Moment three days later when he was snubbed by his adopted nation Denmark for their Euro 24 qualifiers against Kazakhstan on Saturday and San Marino a week tonight.
The talented ace had been tipped to step up to the senior squad for the first time after six appearances for their Under-21 side.
However, manager Kasper Hjulmand overlooked O’Riley for his 23-man squad for the international double-header.
On Wednesday evening under the lights in the east of Glasgow, the gifted operator turned in another sterling 90 minutes-plus performance in the Champions League match against Lazio.
Unfortunately, the endeavours of the midfielder and his team-mates were not rewarded with an agonising stoppage-time time goal handing the Serie A outfit a smash-and-grab victory.
Even worse, O’Riley was adjudged to have played goalscorer Pedro just onside when the Spaniard headed in the winner at the back post.
THUMB’S UP…Matt O’Riley is happy with his lot at the champions.
Three days later, it was business as usual for the smooth operator when he played for 85 minutes in the 3-1 Premiership triumph over Kilmarnock at Parkhead. He was replaced late on by Odin Holm with the points secure.
Twenty-four hours later, it was confirmed Brendan Rodgers’ men remained seven points clear after their narest challengers St Mirren, reduced to 10 men for an hour, lost 3-0 at home to their Ibrox visitors.
The wheel of fortune took another spin yesterday when O’Riley, who has netted five goals this season, was ignored for a second time by Danish chief Hjulmand.
The on-fire Celt had been tipped for a late call-up after Philip Billing withdrew, but, instead, Anderlecht’s Kasper Dolberg got the nod.
O’Riley can now take a breather before it all kicks off again when the league resumes against Hearts at Tynecastle a week on Sunday.