O'Dea eyes a fresh start

Toronto man senses chance coming with beginning of new campaign in Kazakhstan

Paul Hyland

DARREN O'Dea has always given the impression he's a man who would run over hot coals to play for his country.

Accumulating air miles is a slightly less demanding way to do it but, like Robbie Keane, only time will tell whether the effort eventually becomes too much.

At the moment, O'Dea sees no problem in taking off from his new home in Toronto, racing through a multiplicity of time zones to turn up in Portmarnock and then take another longitudinal leap to get to Astana in Kazakhstan.

Luckily enough, that's about as hard as it will get logistically in the this World Cup qualifying group but O'Dea doesn't mind one way or the other.

"I don't even want to figure it out. I didn't realise it was a nine-hour flight to Kazakhstan. We had a

stopover to refuel," he said, mildly bewildered by the geography of it all. "It's all part of it. But I'd rather be doing this -- seeing all different parts of the world and playing football -- than sitting behind a desk nine-to-five, so I can't complain. Jetlag for a day, but if you look after yourself it doesn't affect you.

"Sure, I'll be a bit tired but as I said I'd prefer doing that than having a normal job. It's a small, small downfall but I get looked after that well it won't be a big deal."

O'Dea is one of Giovanni Trapattoni's success stories. He's been there or thereabouts from the moment he took over as Ireland boss and in every one of the 15 caps he's gathered under the

Italian, he has been a stand-out performer. It is difficult to remember him having a bad game

O'Dea has shown a singular determination to make the most of every opportunity which comes along.

It's a great attitude and has been noticed and rewarded by Trapattoni who now sees O'Dea is a permanent fixture in the Ireland squad despite his decision to follow the yellow brick road Robbie Keane took.

Keane went to Los Angeles, a city to suit his personality, while O'Dea washed up in Toronto, a place he has taken to very quickly indeed.

"It's just a completely different way of life. It's fantastic. When you've got a young family, you couldn't ask for a better place."

O'Dea batted around notions about following Aiden McGeady to Russia or the Ukraine and he was pragmatic enough to realise that money was the only attraction.

"I had about 4,000 agents ringing me over the summer. There was loads of different things, some concrete, some not. At times you're chasing loose ends, you think something's happening and it's not happening.

"Other things did happen but weren't right for my family, places like Russia and Ukraine where the money is. It's big money and tempting but it's not for me.

"Truthfully, if I'd gone out there, it would have been for money. Believe me, it's very good," he said with feeling. "But why do you play football? It's not really for money. I'm earning enough in Toronto as it is."

Flying so far for a new club might have taken him out of Trapattoni's orbit but that's not the way this manager works. "Fifteen caps so far and every time I've gone in I've done well. Sometimes with international football, especially with this manager, he's very loyal to players that have given him success. So there's patience at times.

"I've played quite a bit but obviously I want to be the 'number one' if you like. This is the start of new campaign and, if I go in, I'm certainly going in to stay.

"Only one man can decide on that afterwards. It's up to me to do as well I can and let him decide that.

"Whoever plays in there, whether it's Josh (John O'Shea), me, Sean (St Ledger) or Richard (Dunne), any two you put in there is quality and that's good for team."


Seeing Dunne's announcement last weekend might have caused many players pause for thought and a certain level of disappointment and O'Dea is not one to trot out cliches for such situations.

"You want your best players and he's one of them. It's strange, of course, if he had retired you'd always sit up and think you have a chance.

"But truthfully, you should be getting in on your own merit and not because people retired or got injured. I'm delighted he's said he's staying on, Robbie too."

"They're quality and experienced players and we need them, especially going to places like Kazakhstan where it's a new environment for us. But these lads have done it before so we need players like that."

O'Dea is close to Darron Gibson and, unlike many in the squad including senior men like John O'Shea, he was happy to offer an opinion on the Derry man's decision to take a break from international football.

"I'm quite close to Gibbo, to be fair. I knew he was quite frustrated and would probably need time to get over it. He's playing every week in the Premier League and probably maybe feels he should be playing more here.

"It's his decision, he's a big boy he knows what he's doing -- well hopefully he does anyway," said O'Dea with a wry smile.

"He's another quality player. Hopefully it doesn't take too long for him to come back."

Had he made any attempt to convince Gibson to bite his tongue and turn up in Dublin?

"No, I wouldn't try to convince anyone. If they don't want to play, they don't want to play. That's it.

"He's shown his loyalty in many squads where he wasn't involved and always travelled. Maybe he thinks he needs a break. I don't know and hopefully he comes back.

"I understand that fans are not happy with it. I can see both sides of that. I can understand as a player but personally, I wouldn't do it.

"I've been in I don't know many squads and not played. That can be demoralising at times travelling away especially if you have family and stuff.

"Of course I understand the fans, they'd all give their right leg to be doing this. Fans are fans. You don't really know what you do in that situation until you're in it. I'd probably agree with them by sticking around."

He'll be sticking around all right. Trapattoni will come and go but O'Dea's resilience will work for the next manager too.