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Ireland star Darren O'Dea ready to wade in to help save Blackpool from relegation

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Republic of Ireland's Darren O'Dea

Republic of Ireland's Darren O'Dea

Darren O'Dea playing for Ireland

Darren O'Dea playing for Ireland

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Republic of Ireland's Darren O'Dea

CHAMPIONS League football with Celtic and international caps for Ireland gave Darren O'Dea the opportunity to play against some of the biggest and the best in the world.

These days the battles are different as the Dubliner occupies a central defensive berth for Blackpool, a side propping up the Championship table in England where the sole aim for the season is to avoid relegation.

A 6-1 defeat at home on his debut was an early lesson for O'Dea, back on the British club scene after a two-year spell in the USA/Canada and Ukraine, that life by the seaside at Blackpool FC would not be a day at the beach.

But the 27-year-old has never been relegated in his career and has no plans to have that on his CV, O'Dea stating that he's been revived by the challenge of keeping Blackpool in the division with the former Home Farm man now in a much happier place, compared to the war zone of eastern Ukraine which was his home until he severed his ties with Metalurh Donetsk in the summer.

SCRAP

"I have never been relegated, thankfully," O'Dea told The Herald, the defender resting up after he was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury just 20 minutes into their weekend win over Millwall, an injury which should heal in time for him to resume training tomrrow.

"I spent a lot of my career with Celtic where relegation is not going to be an issue. Even in the spells I had in the Championship with Leeds and Reading I was never even in a relegation scrap.

"But something like this appealed to me, having something to fight for. For me, battling against relegation is refreshing, instead of worrying about war and all the other stuff that I have seen in the last year.

"It was a footballing challenge that appealed to me, I had no problem with the club being where they were in the league when I joined and now I am here to do my best to keep this club in the division.

"If you look at it negatively, I could have a relegation on my CV come the end of the season but I look it another way and to me, I would love to have a great escape, from relegation, to show for my time here," added O'Dea who initially signed a one-month deal with Blackpool but last week extended that until the end of the season.

His early introduction to the club was a 6-1 loss to Bournemouth. Recent performances have been better - Aston Villa needed a late goal to defeat Blackpool in the FA Cup and four points from the last two league games has given hope.

"Of course relegation is a possibility. Being honest, with us being where we are in the league it's more likely than unlikely," O'Dea admits.

HONEST

"But if we had started off the season with this team and this manager I wouldn't even be thinking about relegation. We are a solid Championship side now.

"Being honest, the club was in a bit of mess when I arrived but there's a massive difference between the club as it is now and even three weeks ago."

O'Dea is pleased to have found a home and an employer in Blackpool after some tough times. Even after he severed his ties with Metalurh in troubled Donetsk there was no easy passage back to the UK as he needed to overcome an ankle injury, and he's aware he had to convince.

"I had been out of British football for two years and then I was coming off the back of a five-month absence due to injury," he concedes.

"People within the game knew about me but, no doubt about it, there were question marks hanging over my head because I had been out of the picture here for two years, with that on top of my injury people were a bit wary about signing me, but Blackpool gave me a chance."

So what's next? O'Dea's career has rarely gone to plan - he didn't expect to leave his contracts at both FC Toronto and Metalurh ahead of schedule so the defender's not too keen to plan ahead.

Even an Ireland return is on the long finger. "I know it's a cliché but the only way for me, or anyone else, to get into the Irish squad is by playing well for a club," he says.

"Of course I want to play for my country again, my international caps were the proudest moments in my career, every Ireland game was a great memory for me. But Ireland is not something I am thinking about or worrying about now, I need to get my club career fully back on track before that happens."


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