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Pain no barrier for O'Dea in battle for caps

DARREN O'DEA is willing to do anything that's needed - including playing through the pain barrier - to keep his place in the Ireland side.

The Dubliner is currently on his winter break from club duties as the domestic season for MLS side Toronto ended last month, O'Dea's club finishing bottom of their 10-team division (though thankfully there's no relegation in store for Toronto).

He's not due back for pre-season training for another two months but while many of his team-mates are lounging on the beaches of Hawaii and the Caribbean, O'Dea has been spending his time in a place where bikini-clad babes and cocktails are off the agenda - Motherwell.

O'Dea has agreed to use his off-season to spend time training with the SPL side in a bid to keep fit for the Ireland game at home to Greece tonight, and also to make sure that his fitness is top-notch when he does return to action at Toronto next year.

The obvious aim being to ensure his club side, managed by former England and Ipswich man Paul Mariner, don't finish bottom again.

"I was desperate to be here in Dublin and have a chance of playing in this game tonight," says O'Dea, who has started in the last two internationals (against Germany and the Faroe Islands) but has to settle for a place on the bench this evening as Ciaran Clark gets an opportunity in defence. "I tore my thigh in the first half against the Faroes, I knew I had torn it but with the way the game was, and the pressure that was on us, there was no way I was coming off.

"I ended up doing myself damage by playing on, to be honest, but I made that decision. I had nothing really to play for in the rest of the season with Toronto and the Ireland game was so important I wanted to stay on.

"I think I have gained the manager's trust in the games I have played for him, and for me it's a matter of keeping that up and staying in his thoughts, becoming a regular. I have played in all three qualifiers so far and I want to stay in the side.

"I should be fine for the game as I have no injury worries now. I haven't trained much since the Faroes due to the thigh injury but I'd hope to play some part against Greece," added O'Dea, who celebrated his first international goal during the 4-1 win in Torshavn.

"It was nice to score my first international goal but the main thing was that we won the game.

"In normal circumstances you'd be expected to win the game but there was so much pressure on us going into that match it was a hard few days, and it was so important to come away with the win. It was a tough few days but the win shows the quality and determination of the squad.

"Maybe in years to come I'll look back and appreciate my first Ireland goal a bit more, but for now all that matters is the win."

The former Home Farm man says he was happy to make the decision to spend time back in Scotland working on his fitness even though Motherwell is a world away from sun-kissed beaches. "It's nice to be back on a muddy pitch, in the cold and the rain, I enjoy all of that," O'Dea told the Evening Herald.

"It means - hopefully - that when I go back to Toronto next year I will be fully fit and raring to go.

"We are not due back for pre-season with Toronto until January 19 and with the way my season has gone I wouldn't have wanted that long a break, so I have arranged with Motherwell to train there.


"It's ideal; it's 10 minutes from my house in Scotland so I have been there for the last week. Stuart McCall did me a favour by allowing me to train there so I will stay working with them until it's time to go back to Toronto."

His move to Toronto was not a smooth one as his team did finish bottom while O'Dea suffered eight defeats in his 10 games for the side, yet he's confident that a new-look outfit in 2013 can do better and insists he has no regrets about the move.

O'Dea was repeatedly critical of the mental attitude of his team-mates at the club and boss Mariner also admitted that many of the squad were not up to scratch, claiming he had just seven "quality" players in his squad last season.

"When I went over there I knew exactly what I was going into - where the club was at that time and where they can be," he reveals.

"Every facility you need as a footballer is there in Toronto, as a top-level pro you can't want for anything. It's like an English Premier League club in terms of facilities but not in terms of other things.

"With the way player contracts work over there, you get a lot of turnover in players and I know that the club will make a lot of changes over the winter and we'll have a completely different side next season.

"I still feel I made the right move. Over the last few years, I have been on edge during the off-season. When I was at Celtic I didn't always know where I stood and I knew I might be going out on loan or whatever, but now I can use the off-season to work on things in my game and my fitness.

"The club is only seven years old so it's a challenge but it's one I am ready for."