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Deputy O'Dea aims to balance out the ledger in Moscow

DARREN O'DEA talks a good game, and if his performance tomorrow night mirrors the conviction in his words before boarding the flight to Moscow, then the loss of Sean St Ledger will not be so keenly felt.

The Dubliner expects to deputise for St Ledger after stepping in to produce a good display in Macedonia in June. Giovanni Trapattoni has identified O'Dea's leadership qualities, and the 24-year-old speaks with a maturity beyond his years.

Growing up at Celtic has given him a sense of perspective about life in a goldfish bowl, so he is capable of articulating the attention that surrounds international gatherings.

A negative response to Friday's draw with Slovakia will be noted within the camp.

Some will draw upon it as motivation. O'Dea takes it all with a sense of perspective, and tackles questions about the team's style of play with candour.

"Everyone wants to be entertained," he says. "And Friday wasn't the most entertaining game. But, truthfully, we're not really here to entertain. We might say differently, but we're not. If we qualify, everyone will be happy.

"The fans will be supporting the team like they always have.

"When everything is going right, you can be a hero but if you get too high with it you are going to be taken down quite quickly," says the centre half, who is thrilled to be operating in his favoured position on-loan at Championship side Leeds.

"Listen, we wanted to win on Friday and didn't, but it wasn't the worst result in the world.

"It wasn't our best performance, but we kept another clean sheet and had chances to win and didn't take them."

He concedes that Ireland played at a lower tempo than normal, and will need to address that fact in Moscow.

Similarly, he is sure that the intensity of Moscow will inspire the players to raise the bar.

His own background has strengthened his resolve. "I am well used to intimidating atmospheres," he explains, "You get that going into a restaurant in Glasgow."

At Celtic he regularly encountered teams who had extra numbers in midfield -- as Russia will here. O'Dea, as a defender, or substitute, watched his colleagues overcome it by strengthening as a unit with the wingers tucked in.

He points out that Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff favour the opposite foot to the flank they are deployed on, so will be naturally suited to cutting inside.

"We've kept six clean sheets in a row and that's not an easy thing to do," he stressed.

"I looked it up. There's been a lot of changes in the back four so that's a testament to everyone working hard and delivering what the manager wants.

"We are still very much alive and there is not one bit of doubt in the squad that we can go over there and get a good result."

Is he expecting to be in Poland and Ukraine next summer then? "Absolutely," he declares, without blinking.

The deputy has his eyes on the prize.

Irish Independent