Friday 24 November 2017

McCourt steps up for Celtic

Gavin McCafferty

Inverness 0

Celtic 1

Paddy McCourt seized an early chance to prove he can fill Aiden McGeady's boots as his superb strike earned Celtic a winning start to their SPL campaign at Inverness.

The Derry-born winger was handed the left-wing berth 24 hours after McGeady completed his £9.5m move to Spartak Moscow and he repaid Neil Lennon in style in the 56th minute as Celtic recovered from a slow start to produce a commanding second-half display. McCourt beat three men before finishing brilliantly in a goal reminiscent of his solo efforts against St Mirren and Falkirk last season, although he had to come off shortly after scoring following a bizarre moment.

"He is just a wonderful talent," said Lennon. "But I'm really annoyed with Shaun Maloney because, as he has got up to celebrate, Shaun has run into him and he's got whiplash. That was Paddy's participation finished after scoring a goal like that.

"It took a piece of individual brilliance to win the game. That's what the boy can do and it's not the first time he's done it. It was fantastic. I kept saying, 'go on, Paddy, shoot, shoot.' His feet are so quick in tight areas and his balance and the way he sways his hips, and his finish, to stretch and finish with power . . . it was going to take a wonderful goal to beat Ryan Esson because he made some wonderful saves."

Lennon, who revealed McCourt would recover in about three days, added: "After the initial 30 minutes we got a grip on the game and the second-half performance was excellent. We were a bit wasteful in front of goal to say the least but the fact we created good chances was very, very pleasing."

While two defenders may be arriving at Parkhead in the coming days, the Republic of Ireland's Darren O'Dea looks likely to depart, for a temporary period at least.

"Ipswich have made an enquiry to take him on loan so there is a possibility he will be down there [tomorrow]," Lennon said. "He doesn't want to be a squad player, he wants to play and I can't guarantee him that.

"Ipswich have given him the opportunity to go and play and I think it will be good for him to get some games under his belt because we're bringing in other people allied to the ones we've got."

Lennon would have been equally pleased to see his defence keep their first clean sheet since the summer break, a run that included eight friendlies and two Champions League games against Sporting Braga.

Sunday Independent

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