Wednesday 26 June 2019

Celtic get 'glimpse of future' after crowning moment

Karamoko Dembele of Celtic is faced by Conor Shaughnessy of Hearts. Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Karamoko Dembele of Celtic is faced by Conor Shaughnessy of Hearts. Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon believes Celtic fans were given a "glimpse of the future" when 16-year-old Karamoko Dembele made his debut in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Parkhead.

Dembele replaced the injured Oliver Burke for the second half, with the game at 1-1 after fringe player Mikey Johnston's early opener had been cancelled out by Jake Mulraney.

Dembele went through his repertoire of tricks to the delight of the home fans, although it was 20-year-old Johnston who drove in the winner, giving the Hoops the win which meant they finished the season nine points ahead of Rangers, before they were presented with the Premiership trophy for the eighth successive season.

Interim boss Lennon said of Dembele's cameo: "He was great to watch. He is the type of player that you want at Celtic. He gets the crowd off their feet. Everyone talks about the skill, but his football intelligence was very good.

"I was delighted for him, obviously we need to keep a lid on it, but it's great that the fans have seen the glimpse of the future.

"The kid is 16, we know how talented he is. He has been training with the first team and he has had a very good season with the development team and I had no hesitation giving him 45 minutes."

With a view to next week's Scottish Cup final between the two clubs at Hampden Park - where a Hoops victory will secure an unprecedented domestic treble treble - both sides were much-changed for the final day of the league season.

Amid a celebratory trophy-day atmosphere. fringe player Johnston fired in the opener with less than two minutes played but Hearts winger Mulraney responded with an equaliser in the 17th minute.

Neil Lennon replaced Oliver Burke with highly-rated 16-year-old debutant attacker Dembele for the start of the second half and he showed plenty of promise, but with six minutes remaining it was Johnston who stepped up with a terrific run and drive to seal the win.

He said: "Filip Benkovic, Nir Bitton, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Sinclair needed game time and it was important that they played for match sharpness and fitness, bearing in mind that they could be involved in the final next week."

Jambos boss Craig Levein revealed midfielder Olly Lee, who was replaced by Ryan Edwards, was a major doubt for the cup final.

The Jambos boss, whose side will go into the game with one win in nine, said: "He has twisted his knee so it doesn't sound great.

"He wasn't supposed to start, but Harry Cochrane got ill and I put Olly in. It is never good when he goes back on and comes off again."

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: Why Kerry are not top contenders to challenge Dublin in All-Ireland race

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport