Days of Hope

Published on Tuesday 17th August, 2010 by Celtic Trust

Vincent Doherty gives us a personal account of his first day back for league action

It had been quite an eventful morning so it was no surprise that I slept contentedly for most of the journey back to Glasgow from the Highlands despite all the wonderful scenery I had witnessed on the way up north. Andy was glad I’d slept too. Despite having flown into Prestwick on Friday night I still nearly didn’t make it. A mix up on Saturday morning meant I was still standing in Shettleston at 8.00am when the Dennison No.1 was pulling out from the ‘Wee Mans’ for the journey to Inverness. Not for the first time, in fact not even for the first time this season, Rosie D saved the day, and got me on my way in time to meet the bus just out the road a bit. Paul and Amy who had been on the same flight from Dublin were having ticketing problems of their own which meant a taxi was trying to catch the bus with their tickets. I kid you not. The lengths we go to. After waiting by the roadside for 10 minutes it became clear that the taxi had taken a wrong turn off and we would have to proceed. Another round of frantic phone calls plucked a rabbit out of the hat in the form of two tickets to be collected from the box office at the stadium, and now everybody was aboard the bus and fully ticketed. The only thing that stood in our way were the long delays along the way due to the ubiquitous roadworks.

 

Pre match nerves

The anxiety around our estimated time of arrival contributed to a sense of edginess. Given that it was the first domestic away day there was a palpable sense of anticipation. We discussed the new Manager, the new signings, the departures, the pre season, the Braga fiasco and much else besides, before getting down to the nitty gritty. Who would start today? What formation would we play? How would the defence cope? Most importantly, would we be coming back down the road through some of Scotland’s most majestic scenery, with the first three points tucked securely in the bag. Andy and myself like long lost brothers agreed on most things, with one exception. Paddy Mc Court. Andy reckoned Paddy mightn’t up to it as a Celtic player, a statement I’ve heard before many times. But as I’ve said before, a statement made without much evidence to back it up. It’s more of a hunch. Don’t get me wrong here, hunches are important. Paddy’s lack of fitness, his anonymity for long periods of a game, his apparent lack of urgency was cited. I countered with my usual defence. He had been treated poorly by successive Managers, and despite performing with panache on the occasions when he was given a chance, it seemed as if he was never given the opportunity to start consecutive games. I personally think that the tactic employed occasionally by Strachan but perfected by Mowbray, of throwing McCourt on at the point where panic turns to desperation was an awful burden on the player as indeed it would be on any player. More often than not he brightened things up, but how a player can be expected to change things instantly after warming the bench for 80 or 85 minutes is a mystery to me. So my point to Andy was simple, give him a run out for half a dozen consecutive games. Let’s see what he looks like then. God knows there are others further up the pecking order that have been given chance after chance, while Paddy has sat frustrated on the bench. I was delighted therefore when upon arrival at Inverness, with a few minutes to spare before kick off, to hear the news that my man was in the starting eleven.

 

Paddy McCourt’s Fenian Army

The game itself saw us under the cosh for the first 20 minutes. Our defence again looking vulnerable and the midfield unable to string two passes together. Yet from the point in the 21st minute, when a pass from Samaras put Shaun Maloney in the clear with a perfect opportunity to open the scoring, we never looked like we would be beaten, even as Shaun’s strike cannoned back off the woodwork. We stepped up a gear after that and the gulf in class which had become apparent by half time, had widened into a chasm by the time Maloney fed a simple ball to McCourt on the left wing in the 55th minute. There appeared to be no immediate danger. However as McCourt picked up the ball and began to dribble he had clearly spotted an opportunity. So began another of those characteristic ‘mazy runs’ of his, whereby everyone thinks at least twice as he passes defender after defender, that he may have carried it too far this time, before unleashing a sublime shot back across the keeper into the bottom right hand corner. Cue the usual celebrations, with those in the know having witnessed the conversation in the bus nodding and winking in my direction and trying to get in on the glory. Never mind. It was such a glorious goal that there was glory enough in it for all of us. “Paddy McCourt’s Fenian Army” which had begun its days as a chant in the Green Brigade section or during reserve games, had now entered the general consciousness and was chanted with gusto. Maybe it’s the Derry connection, maybe just a way of celebrating difference. Whatever it was we simply battered them after that, as well as winding up Terry Butcher about his former shady associations. We celebrated Maradonna and Argentina’s recent victory in the World Cup. After all 1986 is not that long ago. In fact it’s a full 20 years on from England’s much heralded victory which they still go on about. I sure Terry being the good sport that he is, was suitably amused by ‘the banter.’

 

Old singing on the bus trick

After feasting on Marie and Chic’s soup and sandwiches Andy pretended to be alternatively busy or asleep every time I looked in his direction for a post match comment. In fact at one stage he took the mike to sing if you don’t mind. Rather than own up to the fact that he had been way off the mark. I had underestimated the man again; the singing was a ruse, ‘a cunning plan’. It worked a treat; Andy knew the effect his singing had on people. I was asleep by the second refrain only coming to as we reached the Wee Man’s. He was off the bus faster than any of the Celtic wingers had been during the game. I’m sure he’s forgotten about it by now and as we head out on the bus to Motherwell in a few weeks he’ll be hoping I have too. Some chance. C’mon the Derry Bhoys!

 
 

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