/ Soccer

Darren O'Dea savours new lease of Canada life

Updated: Tuesday, 04 Sep 2012 10:39 | Comments

Darren O'Dea is enjoying his time in the MLS with Toronto FC
Darren O'Dea is enjoying his time in the MLS with Toronto FC

By Glenn Mason 

They say a change is as good as a rest, and so Republic of Ireland defender Darren O'Dea is hoping his move to MLS side Toronto FC can kick-start his career.

O'Dea earned plaudits for his displays in the Champions League in his early days at Celtic, but that early promise faded and his career stalled in Scotland.

While there have been good performances in an Ireland shirt in the intervening years, a series of loan moves to the Championship in England yielded mixed results.

So O'Dea made the "big decision" to move his family and his career to the other side of the Atlantic and he has no regrets about doing so.

"I've really enjoyed it so far," said O'Dea. "I'm looking forward to spending a good and successful time out there.

"The more you see of it the better it gets. You don't know a lot about it until you go out and see it.

"The facilities, the stadiums you play in and the crowds you play in front of are fantastic."

With several games under his belt, O'Dea's confidence and fitness have been restored.

He declared himself ready to step in and replace the injured Richard Dunne in the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Kazahkstan on Friday.

Offers flooded in for the free agent during the summer and O'Dea recalls that he was contacted by about "4,000 agents" with offers of moves to countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Greece and Turkey.

But one look around Toronto and what it had to offer was enough to convince O'Dea that it was the ideal place to combine a football career and the raising of a family.

After being involved in a few unsavoury incidents during his time in Glasgow, including threats from a gangster, the laidback way of life in Canada was another plus point.

He said: "It's very cosmopolitan. There are loads of different types of people out there and it is a different way of life with lovely people.

"It's a fantastic city, so I couldn't ask for much more to bring up the young family I have. I want to have a bigger family and you couldn't ask for a better place.

"I could have gone to a couple of places for very, very good money, but it is not why I started playing football. I earn enough money as it is. When I went out to Toronto to see the place I felt the buzz. It excited me a lot.

"I have been chucked about a bit and it is time that I need to settle down. I'll certainly be able to do that with Toronto and I'm looking forward to spending a few years there."

A chat with manager Giovanni Trapattoni eased any concerns that his place in the Ireland squad might be under threat because he had opted for the MLS.

A major disadvantage of playing in the MLS is that away games can involve a flight of several hours across a couple of different times zones.

It can take its toll on the body and O'Dea is enduring further stress by undertaking the long flight to Astana on Wednesday.

He has been knocking around the squad for a number of years since Steve Staunton first selected him in 2007. With the retirements of Damien Duff and Shay Given, along with Dunne's injury, O'Dea has become one of the senior players in the squad.

While his body clock on may still be on Canadian time, the defender's mind is focused on Ireland's opening World Cup qualifier in Astana.

"Now it is time that somebody steps up," he stated. "It is a sense of opportunity and a sense of responsibility as well.

"The younger players are now becoming senior players and it is a little change but we have got the players there and hopefully we can show that in Kazakhstan."

He expects James McClean and James McCarthy to play a bigger part on the road to Brazil, and hopes that Darron Gibson's period in self-imposed exile comes to an end sooner rather than later.

Although he is now based on the other side of the world, O'Dea remains fully committed to international football, but there was some sympathy for Gibson's predicament.

"He'll have his own reasons. He's a good lad, and a very good footballer, so hopefully he changes his mind," was his diplomatic response to a series of questions.

"We'll know everything there is to know about them, which is something the manager is very good at," he said when attention turned to Friday's game.

"We certainly won't be taking it lightly. It is a completely different environment going to Kazakhstan. There are all types of elements that will make it difficult for us but it is part of the qualifiers; you go to different places.

"We'll look to get off to the best possible start. It's important we do. We'll be well prepped on their team and everything they have. We'll have no excuses going into the game."

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use