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I will be cock-a-Hoop if Donegal Celtic beat Cliftonville: O’Hara

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Declan O'Hara (left) will return to Solitude today wearing the hoops of Donegal Celtic

Declan O'Hara (left) will return to Solitude today wearing the hoops of Donegal Celtic

Declan O'Hara (left) will return to Solitude today wearing the hoops of Donegal Celtic

It was never meant to be like this but the nature of football means that Premiership stalwart Declan O’Hara will play a league game at Solitude for the first time this season — wearing green and white, not red.

Throughout his career the north Belfast man has never hidden his support for his boyhood club, or his pride in wearing the famous red jersey in domestic and European competition.

He is a rare breed in the game — a player with passion for his employer — hence the high-regard he continues to enjoy by Cliftonville supporters and his former colleagues.

He would have been among those central in celebration at victory over west Belfast rivals Donegal Celtic — the so-called new kid on Cliftonville’s block.

O’Hara never experienced defeat to the wee hoops while decked in red.

On Saturday he will toy with the emotion of wanting to see his club suffer and have his old pals experience a miserable evening.

Donegal Celtic is probably the last place O’Hara would have thought he would be earning a crust. He was meant to remain at Solitude until Father Time decided otherwise.

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But it is with the Premiership newcomers he is — and he couldn’t be happier.

He said: “I’m really keen to play at Solitude for Donegal Celtic because I can see on the other side just how big a fixture it is. Obviously Cliftonville is my club and someday I will return there as a supporter but for now I only want to see Donegal Celtic win.

“I never thought I would be playing for a team other than Cliftonville but that’s the way football goes. One day I’m playing in Europe for the Reds and the next I’m talking to Donegal Celtic about a move.”

Marty Tabb, who once brought O’Hara to Cliftonville, brought him to Celtic Park. But after suffering a dismissal after just 74 days in charge of Celtic, Tabb wasn’t afforded the chance to manage the stocky centre-half for very long.

But in spite of the upheaval, O’Hara remains content in his new surrounds.

“It was unfortunate that Marty Tabb was sacked but again that’s the way football works. He didn’t have a settled team but the pressure was on him from the start. Since Paddy Kelly came in we have addressed a few issues and gradually we are improving. We showed quality against Distillery (2-1 win) and battling qualities against Dungannon Swifts (0-0).

“Paddy has been in charge for four games and we have won two, drawn one and lost one. Staying in the Premiership is paramount for the club and I am happy to be here and to be part of a new challenge.”

It was always the case that victory at Solitude meant everything to O’Hara. Saturday will be no different.

He added: “It’s a heavy weight on everyone’s shoulders at Donegal Celtic that they have not beaten Cliftonville in any competition, so there is a big determination to change that record on Saturday.

“I have a job to do for Donegal Celtic and it’s a job I am enjoying. It would mean a lot to be part of a Donegal Celtic team that overcomes Cliftonville for the first time.”


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