Ex-Derry City star Paddy McCourt is already a bit of a cult hero amongst the Celtic support and his goals from those dazzling runs through the Falkirk and St Mirren defences left the fans clamouring for more. And McCourt himself wants much, much more. "I don't want to have scored a couple of goals, get on for 20 minutes and disappear again." he said. "I want to do it over five or 10 years and hopefully sit down when I'm 35 and say I've had a decent career here.
Although there were doubts about his ability to step up to the level required at Celtic, the Northern Irish international's arrival at Celtic Park was met with great enthusiasm. Many reserve-watchers raved about his performances for the second string last year and the excitement seemed to be justified following his displays against Falkirk and the Buddies. "I don't think about the hype." said McCourt. "Hopefully I can just do something special when I go on to the pitch. If that happens people will stop saying 'He can't do this, he can't do that' and see I am actually doing it. There's goodwill behind me and I've noticed that from day one. The fans have taken to me and maybe it's because I'm Irish. Hopefully I can repay them. I feel grand and want to get more games."
"When I get the ball I like to go at defenders and it gets the crowd excited at times." he continued. "It comes naturally to me and hopefully that gives the supporters something to shout about. When I was at Derry I was marked by two players sometimes. But if that happens to me now there are so many quality players at Celtic to damage the opposition. They can't just mark me because they have to think about guys like Aiden McGeady, Shaun Maloney and Scott McDonald. They are top players and can't be left spare. I don't think teams are going to get away with double marking because our side is full of quality. We can hurt teams and score a lot of goals."
Although he's only appeared from the bench in the last three matches McCourt is hoping he can push for a place against Hamburg in Thursday's Europa League tie at Celtic Park. He's yet to make his European debut for the Celts but he's hoping that his exploits with Derry City in 2006 will stand him in good stead. "I don't know what the intensity of a European game with Celtic will be like but I'm looking forward to facing Hamburg." said Celtic's number 20. "I played a few games in Europe for Derry. We were underdogs in most of those ties and set out to contain the opposition. That wasn't how we approached the matches with Gretna but we were cautious when it came to facing PSG and Gothenburg."
"We played with a defensive shield." said Paddy. "And it was a case of 'Let's sit in and try to hit them on the break'. I missed the Gothenburg games but came back for the first Gretna match and the two PSG ones. It was a great experience and a good time to be at Derry. The game at Fir Park against Gretna was a massive night and all our families came on the trip. We really fancied ourselves but no one expected us to win 5-1. Against PSG the stadium was only half full in France but the atmosphere was still unbelievable because Derry brought a big travelling support. We had drawn 0-0 at home but they scored an early goal over there to put the tie to bed and won 2-0."
McCourt spent last year's Champions League nights sitting amongst the fans and he marvelled at the atmosphere in the stadium but he's sure it will be even more intense if he's lining up to enter the arena. "Hopefully I can get the call against Hamburg." he said. "I never played in the Champions League last season but the atmosphere was amazing in the stand. And if you are standing in the tunnel before the game knowing you're going to play I'm sure you will feel it even more. This isn't the Champions League but the fans still go on about the run to Seville and that was in the UEFA Cup. If we can do something like that again I'm sure the atmosphere will be incredible."