THERE were contrasting fortunes for Celtic’s former Derry City duo this week with Paddy McCourt travelling as part of Neil Lennon’s squad for the pre-season tour of Australia.
But while McCourt will be keen to build on some impressive performances last season, the outlook is not quite so bright for fellow former Candystripe Niall McGinn who was left out of the squad and faces a tough battle to force his way back into the first team picture.
Celtic, who yesterday announced the signing of Kenyan defender Victor Wanyama from Belgian club Germinal Beerschot, will visit Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, holding open training sessions and playing three friendlies against the cities’ major A-League clubs.
McCourt was part of the side which visited Brisbane two years ago but with this trip covering three major cities over two-and-a-half weeks, the Derry man is looking forward to returning.
“I’m looking forward to it,” explained the Northern Ireland international.
“It’s a long way away but it’s going to be well-structured. We played in Brisbane last time but it was a bit of a whirlwind trip with a lot of travelling. We’d only been out there two days before we had a game and then came back near enough right after that.
“To have two-and-a-half weeks out there this time, with three games in three different places, gives us a chance to see Australia. It’s three new cities to see and that’s a bonus of playing here - you get to see a lot of the world.
“We’ll have plenty of time to acclimatise and get into a routine of being 10 hours ahead. I think it’ll be even better than last time and will be a worthwhile trip.”
The Celtic players returned from their summer break last Wednesday and have already been put through their paces at the Lennoxtown Training Centre.
“It’s been tough enough but not too hard because everyone knows there’s a long way to go in pre-season,” he said. “We’re getting back into it at the minute and it’s been good.”
While the trip will be a good opportunity for the players to get a taste of Australia, it will also allow the supporters to see their heroes in the flesh.
The turn-out against Brisbane in 2009 was impressive, but with even more fans expected to snap up the tickets for the three friendlies, McCourt is looking forward to giving something back to those supporters.
“The fans were unbelievable the last time we were there,” he said. “There were about 30,000 at the game and it was brilliant.
“Celtic fans, no matter where you go, seem to always appear. They’re all over the world so I’m sure this time it’ll be no different.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if every game is sold out because it was close to it in Brisbane and that’s not as big a city as the likes of Sydney. I’m sure there will be a lot of fans there,” he added.