Mark O’Hara: Dundee desperate to win for Neil McCann and his family

Dundee's Mark O'Hara, right, challenges Carl McHugh of Motherwell at Fir Park on Saturday. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
Dundee's Mark O'Hara, right, challenges Carl McHugh of Motherwell at Fir Park on Saturday. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
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Midfielder Mark O’Hara drew first blood in Dundee’s 2-1 win over Rangers in February, which gave the Dark Blues their first win over the Glasgow club at Dens Park since 1992 and claimed both goals when they repeated that scoreline last month.

Today he and his team-mates will attempt to end a longer-lasting hoodoo by beating Celtic at home for the first time since Tommy Coyne notched the only goal against Billy McNeill’s side back in September, 1988.

However, as O’Hara revealed after their 1-1 draw with Motherwell at Fir Park at the weekend, a Boxing Day victory over the champions would carry much more significance than the wins over their Glasgow rivals.

Manager Neil McCann’s father, Eddie, died on Saturday morning but the 43-year-old compartmentalised his grief in order to take responsibility for his team just 
hours later.

The players wore black armbands in honour of McCann’s father but failed to deliver a valedictory victory. Now O’Hara and his team-mates want to rectify that against the champions.

“It shows how strong the manager is, that he was at the Motherwell game,” he said. “We wanted to get the win for him and his dad but we weren’t quite able to do it.

“He’s been brilliant. It would be good to get a big result against Celtic for him and his family. It would mean a lot to us and we’d love to repay him on Tuesday.

“We’ll look to take the positives from our performance against Motherwell into the Celtic game.

“It’s Boxing Day, live on the TV and a great chance to showcase what we’re capable of.”

Dundee are currently in 10th place, just three points above bottom club Ross County but McCann, right, is determined that they will play their way out of trouble. He has insisted that they embrace a more expansive approach and admitted on Saturday that he now loves watching his charges in action. O’Hara accepts that that philosophy won’t change against Celtic.

“We’ve got to be brave against Celtic – our game shouldn’t change,” said the 22-year-old. “Playing out from the back has worked for us so far and we’ll look to do that again.

“Celtic give you the chance to play and, hopefully, our style can be effective against them.

“The win against Rangers will give us confidence because it showed we can do it on the big stage.

“We can also take encouragement from Hearts’ performance against Celtic the other week. It was good to see a team having a right go at them and it paying off.”

Ominously, Celtic have rebounded from that disappointment by beating Partick Thistle 2-0 and, on Saturday, putting their closes challengers, Aberdeen, to the sword with a 3-0 victory.

“We still know that any time they come to town it’s going to be a very difficult game but we’re definitely looking forward to it,” said O’Hara.

“In our last game against them at Celtic Park we felt we should have taken something from it. We didn’t change our style of play that day and it was effective.

“With a bit more luck in front of goal, hopefully we can get a better result this time.”

O’Hara conceded the penalty kick which Craig Tanner converted to earn Motherwell a point at the weekend but he was not hung out to dry for 
his gaffe.

“It was stupid from me but the boys have been really good with me and told me to keep my head up. I was pretty down afterwards,” he said.

“We deserved to win the game – we certainly created enough chances to do that. In the second half in particular we played very well. Their goalie had a few good saves and the woodwork helped them out as well.

“Recently our results have picked up. We were playing well at the start of the season and dominating teams but not picking up as many points as we deserved. That was another encouraging performance.”

O’Hara, signed from Kilmarnock last year, will be out of contract come May but he has begun negotiations to extend his stay with Dark Blues.

“It’s very early days,” he said. “The manager spoke to me last week. I’m happy where I am just now and I’m just focusing on every game as it comes.

“But talks have started and, hopefully, something will be resolved soon.”