O'Dea insists he's come of age at Celtic

DARREN O'DEA claims he had to leave Celtic last summer to alter the perception of him as simply a promising youngster.

The 23-year-old defender came through the ranks at Parkhead but after failing to pin down a regular first-team spot he went out on loan at the start of the season to Reading.

He returned in January and due in part to injuries to Glenn Loovens, Thomas Rogne and Jos Hooiveld, the Irishman has become a mainstay of the Hoops' defence and now he wants to be judged solely on ability.

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"I wanted to get away from Celtic for a few months," he said. "I wanted to be at Celtic but I had to get away for different reasons. One of the main reasons was that I was sick of being looked at as a young kid breaking through.

"I've been here since I was 15 and people like Tommy Burns instilled into me that I should appreciate what I have at this club every day. I know how big Celtic is and I am proud playing for the club.

"Getting away for a few months, I think, did me the world of good. I improved as a player and improved more as a person, becoming a bigger and stronger character. I don't want the excuse of my age anymore."

However, O'Dea admits he still feels too young to be a Celtic skipper. He was handed the captain's armband on several occasions before former manager Tony Mowbray appointed Scott Brown skipper on a permanent basis. The Irishman said: "To be captain of a club like Celtic is massive, but it was only a temporary thing. I'm not ready to be the captain of the club now; I've not learnt enough, I've not played enough."