Ireland’s O’Dea looking for a new club after leaving Ukraine

Ireland international Darren O’Dea is without a club after choosing not to return to war-torn Ukraine.

Ireland’s O’Dea looking for a new club after leaving Ukraine

Ireland international Darren O’Dea is without a club after choosing not to return to war-torn Ukraine.

The 27-year-old joined Metalurh Donetsk at the start of the 2013-14 season, little realising that the move would place him in a warzone.

Even early on in the season O’Dea was acutely aware of the conflict taking place around him. At times during the season it was deemed safer for the players to live at the club training grounds rather than in their own accommodation.

Speaking to the BBC O’Dea described one particularly frightening incident. The team were travelling to an away game in Crimea when the bus were stopped by pro-Russian troops.

Soldiers insisted the foreign players had to have visas before proceeding further and the bus was held there for five hours. When O’Dea and some other players got off the bus to go to the toilet it provoked the balaclava-clad soldiers further and they had machine guns pointed at them.

"They were going ballistic," O'Dea said of the situation. "A lot of people got involved and it was hostile and intense."

Pro-Russian military in the Ukraine

They were eventually allowed pass on that occasion, but the situation was clearly deteriorating.

O’Dea spent the close season undergoing rehabilitation in Scotland and when the time came to return to his club the airspace around Donetsk was closed and inaccessible.

Metalurh have now temporarily relocated to a town closer to Kiev but, after several weeks pre-season with his teammates, O’Dea took the decision to end his contract with the club.

"I came to a decision [because] I can't see how things get much better in the near future,” explained the defender.

“[Metalurh] understood where I was coming from, that I can't live without my family, so we came to an agreement for me to leave. They wanted me to stay, but it was impossible. It's tough enough for me to live in Ukraine as it is, but to live in those conditions made it impossible.”

So O’Dea finds himself a free agent, after a nomadic last five years in football.

He was a Celtic player from 2006 to 2012, but from 2009 had loan spells with Reading, Ipswich town and Leeds.

When he left Celtic in 2012 he thought he was joining Leeds on a more permanent basis.

"I got offered a deal at Leeds,” said O’Dea. “I was looking at houses down there, it was a three-year deal and they changed their mind. It was very strange.”

He went on to spend a year with Toronto FC before their financial constraints meant he was once again looking for a club and the offer came in from Metalurh Donetsk.

O'Dea, who was Ireland's Young International Player Of The Year in 2012, has no regrets about the decision to leave Ukraine and is now firmly focused on the future.

“There are more important things in life than a contract. I'm at a stage in my life where I'm looking to get back to normality, so things maybe worked out for the best."

"If I can find the right club, for a long-term thing where I can settle down, that would be ideal. If it came to it, I'd be comfortable taking a short-term thing.

Hat tip: BBC Sport

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