McCourt left out for Saints trip

PADDY McCOURT’S impressive display at Falkirk in midweek looks to have been in vain after boss Tony Mowbray hinted that the Irishman will struggle to even find a place on the bench for today’s trip to St Mirren.

Mowbray made eight changes to his side for the Co-operative Insurance Cup third-round tie on Wednesday night, which allowed the Northern Ireland midfielder his first 90 minutes in a competitive game since signing from Derry City last summer.

McCourt, 25, has developed into something of a cult figure at the club, due mainly to his performances in the reserves and friendlies and his occasional appearances as substitute.

He did not disappoint at the Falkirk stadium and his fine solo goal, to put Celtic 3-0 up, was the main talking point of a comfortable 4-0 win for the Parkhead men.

However, Mowbray, speaking at Celtic Park at the unveiling of new signing Zheng Zhi, the China captain, dampened down expectations of McCourt keeping his place.

The Parkhead boss described the midfielder as a “special talent”, but then reiterated his frustration that the SPL’s rules demands three U21 players need to be in each matchday squad.

“Some players who did well on Wednesday will find themselves sitting in the stand not even stripped,” Mowbray said. “There were some decent performances on Wednesday night, and I know that I have decent players. But we have to adhere to the rules.

“I know there was a lot written about Paddy. He is a special talent, with fantastic ability but it’s finding the right chemistry and balance for any given game and there are other dimensions that he needs to work hard on.

“It’s all about a balance when you put a football team out on the pitch.

“You look at strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and your own strengths and weaknesses and you decide whether the individuals are going to be part of the plans.

“Niall McGinn has also done exceptionally well over the last three or four weeks. As I formulate the squad of 18, Niall is one of those players who is either going to be playing a part or he might not even make the bench. That’s the ridiculous situation you get.”

Mowbray played down fears that Aiden McGeady’s ankle injury could keep him out of the Europa League game with Rapid Vienna next Thursday and the Old Firm derby at Ibrox the following Sunday.

“Aiden won’t travel,” said the former Hibernian and West Brom boss. “But the news is more encouraging than we thought it might have been at the end of Wednesday’s game.

“He has improved significantly but we don’t want to put him in and take any unnecessary risks.

“At this moment there is no definitive decision on whether he’ll pull the boots on in the next day or two, but he is feeling better and the last few days have been encouraging.”

When asked whether or not the player had suffered any ligament damage, Mowbray replied coyly.

“There are lots of degrees of ligament damages,” he said.

“You get bruised ligaments, strained ligaments and torn ligaments.

“We’ll say it’s a knock on the ankle and hopefully it’s only going to be a few days.”


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