Highland fling is a dream for dub Dean
Ebbe goes with flow in switch from LSL
A non-league footballer in Dublin who was pulling in a few quid by working as a bricklayer, the aim for Dean Ebbe was, at best, to earn a contract with a League of Ireland club.
As he prepares to face Scotland's champions-elect Celtic in the SPL tonight, the 22-year-old is once again pinching himself. To turn the line about George Best on its head: where did it all go right?
While a great deal is made of the leap that players such as James McClean make while moving from the League of Ireland to the top flight in England, the road taken by Ebbe, from Dublin's non-league scene to battling senior internationals in the SPL, is almost as impressive.
Lining out for Bluebell United only three months ago, former Shamrock Rovers man Ebbe has already made two first-team appearances for an Inverness Caledonian Thistle side managed by fellow Dubliner Richie Foran and he hopes to feature again when they play at home to Celtic tonight .
"I am still surprised to find that I am actually here, in the squad that's about to play a really good Celtic team," Ebbe told The Herald.
"If you told me six months ago that I'd have family coming over to Scotland to - hopefully - see me play against Celtic in a game live on Sky, I'd never have believed it. Six months ago my ambition was to win the league with Bluebell, so to go from that to getting on the field at Celtic Park in front of 30,000 people is amazing."
His team were 4-0 down when he came on away to Celtic two weeks ago in the Cup and they lost 6-0 but it was still a big deal: "It was one of the best moments of my life, I never dreamed I'd get to play at Celtic Park against the likes of Dembele and Scott Brown."
It's been some journey for the man from Clondalkin. It began with Dublin sides Lourdes Celtic and then St Francis, he got to Shamrock Rovers (2011) but was released after one league appearance. "I wasn't in the plans there," he says.
After lining out in the lower divisions for Longford Town, Athlone Town and (briefly) Cabinteely, Ebbe played for Collinstown United and Bluebell and while his talent was never in question, he wondered what would be next.
"My hope at Bluebell was just to get back into the League of Ireland, get a contract with a Premier Division club," he says.
He was at the right place in Bluebell, the southside club which helped Keith Fahey, Richie Towell and Brandon Miele get back to the professional game. "Bluebell were great and Andy Noonan, the manager, just pushes players on," he says.
"I told Andy I wanted to get back to the League of Ireland, Andy and Bluebell had done that for a few players already. He said if I worked hard enough it could happen. That's all I had in mind, getting into an LOI team."
A scout sent by Foran saw Ebbe score four times in one game, and after a trial in Inverness he was signed. The plan was to sign a short-term deal, work on his fitness and do enough in reserve games to earn a longer stay, so his two first-team appearances to date are a bonus.
"When I came here, Richie said it would be a case of me training to see how I would do in terms of next year, but I did well and Richie put me in," says Ebbe. "Hopefully I can get some more games before the end of the season and get a deal to stay on for next season."
The side were beaten 3-0 and 6-0 in his two appearances to date but even though he was a non-playing sub, last weekend gave him pleasure as they beat Rangers 2-1.
"The big thing was the win as that got us off the bottom of the table but it's always nice to beat Rangers," he smiles. "We weren't surprised and we played well on the night. Hopefully we get a few more wins now."
A long-term deal is the initial goal but Ebbe still has ambitions in this, his second chance cross-channel. "I was meant to sign for Crystal Palace when I was 15, but the manager got sacked, all his staff went and the new manager brought in his own people so I was forgotten about," Ebbe says.
"So no matter what age you are, keep believing in what you want to do and it might happen for you. I thought my chance of playing across the water was gone but here I am."