He may have only been here two months, but already, Ross Tierney considers Motherwell home.
The 20-year-old made the move to Fir Park at the end of last year from Bohemian FC in the League of Ireland and would make his debut as the Steelmen hosted Morton in the Scottish Cup in late January.
Along with the challenges of moving his young family to Scotland, Tierney also contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.
It has been a whirlwind, but the trials of the early stages of his time in ML1 has done nothing to dampen his desire to make the most of his opportunity.
“I’m loving it so far, things are going really well and Motherwell already feels like home for me,” said Tierney, who netted a dramatic leveller against St Mirren midweek.
“It was important that I came to Scotland and settled quickly, not just for me, but also for my missus and the kids too.
“There are a lot of similarities between Scotland and Ireland. I think the people are very similar and just like back home, the weather isn’t very good. For a pale guy like me, I don’t really enjoy the sun much.
“I caught Covid at the beginning of the year. It was hard not being able to go into training, but thankfully I felt okay and was able to return after my isolation. The rest of the family were in Ireland at the time and all tested negative, I was relieved as I’d have blamed myself if any of them had caught it from me. Overall it wasn’t too catastrophic.
“Obviously you don’t want to catch Covid, but I was lucky that it happened during the winter break and I wasn’t missing games. I’m back, feeling good and looking forward to the busy run of games that we have coming up.”
After touching down in Scotland, Tierney trained with his new teammates for a few weeks before being available for selection at the turn of the year.
Walking into the dressing room at Fir Park, he admits to being shy initially as he took the time to adapt, but with the support of the players and staff at the football club, he has adjusted quickly.
There has been limited time to explore his new surroundings – except for trips to a famous chain of restaurants and a kids’ soft play.
“I was quite quiet when I came in, but the lads in the dressing room have been brilliant with me,” he added. “It doesn’t feel like a job coming into Fir Park every morning, it’s more like an extension of my family, from the
groundsman to the chef, to the office staff – everyone will stop for a chat and to say hello. Karen [Paterson] has been a brilliant help to me too since I signed.
“I think apart from Nando’s I’ve not really been anywhere, although I did go to ‘Ruff and Tumble’ last weekend – my two-year-old was able to use up plenty of energy.”
The attacking midfielder was sold on a move to ‘Well by boss Graham Alexander who explained he would be part of the first team and should he impress in training, then he would be given an opportunity to demonstrate his worth.
True to his word, Alexander handed Tierney his Premiership debut off the bench against Hibernian, though following the dismissal of Liam Donnelly, his first taste of league action would end after 19 minutes and he was replaced by Callum Slattery as Motherwell tried to ensure a share of the spoils.
Although it was disappointing, the Dublin-born ace says he understood the decision to take him off, and four days later, the faith the Motherwell boss has in him was clear as Tierney was handed his first start in claret and amber for the meeting with Hearts at Tynecastle.
“The manager told me that if I came here and trained well then I would get my chance and that’s what I want to do,” he explained. “I watched a lot of Scottish football growing up and I knew what to expect in terms of the standard.
“It was brilliant to get my debut against Morton and I felt that I did well when I got my chance. The next game against Hibs, I came on and then was subbed off as the gaffer looked to make sure we took something from the game.
“I obviously heard the reaction of the fans and to be honest I didn’t want to applaud as it might have been taken the wrong way and that I agreed with them being upset – that wasn’t the case.
“The manager spoke to me after the game and explained he hates having to do that sort of thing, but I understood his reasons why he did it and my only concern was that the team went on to get a result, which we managed to do.
“I respect the supporters, but when it comes to my football, the most important opinion is that of the manager.
“It is also important not to look too far ahead, I know there is real competition for places and that I’ll need to keep performing well if I want to stay in the team.
“We are getting nearer to the point where almost all of our squad are fully fit and there are new players arriving too – I certainly don’t envy the gaffer having to pick the team for every game. Everyone is hungry and looking to make an impact, those in the team know they have to perform if they want to stay there.”
Tierney’s former side Bohemians have forged a reputation for being a club with community at the heart of everything they do, and he says he quickly saw real comparisons between the Dublin outfit and Motherwell.
Like ‘Well, Bohs are also fan-owned, contribute to a number of important causes locally, and such was the affinity that Tierney’s family built up for the club, some remain season ticket holders at Dalymount Park.
Having been handed his first opportunities in the professional game, and supported by those at the club through difficult times, he says that he will be forever grateful to Ireland’s oldest professional team.
“There are a lot of similarities between the two clubs, that is something I pointed out to my agent when I arrived at Motherwell,” he explained. “The club is a big part of the local community and there is a real family atmosphere to the place. That is something that attracted me to Motherwell, I felt I could fit in well and settle quickly.
“After I signed I received a lot of messages from the fans – I tried to respond to as many as I could. Our fans work hard all week and in many ways live for the weekend – I want to be doing my best to make sure they have many good weekends.
“We all want to do our best for the club and if we do that then the supporters will get behind us.
“I’m so grateful to Bohs for giving me my opportunity and for everything they have done for me professionally and in my personal life. They gave me my opportunity and when I was going through a tough time personally a few years ago, they were fantastic in the way that they supported me.
“All of my family now support the club, in fact last year when I was playing for the Under 21s against Italy and Bohs were playing Shamrock Rovers on the same night – most of my family went to Dalymount Park instead of my game.
“That shows how much the club means to my family and I will always look back on my time there with great fondness. I also owe a lot to St Kevin’s Boys too for the part they have played in getting to me to where I am now.”
Tierney did not have to look far for examples of players from the League of Ireland who have made an impact in the Scottish Premiership.
Jamie McGrath’s performances for St Mirren led to his first senior caps for the Republic of Ireland, while Liam Scales and Johnny Kenny have signed for Celtic from Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers respectively.
With five caps for the Irish Under 21 side, Tierney holds aspirations to follow in McGrath’s footsteps and break into Stephen Kenny’s senior squad, but insists there is a lot of work to be done if he is to achieve his goal.
“I know Jamie McGrath went to St Mirren and done well, that’s probably the best example of a League of Ireland player coming to Scotland and making an impact,” he added. “I have been playing for the Under 21s for and of course it would be brilliant to have the chance to play for the senior side, but I’m not getting carried away – that’s a long, long way right now.
“First of all I need to perform well for Motherwell and see where that takes me.”
Ross’ time at Bohemians ended in an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of St Patrick’s Athletic in the Irish FA Cup final – meaning Bohs will miss out on participation in European competition next season.
Tierney has European experience having scored twice as the Irish side played their way through to the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League, defeating Stjarnan, Dudelange and PAOK before eventually losing to the Greek side on aggregate.
His move to Fir Park comes amidst the team mounting a challenge for a European place, and having sampled the big match atmosphere of European nights last year, he is determined for the chance to create more memories.
“It was a shame to end my time with the club on that note, I’d have loved to have clinched a place in Europe for the club,” he reflected. “Jake Carroll was in my ear as soon as I arrived as he used to play with St Pat’s.
“The European nights with Bohs were unbelievable and I would love to experience that again with Motherwell. I’m hungry for more European nights, but we know that they won’t come until we perform on the pitch consistently.”
Celtic visit Fir Park this afternoon with Motherwell hoping to record a positive result against the Hoops for the first time in 10 meetings.
In the stands, Ross’ father will be torn between backing his son and his love for Ange Postecoglou’s side.
It will be a special occasion for the youngster and one that he hopes ends with holding the bragging rights over his old man.
“It is a fixture I’m really looking forward to,” the forward said. “My dad is over for the game and he is a big Celtic fan. I think he is in a no-lose situation for him.
“Hopefully I will have the bragging rights. It’s a big game for us and one that we are aiming to take something from to help us continue to challenge in the top half of the table.”