Exclusive: Irish journalist Dave Donnelly on reported Celtic target Danny Mandroiu

By Euan Davidson

November 16, 2021

With Celtic being heavily linked to Shamrock Rovers midfielder Danny Mandroiu, you’d be forgiven for wondering “who?” if you don’t follow football in Ireland.

However, this is a midfielder of some repute. Mandroiu has been called up to Ireland squads, having scored prolifically for both Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.

In the season just past, Mandroiu scored an obscene 15 goals from midfield, with 5 assists [Transfermarkt]. Now, with the Bhoys needing creativity and depth in midfield, it’s natural Celtic would look at a player like him.

Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Frankly, though, we don’t know as much about him as an avid follower of Irish football would. So, we asked one.

Specifically, 67 Hail Hail talked to Dave Donnelly, chief football writer at Dublin Live. You can follow Dublin Live here, and Donnelly here.

67 Hail Hail: How long has Danny Mandroiu been a “name” in the LOI? It appears he only went pro at 21; is his development a surprise to most observers?

Dave Donnelly: “He’s been a name since he came into the league in the winter of 2018 (our off-season). Within a few games at Bohs it was obvious what a talent he was. 

“As far as I know he was on senior terms with Brighton but didn’t make it past their 23s. Eventually he came home because he was homesick. And I think he says himself it’s what he needed at the time.

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“I don’t think his development is a surprise at all. It was more the question of whether he could kick on from being a bit a luxury player who drifts around and scores goals into a real all-rounder. I think he’s proved that.”

Dave Donnelly gives us the Irish perspective on reported Celtic target Danny Mandroiu

He’s scored 15 goals in the season just finished, and scored 14 for Bohemians – could his goal-scoring antics continue elsewhere? What is it about Irish defences that he’s able to pick apart with such regularity?

“I don’t see any particular reason why his goalscoring couldn’t continue elsewhere. He does score a wide variety of types of goals. Particularly when he started out with Bohs he almost had a reputation that every goal was a stunner from 25-30 yards. 

“With Rovers this year, he’s more varied types of goals. He still has the spectacular finishes from outside the box. But he’s added a lot with late runs in the box and even a couple of headers which, looking at him, you wouldn’t think would be a strong point of his.

“I think if you look at the 15 goal tally this season, it’s about one in two games, a little less, but 10 of those 15 goals came in the final 11 games of the season.Which is indicative, I think, of how much he’s pushed on since the summer.”

Photo by Marcel ter Bals/BSR Agency/Getty Images

On interest in Danny Mandroiu from overseas

I’m led to believe there was talk of a move away from Shamrock Rovers prior to the latest Celtic rumours. What happened there?

“There’s sort of always been talk of him moving on. There was a lot of interest from Dutch side Twente during his first season at Bohs but they eventually decided to look elsewhere. 

“This Celtic interest is the first concrete one I’ve heard since he joined Rovers. But from what I know there has been continuing interest from Europe and from Celtic for the last while, particularly since he made it into the Ireland squad in the summer.

“Rovers basically signed him as a replacement for Jack Byrne, who left in the winter for APOEL in Cyprus. They’d be unlikely to let him go easily unless they have another replacement (probably Byrne) wrapped up. Rovers don’t need to sell so any deal would probably be drawn out like the Scales one.”

Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Desmond connection

Mandroiu would be our second recent signing from Shamrock Rovers, with whom our principal shareholder is also a shareholder. Is there cynicism about the motives of a potential move from Celtic here? Or do Irish football supporters believe he’s ready to compete at a “higher” level?

“I wouldn’t say there’s much cynicism over Desmond, certainly not among Rovers fans. There’d be a fairly clear separation at Shamrock Rovers between the board, who make commercial decisions, and the football side of it headed by sporting director Stephen McPhail.

“I think where people might be more cynical is just over Celtic themselves. As a club, it hasn’t been a good place for Irish players to go in recent times. We’ve seen the likes of Luca Connell, Jonathan Afolabi (another ex-Rovers player), Armstrong Oko-flex and Lee O’Connor go there with big expectations and stalling. The worry with Scales would be the same, although he’s at least on the bench.

“Celtic are a bigger club and obviously at a higher standard, so he’d have his work cut out to get into the team. And your worry would be, at his age, sitting on the bench or missing out on squads entirely would do little for his development or confidence. But that’s an issue across the board, not just at Celtic.”

Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Danny Mandroiu – “spectacular goals”, strengths and weaknesses

What’s Mandoiu’s best position, as a pure number 10 or deeper in the midfield? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

“The way Rovers play is essentially that the midfielders don’t really have a set position – they’re expected to move around positions depending on who else is in the team.

“Mandroiu would have played most of his football with Bohs as a fairly orthodox 10. But with Rovers he’s mainly been part of a front three in a 3-4-3, usually as one of two playing narrow behind a number nine.

“He had a spell during the summer where he had to move deeper and play as part of a midfield two in that system. [Mandroiu] struggled a little bit defensively, but I think that’s an area of his game he’s improved since.
His main strengths are his technical ability, vision for a pass and eye for goal. If you put his name into Youtube you can spend 20 minutes just watching his spectacular goals.

“When he came into the league were that he could drift out of games. And was prone to the odd red card. But he’s improved both of those, particular this season. He’d be a fairly quiet character so maybe he has some work to do on imposing himself on games.”

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Our take: At the very least, Danny Mandroiu is an interesting target

Leaving all the Desmond stuff aside, there’s a very interesting talent here. Mandroiu certainly fits the profile of what Celtic need. Without Tom Rogic, Ange Postecoglou’s dual number-10 system is lacking somewhat.

Someone who can score goals, create goals and generally bother defences is what’s needed. As Donnelly says, though, we haven’t been able to utilise Irish talents effectively in recent seasons.

Why would that change with Mandroiu, necessarily? As talented as he is, it’s obvious he’d be brought in for depth, a la Liam Scales. As a regular in a league-winning team, is that what he’d want?

We’ll be following this one as the story develops. It’s certainly an interesting one, and Donnelly’s perspective really is crucial here. Whether Postecoglou has first-team plans for him could be the deciding factor.

Some quotes have been edited for length.

Read more: The interesting message 15-goal talent has already given on his future as Celtic link emerges