THE opposition will only be a second tier Austrian club and the occasion will just be a meaningless pre-season friendly.

But if Jonny Hayes is involved with Celtic in their meeting with BW Linz here in Austria early this evening it will be a moment he will never forget as long as he lives.

The winger, a £1.3 million acquisition from Aberdeen earlier this month, grew up in Dublin supporting the Parkhead club along with all of his family and friends.

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So, to actually play in a game for the Scottish champions will, regardless of the circumstances, be a hugely emotional moment for the player.

The Republic of Ireland internationalist admitted he had been pinching himself since being signed by Brendan Rodgers, his former youth coach at Reading, earlier this month.

“I don’t know how it will feel,” said Hayes. “I couldn’t wait to pull the strip on for my unveiling last week. It has that effect on you – you just want to keep it on.

“I had photos done when I was getting the medical and then at my unveiling there was a strip with my name and number on it.

“I couldn’t stop looking at it. There I was in the boardroom surrounded by trophies with a Celtic top bearing my name. It was amazing.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all and I look forward to get going. It’ll mean the world to me when I walk into a dressing-room here in Austria and see my jersey hanging there.

“I remember someone saying to me that when you step on a pitch with Celtic you are either adding to or taking away from your reputation. I want to add to it now that I’m wearing a Celtic top.”

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Celtic won the fourth domestic treble in their history last season after landing the Betfred Cup, Ladbrokes Premiership and William Hill Scottish Cup.

Hayes admits it will, despite the departure of Patrick Roberts, be difficult for him to force his way into the first team in the coming weeks and months.

But the 29-year-old feels he has no better man than Rodgers to further his career and believes he will improve as a result of working and playing alongside the likes of Scott Brown, James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths on a daily basis.

“It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I don’t know what role I’m going to play or where the manager sees me. It’s more a case of the club moving forward under his guidance.

“After last season it’s a case of if the manager says jump then you say how high? I take full confidence from what he’s done so far and the club can only progress under his leadership.

“I don’t know what part I’ll play, but I’ll just be delighted to be a part of it.”

Hayes continued: “I’ve looked as this move in many ways and trying to get into the team is going to be tough.

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“There is also a different level of player here and the manager can use his squad. It’s a bigger squad than Aberdeen where we had maybe 15 or 16 players who could be used throughout the season.

“Celtic have a bigger and better squad all round and I’m sure everyone will be used throughout the season. You look at that and believe you’ll get your chance eventually.

“For whatever reason, you aren’t in the team then it’s because they are better than you and can do a better job.

“Since I’ve been involved in the Ireland squad, I’ve enjoyed training more than I did at Aberdeen. There’s no getting away from it and it’s not being disrespectful to say there is a better quality of player there.

“I’ve enjoyed having to raise my game in training and add a bit more every day and it’ll be the same here, there’s no doubt about that.”

“I always found on pre-season trips, no matter where you are, it’s good to get a squad in early. Most managers like to get players in early. It is a chance to settle in and get to know your new team mates. I didn’t know any of them before.”