It is widely well known, there is no better place in this world than that of the North West of Ireland, which has a huge following of Glasgow Celtic Football Club.
The main reason for the huge following of Celtic FC, is down to the great Brother Walfrid, from Ballymoate, county Sligo as well as former players, such as Ramelton Patsy Gallacher, Packie Bonner and Paddy McCourt.
Walfrid was an Irish Marist Brother and the founder of Celtic Football Club in St Mary’s Hall in Glasgow, on November 6th 1887, as a means of raising funds for the poor and deprived in the east end of Glasgow. The charity established by Walfrid was named The Poor Children’s Dinner Table.
Walfrid died in April 1915, leaving a surviving brother, Bernard, in County Sligo. Walfrid is buried in the Mount St. Michael Cemetery in Dumfries.
My love for the Celts started after the 2003 UEFA Cup final in Seville, Spain, between Celtic and winners FC Porto of Portugal.
As part of the festivities in Seville it was recognised by UEFA to give Celtic FC a recognition award for their fans behaviour throughout the week in Seville.
The UEFA Cup final was held three days prior to Celtic’s greatest ever achievement in European soccer, the European Clubs’ Cup, known as the The UEFA Champions League trophy since the nineties.
In May 2007, during the Lisbon Lion’s 40th Anniversary tour of Donegal, I met a number of the surviving members of the famous Lisbon Lions Celtic team, who all but one member of the 15 man squad were born within 10 miles of Celtic Park in Glasgow.
The Lions became the first ever team in British football to have achieved a record five trophies in any one given season along with a clean sweep of trophies in Scotland and the European Cup.
On June 2nd 2007, I met the captain of that Celtic team and former manager of Celtic FC, Billy McNeill and a number of his team-mates, while they were going to Patsy Gallacher’s final resting place during their 40th anniversary tour. Along with me that day was my younger brother Daniel Jnr, Paul McBride and the late Donal McBride Jnr.
Billy McNeill was so astounded with my determination to go ahead with my surgery in New York, USA that without realising, Mr McNeill handed a cheque over to Paul McBride, who was chairman for The Friends of Alan Doherty charity, at the night of their gala event in Clanree Hotel.
The first ever Celtic FC match which I was present at, was a season friendly match in Finn Park, Ballybofey which Celtic lost 3-2 against Finn Harps. After the match and a lap of the Finn Park pitch, my family and relations met the squads in Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey.
I was taken to my first competitive match in Parkhead by Dennis O’Donnell, Chairman of the Letterkenny Number 1 Celtic Supporters Club September 29th 2007 and given VIP treatmen: seeing than manager Gordan Strachan, meeting the squad, and given a signed Celtic jersey. I received mini-tour of the stadium before the players arrived prior to the Celt’s 3-0 thanks to a hat-trick from Scott McDonald over Dundee United.
Siblings Paul McBride, Donal McBride junior and founding member of the Johnny Doyle Memorial Celtic Supporters’ Club Donal McBride senior, with my family were with me on that day. A day that the Letterkenny number 1 CSC had two full bus loads going to the game on a day-trip.
In 2008 when I was based in the Yonkers area of Woodlawn, upstate New York due to my surgery in New York, I bumped into the Bronx Bhoys’ Celtic Supporters’ Club, where I met local Donegal man, Chas Duffy who hails from Keadue. Within weeks of meeting Chas, he took me to meet legendary rock star, Rod Stewart . Rod was based in New York, before he played a concert in the city.
Every year the New York Celtic Supporters’ Club used to hold a charity night in aid of charity and the Friends of Alan Doherty Charity was the beneficiary in 2008.
Former Celts George McCluskey and “Dixie” Deans were special guests from Scotland that night in early December 2008.
George McCloskey struck up a friendship since the event we have kept in touch for a while afterwards, and even met up in Brian Gallagher’s Station House Hotel, Letterkenny.
My recent trip to Celtic Park was just last Sunday fortnight, March 1st when Aberdeen were the visitors to Paradise in a-top-of-he-table clash. Celtic ran out comfortable winners 4-0.
Before to the kick-off, there was a tribute on the big screen for the late Georgina Doherty, who was a big fan of the Hoops. Georgina was killed on the Glenshane Road in Derry recently in a car crash.
My father, my brother Daniel and I travelled over to the top-of-the-league game with Denis O’Donnell and the Letterkenny Number 1 Celtic Supporters’ Club on the 6 journey from outside the Dry Arch bar to Celtic Park.
During the half-time interval Celtic FC’s Charlie Mulgrew awarded Lurgan Bhoy, Jay Beatty, aged 11 years-old with the Goal of the Month for January.
Jay, from Lurgan, aged 11 years old, scored for the Celts in their 2-0 win at Hamilton Academical in January. The score-line was upgraded by Hamilton Academical meaning it was 3-0 to Celtic, The 11-year-old’s penalty kick during the interval of the fixture won the support of an incredible 97% of fans who voted.
Not only did Beatty receive Goal of the Month, but his father, Martin Beatty, handed Jay a golden boot after Jay rein-acted the “Ronny Roar” to the home support before his half-time goal against Celtic’s sub goalkeeper. Jay met former Manchester United and Celtic midfielder, Roy Keane at Celtic Park on Sunday.
Martin Beatty, Jay’s father was interviewed by Celtic TV – “I am so proud of Jay. We don’t look at Jay as a disability, we look at him as his ability.”
The young Lurgan bhoy, who has downs syndrome came such a popular guy with the Celtic fans first, as player Georgios Samaras, Greek internationalist, former Celtic winger picked Jay out of his father’s arms and took Jay on the lap of honour with the Celtic squad.
Than summer last year he sat on the Celtic team bus beside his favourite player, Greece’s Georgios Samaras, before Celtic played Cliftonville in the Champions League qualifier. Mr Beatty than hit the big times when his neighbour and former Celtic captain, and manager, Neil Lennon picked him out of the crowd, in the main stand at Parkhead, during their lap of honour after winning the Scottish Premier League title in May of last year.
I would like to thank Denis O’Donnell and the Letterkenny Number 1 Celtic Supporters’ Club for taking my brother, my father Danny and I over to a numerous Celtic games during the past eight years.