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HARTE OF THE MATTER: Remembering the great Billy McNeill

Jimmy Harte recalls with fondness watching Celtic win European Cup semi-final in '67

Jimmy Harte

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Jimmy Harte

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editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Jimmy Harte  column

The great Billy McNeil

I read the news this week of the death of old bhoy Billy Mc Neill. 

There will be many tears in Glasgow but also fond memories of the days when Celtic were top dogs in Europe thanks to Billy. He was captain, and later manager but most importantly he was an icon of everything that was good about Celtic.

Winning the ultimate prize in Europe in 1967 as a 27-year-old captain against Inter Milan is all the more impressive as it was achieved with a team of homegrown players. This kind of accomplishment, (a quintuple!) is unlikely to be seen again with the game dominated by money and instant success. But I hope I’m wrong. 

I recall going to see McNeil play in the European Cup semi final against the mighty Leeds who were superb at the time. My father and I went to the game, and I remember it with fondness as it was my first big game.

Billy was playing through injury apparently, but it never showed. I was mesmerised then and will remember it to the day I die. I always remember the feeling that Celtic and Donegal were one. 

His passing has touched many, not only Celtic supporters, but all sports fans. God bless him. 

Celtic fans have since learned of the death of Stevie Chalmers, the player who scored the winning goal in the '67 final. I’m sure they are having a good catch up with Jock Stein and many others. What a table to be at.