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Jerseys from paradise: How Jock Stein helped Dublin side Clondalkin Celtic FC off the ground

News broke yesterday that Celtic are coming to Tallaght to take on Shamrock Rovers in a pre-season friendly at Tallaght Stadium. It got us thinking of a not so well known story of the treble champions and their connection with Dublin in particular Clondalkin, which began many years ago.

Back in the late 1960s, Clondalkin was just a small village, a mere shadow of what it is today. With a current population of over 45,000, much has changed since then. Back in the ’60s – and as is still the case in 2017 – the Round Towers GAA club was the most popular choice for those with an appetite for sporting activity.

But at a time when football was growing in popularity in Ireland, the sport’s enthusiasts of the south west Dublin suburb had no place to turn. To put that matter right, a group of men got together in 1969 to form a club that would adopt on the name of ‘Celtic’, based on the Glasgow Celtic who had lifted the European Cup two years earlier.

The first ever Clondalkin Celtic FC side: Back row left-right – Tom Callaghan, Denis Greene, Cryril Dowling, Patsy Fagan, Pat Gallagher, Jackie Coy, Tony Higgins, Willie Lynch. Front row left-right – Jack Downey, Frank Goldsbury, Tom McCoy, Damien McGrath, Tom Brady, Liam Dowling, Kevin Donoghue

 

Due to the club’s Sligo-born founding-father Brother Walfrid providing Irish diaspora communities with hope and a way of life in Scotland, Celtic FC and Ireland have walked hand-in-hand since 1888. Glaswegians will always be attracted to the club as it’s their hometown team, but down through the years the Irish – both those abroad and those who have never emigrated – have ensured the relationship remains as strong as ever.

The story of Clondalkin Celtic and their formation in 1969 is perhaps a lesser known demonstration of just how appreciative Celtic FC have always been towards their Irish supporters. A committee formed of around five to six men formed and included Willie Lynch, Kevin Dongohue and Bob Dillon – three men who already had a wealth of experience in football behind them.

Bob Dillon was a scout for Glasgow Celtic and during his tenure he sent many players over to Scotland from Ireland, including one of Celtic and Ireland’s best ever goalkeepers – Packie Bonner – who turned out to be legendary Bhoys boss Jock Stein’s last ever signing at the club.

Bob Dillon is pictured here, fourth from the right on the back row

 

Indeed, thanks to Dillon’s connection with Glasgow Celtic the club were sent their very first set of kits from Jock Stein and Sean Fallon, enabling them to use their extremely limited funds elsewhere. Starting up a football club with next to nothing isn’t the easiest of tasks, so the committee took it upon themselves to get the ball rolling by heading to Phoenix Park in Dublin and pinching a set of goal posts.

The posts were subsequently replanted in the Community Centre in Clondalkin and the club soon began to generate great interest throughout Dublin, especially when news of Stein’s input spread around the capital. The seeds of Clondalkin Celtic were firmly sown in the village, but they weren’t established with the village name in the initial title of the club.

Their original constitution stated the club shall be called ‘The Celtic Football Club’; that colours shall be green and white hoops and that the aim of the club shall be to ‘afford to the boys and young men of Clondalkin the opportunity to play association football in their leisure time’.

A Clondalkin team photo from 1973

 

They continued with that initial name for a number of years before adding the village name to it, therefore becoming ‘Clondalkin Celtic’ – the name they still play proudly with to this day. A vast number of community clubs around Ireland have since adopted the name of Celtic, as is evident within many of the amateur leagues, from schoolboys upwards.

Alan Lynch, son of one of the founding members – Willie Lynch – remembers just how important the formation of Clondalkin Celtic was to their community.

He told InTallaght;

“Growing up in Clondalkin there was 1970 World Cup fever about the place, especially with that particular Brazilian team and the German and Dutch sides of that era. Everybody was football mad and our release was to join the newly founded club in the area – Celtic. In those days there was no leagues for under 8s or under 9s so we had to play under 12s for four to five years.

My dad was the manager and my neighbour, Bob Dillon, was the Celtic scout for Ireland at the time. My mother would wash all the jerseys every week – it was always very much a community run football club.”

The club’s progress was covered extensively by the Evening Herald

 

Within three years of Stein sending over a set of jerseys, the club had already won a treble and, after a few bleak years in between, Clondalkin are flying high once again. It’s tales of the likes of Clondalkin Celtic that make you realise just how much of an impact Glasgow Celtic have had on communities in Ireland in particular, and that connection shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

The Clondalkin Celtic FC squad of 2016
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About Rachel Lynch

Rachel Lynch
Journalist with InTallaght.

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