‘The Gorbals Irishman’ – Charlie Gallagher.

Last month, Celtic FC bade farewell to one of their heroes from the past. Charlie Gallagher’s cortège made its way past the front door of Celtic Park itself so that supporters could pay their last respects. But what did we know of the man? 

By Jonathan Foley

Charlie Gallagher enjoyed a 12-year stint at the famous Glasgow club between the years 1958 and 1970; making 171 appearances and scoring 32 goals in the process. 

More than that, he acquired a clean sweep of Scottish domestic honours and, although he wasn’t on the field that day in Lisbon, he was an instrumental figure in Celtic’s 1967 famous European Cup success story. Although to say his successes came overnight couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Born of Donegal parents, Dan and Annie (Gaoth Dobhair), Charlie also became the first Scottish-born player to represent the Republic of Ireland. In a 2017 interview with TheCelticView, Gallagher discussed how he had grown to love west Donegal, having spent many of his summer holidays there when he was a child. 

He was well regarded for his ability to pickout pinpoint crosses from wide areas and set-pieces. One of his most famous assists is probably the delivery he sent in for Billy McNeill to rise up over Alex Ferguson to head in Celtic’s opener in the 1969 Scottish Cup Final rout of Rangers. As we will see, that was just one of many famous set-ups for his captain. 

He was also the cousin of another former Celtic player, Pat Crerand, who was well-known for his precocious talents and aggression on the field for such other teams he played for, including Manchester United and Scotland. And if the local rumblings speak true, some will tell you that Crerand also played in a number of summer cup games for the Gweedore sides under a pseudonym, but hush, no more. 

When Charlie Gallagher joined Celtic, the club was deep in transition. Rangers were utterly dominant and success was proving to be very elusive for the Hoops. Legendary figure and all-time leading club goalscorer, Jimmy McGrory, wasn’t enjoying the same successes as a manager, but such was his reputation, very few fans were calling for his head during this period of drought. 

Frustrations were more so aimed at the board, then chaired by Robert Kelly. 

In 1961, Gallagher made his debut in a League Cup victory over Raith Rovers and come the end of the season, aged just 21, many would’ve been expecting him to collect a Scottish Cup winners medal. Celtic went into this showpiece event as huge favourites against Dunfermline, but the Pars, managed by a certain Jock Stein,  threw the script out and rejoiced in a surprise 2-0 win following a replay.

For success, Charlie Gallagher would have to wait. 

Celtic were trophyless in the early 1960s and Gallagher was regularly rotated in and out of the starting eleven. His finest performances came in 1964 when he put in a dazzling display in a Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final victory over MTK Budapest. 

The Hunagrains would overturn the tie in the second leg, however, and Gallagher openly claimed that this night as the most disappointing of his career. He would put in another stirring performance five months later though when Celtic pulled off an unexpected 3-1 win over Rangers in the league. 

One year later, 1965, Jock Stein returned to Celtic as manager and Gallagher became something of a regular in his early sides. Despite a lowly eighth place finish in the league that year, Celtic did reach the final of the Scottish Cup again where they would meet Dunfermline for the second time in four years. 

Many fans still regard this game as a pivotal turning point in the club’s history. 

Having twice trailed in the match, Celtic levelled each time and eventually won the encounter courtesy of a 3-2 scoreline. Charlie Gallagher’s superb ball in from a corner set up McNeill’s winning goal and, alas, the Hoops ended an eight-year barren run of no trophies. Following that, Celtic FC were about to embark on something truly special in the following years. 

They became the dominant force, not only in Scotland, but across the European continent as well. 

Having played much of his time in the midfield area alongside Bobby Murdoch, Stein’s remoulding of Bertie Auld’s role – often regarded as one of his managerial masterstrokes – meant that again, Gallagher’s appearances became a bit more sporadic. Celtic were roaring, both domestically and in Europe, so getting into that team would’ve been a task for anyone. 

With Auld and Murdoch holding the midfield and Jimmy Johnstone and Bobby Lennox taking up the wide areas, this was the most famous midfield which Celtic ever had. When he was called upon though, Gallagher was also more than capable of lending more than just a little help for the cause. 

In the New Year meeting with Rangers in 1966, Gallagher thundered in a wonder-strike as the Bhoys routed their old rivals 5-1. A season later, in the quarter-final of the 1967 European Cup run against Vojvodina Novi Sad, his stoppage time cross found McNeill’s head (again) and his majestic finish sent the famous Parkhead stadium into raptures of delight. 

In a time when only one substitute was named on a team-sheet and where he could only be deployed in the event of an injury, Charlie Gallagher did remarkably well to stay in the plans of Jock Stein as Celtic embarked on, what is still, the most successful and revered period in their entire history. 

He was there that day at the Estádio Nacional when Celtic famously beat Inter Milan 2-1 to become the first team from the northern half of Europe to lift the famous trophy. Although he didn’t get a run out on the field, his role within the camp was regarded as important as anyone else’s. 

He was known to have been very proud of the fact that he got to represent Ireland on the international stage. The country of his ancestry thanks to his Donegal heritage. He may have only got two caps during his career, but it must be remembered that he was competing with none other than the talents John Giles (Leeds United) for that position in the team.

Following his departure from Celtic in 1970, Gallagher finished out his career with Dumbarton before hanging up the boots in 1973. He would return to the East End of Glasgow to work as a scout between 1976 to 1978 and was often spotted still attending games and club functions right up until very recent times. A Celtic man, through and through. 

Charlie Gallagher, ‘the Gorbals Irishman’ 1940-2021. 

Celtic’s ‘Millennium Bug’ Reappears.

Originally penned in May, 2021

In a season that promised so much – hopes of continued domestic domination and with the champagne cooling on ice for the unprecedented ‘10 in a Row’ parties – very little was harvested.

Across the city, Rangers have undoubtedly improved, but there was still a potent feeling that the majority of Celtic’s demise was brought on, not by others, but primarily by themselves.

History, as we all know, often has a bemusing ability to repeat itself. Up until now, many supporters for the green-and-white looked back and shuddered at the ill-fated 1999-2000 campaign. Upon reflection, this past campaign drew some uncanny resemblances to that particular season. 

By Jonathan Foley

In the summer of 1999, the biggest pop acts going were the likes of Travis, Stereophonics and Britney Spears. Robbie Williams had rocked Slane Castle at the tail end of the summer and his lyrical flow about stars directing our fate was a fairly constant feature on the radio airwaves back then. 

Bill Clinton was still, albeit controversially, dwindling to the US Presidency. People in Donegal were still using punts as their currency and, even in a world devoid of social media, the biggest fear was that on New Years’ Eve, global computer systems would all fail and planes would fall from the sky. Honest! 

In Glasgow, Rangers were fresh off the back of a domestic treble from the season before and Celtic pinned their hopes on a (‘Return of the King’) Kenny Dalglish who was coming back as General Manager. Alongside him, his mentee and fellow-Liverpool legend John Barnes, taking on the reins as Head Coach.

It was a bold move, given Barnes’s inexperience as a coach, to say the least. 

From the off, it seemed as though Celtic meant business. Splashing out big money on drafting in Olivier Tebily, Eyal Berkovic, Stephane Bonnes, Rafael Thied Scheidt, Bobby Petta, Dmitri Kharine and – the one saving grace he brought in – Stilyan Petrov.

On the field, at least at first, things looked promising. 

Celtic’s dynamic duo up front in Henrik Larsson and Mark Viduka were firing on all cylinders. Going into the autumn, they won 11 of their opening 12 games, had made early headway in the League Cup and disposed of Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the Uefa Cup’s opening round. 

Saturday 16 October, 1999, was a day where the fans were treated to a masterclass performance. 

A 7-0 showpiece victory over Aberdeen at home – with both strikers netting a hat-trick apiece – provided genuine optimism for the season ahead.

The fact that Barnes was something of a novice at this level seemed immaterial. For the time being at least. 

The fans who left Celtic Park on that mild and somewhat sunny afternoon were not to know that it was all about to emphatically unravel.

A few days later, Celtic would lose their talismanic dreadlocked striker for the rest of the season following Larsson’s catastrophic leg break away to Lyon.

In his absence, Barnes resorted to his contacts book and rushed in and an aging Ian Wright on a loan spell from West Ham. Initially, he seemed a fairly suitable stop-gap but that too would prove to be a false dawn.

Into November and Lyon compounded Celtic’s misery with a comfortable victory in Glasgow. The absence of Larsson was starting to show and one team were never likely to show them any mercy for their predicament lay in waiting. 

On a gray and overcast Sunday afternoon at Ibrox where they briefly snuck into a 2-1 lead, Celtic capitulated in first-half stoppage time. Rangers winning a dubious penalty was bad enough, but when captain Paul Lambert didn’t get up after his tackle on Jorg Albertz, it soon emerged that he’d been severely concussed, lost some teeth and was in need of urgent medical attention.

Albertz knee had collided with Lambert’s mouth as he went to ground. While the German was able to dust himself from the challenge and score the equalising penalty on the brink of the interval, his opponent was still being ushered away by a team of paramedics. Rangers went on to acquire a comfortable and fairly telling 2-4 victory. 

With the new millennium having passed without a hitch and no planes falling from the sky, Celtic’s season, in its own way, nose-dived and crash-landed in early February. A 2-0 lead at home to Hearts looked like plain-sailing until a monumental cave-in ensued and the Jambos silenced Parkhead by turning the game on its head and running out 2-3 winners. 

Worse was to follow. 

The following Tuesday night was the final straw. The Scottish Cup had offered a lifeline for Celtic to salvage something from this fire-wreck of a season, but when lower-division Inverness Caledonian-Thistle dumped them out of the cup in a humiliating 1-3 defeat in front of a sparsely-attended crowd, enough was enough. 

Circulating rumours rang out that Mark Viduka had refused to go out for the second-half amid a tumultuous and angry dressing room proved to be true. Mass protests gathered outside the ground and chants of ‘Barnes Must Go!’ rang out long into the night. The Board responded with a prompt termination of his contract but it didn’t end there. 

Kenny Dalglish, perhaps feeling responsible for all that had gone on, took over as interim manager. 

A March Old Firm clash, under the lights, with Rangers was the last chance to restore some pride at least.

In a typically frantic and bad-tempered game, Rangers won it with an 89th minute bundled but effective effort by Rod Wallace. A goal iconically remembered for the ball boy, behind the goal, kicking out at the ball in frustration. He was allegedly reprimanded, but who could blame the fella?

A League Cup final win at Hampden provided mere consolation but, from a PR perspective, Dalglish’s renowned distrust of the press took a new road. He, rather oddly, ordered that a press conference be held at Bairds Bar – a regular Gallowgate watering-hole for Hoops’ fans – and while all this circus was all going on, there was hope that Larsson (and Lambert) would soon return to the fray and settle things.

Mark Viduka would officially pack his bags and depart, under a bit of a cloud, and joining Leeds United for £7 million. Quipping to the media that he only had to play to 70% of his ability to get into the Celtic starting team to the media as a nasty parting shot. Ian Wright would later remark that he detested living in Glasgow, although that was not intended as direct jibe at the club.

In comparison with this past season, one can perhaps notice the similarities that rose up. False promises, fallouts between players and management, injuries in key positions, fan protests, embarrassing cup defeats to lower-league opposition at home, a mid-season sacking leading to an interim role and a disastrous relationship with the media. It all seems oddly familiar, doesn’t it? 

The one guiding light that stayed flickering for Celtic in May 2000 was that Larsson did reappear as a late substitute on the final day of the season. He even made it to the Sweden squad for the Euros that summer. 

Back at base, Celtic looked to make amends by announcing Martin O’Neill as manager. 

And we all know how that turned out. So maybe, just maybe, hope does spring eternal.

@JohnnyFoley1984

@ArmchairFanatic

Another Day in Paradise.

🔙OTD, 7/4/2001. The St Mirren Adventure!! 🍀

A Celtic win and they become league champions. Rare in those day and myself and Ultan are told we have a golden ticket each but …

A 4am ticket mixup at the bus. A huge row with the organizer. Told “a mistake was made. I’ve no ticket for you. Go on home.” Heartbroken and, yes, tears got shed as the bus heads off.

4:30am, crying a little on the porch and Ultan certainly not slagging, a taxi flies up the driveway. Orders the two of us to get in as “another bus” will take us but we have to catch up with it!!

Whizzing out the dual carriage way, get on the bus but told “I’ll help yous but keep this quiet now, d’ya hear me?” 🤫 Get to the ferry port, hiding under the seats during security inspection.

Bus breaks down. Typical. Sneak on another and hide again. 😩 Get to Glasgow, but still no ticket. Ultan says “we’ve done well to get this far. Anything else now is a bonus.”

Ten minutes to kickoff. Stadium in sight. Given two unused ticket stubs found in the glove compartment from a game played three months earlier and told “try your luck with them. I can do no more for yous now!”

Noise of the stadium gets louder. Race through the wasteland, puddles and rubble as a shortcut. Nowadays it’s where the Emirates Arena stands but it looked a lot different 20 years ago.

Getting a footie over the high, gang graffitied wall from a group of fairly rowdy – but sound – local lads. Buckfast and all. 😜 🍷

“Y’iv nae ticket, man? Dinny worry. Stick wi us and we’ll git yiz in, Ken?”

Get to the turnstile. Distract the collector as much as possible and hand in the fake ticket stub upside down. Ultan does the same and … we’re in Paradise!! Quick high fives of thanks to the gang lads who helped us at the wall. 😂

Tommy Johnson’s bundled effort goes in and, despite a scrappy game, Celtic do win the title at the final whistle. A real rarity back then and the celebrations got underway and, by hook or by crook, we got there. Even if we’d to stand at the back as we’d no seats. 😀

After all the excitement was done, I did meet the ticket organizer in a Glasgow hotel later that day. Yes, we did exchange a few words, he was livid that I’d snuck on the boat but, I must say, we did bury the hatchet a few weeks later, to be fair. 👍🏻

I’ve been to much better games at Celtic Park since that one but St Mirren, 2001, will always be the one with most (fairly avoidable) drama 😂 Ultan moved away and I’ve not seen him in years but I think we’ll always have that day to give us something to chat about. 🍀👍🏻

Getting back home on the ferry that night didn’t have a quarter of the drama. Thank God! 😂👍🏻

MIDNIGHT IN LETTERKENNY (Aug 2018)

“NOW THAT I RETURN AGAIN, MANY CHANGES I HAVE KNOWN”

Originally published in August 2018

After a busy few days at work recently, I opted to take up the opportunity for some ‘me-time’ with a relaxing wander through the Town Park.

Usually it’s just a place I pass through as a shortcut between Sentry-Hill and Gortlee and one I’ve done countless times before.

During a moment’s pause and with a sit-down on the steps, the observations I took in were intriguing and much to my surprise .

By Jonathan Foley

Amid the cooling air of a warm day and with an aura of pleasence in the atmosphere, I looked outward upon the other people in the park. People conversing, laughing and having fun.

Children playing happily and others out doing laps of the rounding paths with their tunes playing through their earphones. Nothing out of the ordinary at first, I thought. At first anyway.

I became surprisingly captivated by how multicultural and socially-diverse those in and around the park were. With the echoing noise of the evening traffic in the distance, everyone – through a multitude of languages and fashion styles – seemed uninterrupted by this as they continued to enjoy their free-time with their partners, their children, friends or even persons just in their own company.

It triggered the question within me about how and, maybe more importantly, why did my hometown evolve so much in its identity over the last few decades and was it possible to consider that maybe it happened so fast – that myself and maybe others – didn’t even really notice. 

I’m very proud to say that I was born and raised here in the town of Letterkenny but I’m the first to admit that, going by family connections, I’m not what you might call a typical ‘townie’ compared to so many others who have lived here. I am, in fact, the son of a ‘blow-in’ family with just one other member of our entire family tree – my brother Alan – being of actual Donegal birth. 

With a surname like ‘Foley’, that shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows.

It’s a name that is much more commonly heard in parts of Connaught and Munster as opposed to up here in the northwest.

My mum and dad moved here around the time they got married after leaving Sligo to start a life for themselves when they bought their first house in Ashlawn before moving a few hundred yards up the road to Carnamuggagh Lower in the mid-1980s shortly before I was born.

Dad has since passed away however but during his lifetime, he had never lost his Cliffoney-accent and even now, it’s the same for mum who speaks in a way that would make you question if indeed she had ever even left her native village of Mullaghmore. 

Although I may take after both of them in terms of some physical features and mannerisms, the same can’t be said for my accent as I adapted the dulcet tones of a fully-fledged Donegalian with my ‘Ayes’ and my ‘Wee’s’ and my ‘We’ans!’

So much so that at family gatherings in Sligo, my poor wee granny – originally from County Down – was sometimes the only one able to decipher my oral diction.

Having said that, my parents may not have been born here, but they certainly did become immersed and a part of the community upon their arrival.

Dad worked for years with the Gardaí and was always involved in things like local pantomimes and the ongoings out at the golf club in Barnhill while mum worked in the banks. Suffice to say, she has essentially become an honorary local here at this stage.

That’s just a minor glimpse into my background and the reason for my being here, but after attending a meeting held by the Letterkenny Memories group a few months back, questions of a wider nature began to flourish.

On that night, they were hosting a reunion of the 1967 St Eunan’s county championship winning team. The speaker told that in ‘67, the town’s population was a mere 5,000!

I nearly fell of the stool, I was that shocked.

I just couldn’t envisage a town – to which I call home and am proud to be a part of – being so small in population less than two decades before I was born.

The speaker enlightened me that my native Gortlee was basically just a field that didn’t even have Ashlawn, Oaklands or Knocknamona as part of its make-up for a further ten years.

I suppose I had to remind myself though – or maybe it was more so a case that I was made to be reminded – that my family didn’t come from here.

So maybe that’s why so many of the black and white photos I see of people or places from Letterkenny’s past don’t always strike a chord of resonance with me,

Understandably so too, I hope, because I can never spot family members or distant relatives in them.

On a more comforting note, however, I then remember that Letterkenny’s population is now around 20,000 and that ultimately means that those descendant of a ‘blow-in’ ancestry are in huge numbers here.

And that’s why I like to think there are so many people here nowadays that are perhaps not a part of the town’s historic past, but certainly part of its present and its future.

In my (almost) 34 years in this life, even I have seen how much the town is changed. Back in the eighties, I would go to my childminders, Nan Curran’s, on Eunan’s Terrace and my first ever trip to a cinema was when I was taken to see ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ on the Port Road. Moving on, I played soccer at Ballyraine and gaelic football at O’Donnell Park on into the nineties.

I had my first ‘shift’ by a wall in the newly-built Beinn Aobhinn estate in the mid-to-late nineties and faced the realities of dole-queues and emigration through the 2008 recession era.

I’ve seen the Oatfields factory and the old swimming pool disappear while I’ve also had to see many friends move away, but even with that, I’ve seen newer faces, newer buildings and newer opportunities come to the surface on the town.

And just like my parents, so many others have come here and made lives for themselves and the rich variety of cultural integration from that was there to be witnessed on that simple evening walk through the park.

My descendancy may belong elsewhere and that’s to a quieter and more suburban environment in Sligo, but this is will always be my place-of-birth and my this will always be where I call home.

I was educated and made my friends and neighbours here and I always like to feel that it’s good to be – not just something – to be a real part of something: a team of teachers so as to help the next generation, a team of coaches to help generate an interest in sports or, in this case, a team of writers and newspaper people who gave you something to (hopefully) enjoyed reading this week. 

In a nutshell, not all of us were a part of the town’s historical past but hopefully we can be a part of what Letterkenny is now and for what it will become.

ANGELA BARNES Interview (2019)

ANGELA BARNES: TV PRESENTER WITH A LOVE FOR DONEGAL.

Throughout her ever-blossoming career in journalism, Angela Barnes has received huge adulation for her great work on Sky television and, more recently, with NBC’s Good Morning Europe. And on an recent visit to her spiritual home of Kilcar, she very kindly took a few minutes out to talk to us here at The Leader about her love for her work and of Donegal. 

By Jonathan Foley

Presently, Angela lives in the French city of Lyon, where the Euronews NBC broadcasting company are based. She co-hosts a segment of the morning news known as ‘The Cube’ where it’s fair to say  she takes the responsibility for delivering a very modern and 21st century form of news reporting. 

“The move to France has been brilliant. Of course I was nervous at first after having spent ten years living in London and working for Sky, but the transition was made so much easier by the great people I’ve met there. NBC reach over 160 countries and it’s been great fun breaking the latest stories and doing the live broadcasts for them” Angela told, 

In a world of ‘fake news’, the focus of Angela’s slot is to provide news that has been truthfully verified. Behind the scenes, she will gather as much information as possible on a given story, before deciphering which of it is true and which of it may have been fabricated on social media. This honest and refreshing approach is welcomed by all who believe in the integrity of journalism. 

“Social media is a very big news source nowadays but we ensure that the background to any news we report on has gone through a process of verification first. Take last week as an example, natural disasters hit Indonesia very badly, but we found that a lot of the footage being shared online was from a different disaster in 2014, so we were glad we cleared that uncertainty” she added. 

Having previously worked with Sky, Angela is perhaps best recognised from her roles as presenter of such shows as Swipe and Find the Advantage. The former of the two is a show that focused mostly on technology news while the latter was one about tennis; thus granting Angela the opportunity to put her immense enthusiasm for sports into her profession. 

“Working for Sky provided me with great opportunities. I’ve always been a follower of so many sports and on Find the Advantage, we got to compare tennis with a lot of other sports like football, rugby and many others. There were funny moments when I look back now. I used to sometimes hear the director in my earpiece telling me to wrap up a segment in the next few seconds, but I loved talking sport so much, I could’ve easily gone on and on” she fondly recalled.  

“Nowadays, I’m covering a much greater variety of topics and issues from across the world. I still love sports of course but it’s been great to branch out into so many other aspects of news coverage. It’s nice to broaden the horizons, get that flexibility and variety, and I suppose with that, I might be handy to have on a pub quiz team now” she jokingly told. 

Born across the channel in Winchester, Angela’s softly-spoken English accent coincides beautifully with her innate love for Donegal and Kilcar in particular. Her father was born there before moving to the United Kingdom many years ago, but since her parents’ retirement, both of them have since moved back to the scenic southwestern area. 

“We spent every holiday in Donegal when we were children. Mum and dad are both back living here and so too is my brother. It’s a place we are all very attached to. Growing up as a little girl, I made lasting friendships with so many people here. Now that I think of it, the kids I used to build sandcastles with are now the ones I pop out for a drink and a catch up with” Angela told fondly.

“The scenery here is just spectacular and I like to get here as often as I can. I’m lucky with work too because Lyon’s not really all that far away so on my weekends off, it’s easy for me to pop back to London or over here to Donegal on a fairly regular basis. Being a keen surfer helps; in rain, hail or shine, people here often know where to find me if I’m not in when they call up to the house” she happily told. 

It’s not just Kilcar that Angela holds dearly. She also discussed how her love of surfing has seen her test out the waves in Rossnowlough and, because of her enjoyment of live music, Letterkenny has also been a regular stopping point for her. Her long-term friendship with local band, The Revs, often provided ample excuse for a night out when they were gigging up here.

And even though she might have covered a vast array of sporting and general news with Sky and NBC, Angela certainly knows how to keep in touch with the all-important sports news from this part of the world. After all, it’s not very often a television presenter living in France can honestly say that they are keen followers of Kilcar’s GAA club and the Donegal county panel.

“I was delighted last year when Kilcar won the club championship. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be here for the celebrations because I was in recovery from a knee operation at the time, but from what I’ve heard, the festivities were wonderful and I’m told they went on for quite a few days after the game itself” Angela told. 

“Earlier this season, I was at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey for Donegal’s league game with Mayo. That game ended in a draw which meant Donegal were officially relegated, but one thing I really enjoy about gaelic football is the spirit of it all. The fans mixing in the stands and chatting away is something to behold. All round, this is a very special place” she concluded.

BAR COUNTER RAMBLINGS.

Originally written in September 2018

Maybe it’s just me but have you ever taken the time to notice what Donegal people converse about most and wonder what factors influenced the creation of these talking points?

Be it at a bar counter, a supermarket aisle-way or a casual chinwag with a friend on the street, it might be no harm to pick up on the themes that so often seem to continually ressurface during a casual chat with a friend or a colleague: sport, pop-culture, politics and the weather probably spring to mind and here’s how. 

By Jonathan Foley

Firstly, let me take a wee second to explain how the idea for this week’s article came about. I recently sat down to read a book called ‘Sport and the British’ by well-respected historian, Richard Holt.

Through a study of the history of life in the United Kingdom and throughout the British Empire – of which we were once an occupant of – he presented a wonderful case for how certain parts of these islands and the world adopted certain cultures and traditions through sports. 

Without reciting the whole book, he shows the reader that the strongest nations in international rugby and cricket are all former imperial regions who took up these games during the colonisation process. 

This rings true when we see how much interest there is in rugby amongst the people of Australia and New Zealand while cricket still gathers mass popularity in places like India and the West Indies. Even this weekend as England and Scotland locked horns in The Calcutta Cup, it’s all linked to that period. 

Similarly, Holt draws a parallel with Britain itself by showing how the Industrial Revolution era of the 19th Century combined with increased leisure time and trade union laws helped develop soccer as the ‘game of the working class,’ so it should come as no real surprise that the game has thrived in cities such as Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester amongst others. 

Those who could afford the facilities required to play lawn tennis and golf in these times were often those of the higher classes. 

Moving closer to home here in Ireland, something that we can take great pride in is that, as a nation, we do possess a strong love of sport be it through gaelic games, boxing, soccer, rugby or horse-racing in particular. Yet we are not exempt from how certain parts of the island developed somewhat differing sporting interests and this is down to a number of factors that link to things such as regional culture, social-class, geography and sometimes, reasons of religion and politics or even mass-influenced media. 

Before focusing in on Donegal, a more general look at Ireland is perhaps necessary. As popular as hurling is in this country, there’s still no doubt that it thrives mainly in the south-eastern region and that’s no coincidence. 

To play the codified version of the game after 1884, there was the requirement for soft flatlands and in these parts where the ‘Garden of Ireland’ exists and where there were better relations between landowners and tenants, our national game could begin to flourish more down there.

Gaelic football took more of a precedence in the western, midland-based and northern counties (possible exemptions for Antrim and Galway) as it made more sense to play with a ball through the hand and foot when contending with playing areas that were often more bog-based and inclined than those of the south. 

It also become a form of national expression in a more hostile environment which was not something rugby faced as much in such affluent places like south-Dublin or the wider Belfast area.

In Donegal today, there still remains a tremendous interest in sports across the board. How often do we hear of people chatting or debating away about soccer for example? 

To remonstrate this point further, we certainly do a lot more than persons from the likes of Mayo and Monaghan. Celtic FC have a huge following and the majority of that is down the history of cultural migration between here and the west of Scotland – for both fans and players – but here’s why English soccer has taken such a hold here. 

Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have had a large support here for a long time. 

Some have shunned others for their decision to follow them and as one former unnamed publican in the town said to me last week, there is more to it than what meets the eye. He believed it was down more so to the access, or lack thereof, to the coverage of sports on television and radio during the eighties and nineties. 

His theory was that prior to this era, people in Donegal didn’t care all that much about cross-channel soccer, but with the lack of Scottish and League of Ireland football being televised, people began to slowly but surely turn to English leagues and Match of the Day viewings for their enjoyment. 

With this county and town being located where it is, we were always able to pick up BBC transmissions much more than west Donegal, so it’s no real surprise that the popularity of the EPL grew hugely.

The proverbial explosion of Sky Sports and the volume of their subscribers here during the Celtic Tiger years added to this greatly. 

Moving aside from sport, other topics of conversation often come to the fore here and one of those is politics. There’s no doubt that Donegal people often become irate when we often get asked are we “from Northern Ireland or the Republic?” 

As much as we proclaim the latter, it’s maybe not always right to condemn such questions as ones being asked by the ignorant. At the end of the day there’s something that we share with only a few other counties and that is that we do have a profound interest in political matters of both regions. 

Ireland has been an island for 6000 years and less than 100 of those years have seen a line drawn on a map with our neighbour counties to the east. 

Living in the hinterland of a place that does gather so much media attention across the world – particularly during The Troubles – it seems inevitable that we should keep an eye out for what’s going on there. And yet because we are a county of the Republic, matters of interest in Dublin’s Dáil Éireann will also receive our attention. 

Thus another conversation ice-breaker arises. 

Thirdly, popular entertainment has always had a stronghold here and in all truth, it so often comes from either American or British influences. 

US sitcoms and Netflix series regularly pop up in conversations in staff rooms and in other meeting places while still on the normal everyday TV set, British-based soaps, comedies, dramas, reality shows and chat shows often dominate conversation and this trend is nothing new. If anything it’s generational. 

Some people of Letterkenny can still fondly tell you of times growing up through the years when Fawlty Towers would come on  BBC Two on a Sunday night and even for more regional-based shows like south-London’s Only Fools & Horses or Glasgow’s Still Game or Rab C. Nesbitt, we are able to understand the contextual humour and diallectual tones of these shows just as much as any local from the aforementioned cities could. 

And because we were one of the few regions in Ireland who had access to UTV for much longer periods than that of the rest of the country, that’s why, unlike others, we can remember what The Gerry Kelly Show was like or how ‘Julian from the UTV’ introduced a given episode of Coronation Street. 

Modern times have seen more topics be brought about with discussions of The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent or I’m a Celebrity; Get Me Out of Here. None of which bare any official link to this part of the world. 

In conclusion, as Irish as we are and will always be, there’s little denying that advances made in technology and that of popular sport and entertainment have altered the course of casual conversations we often discuss in this country. 

Come to think of it, that’s always been the way! Even as far back as the time when Celtic Tradition came here from Eastern European tribes or even in the sixth century when Saint Patrick came here from Wales to preach the Christianity that was born in the Middle East and given momentum from the Roman Empire. 

We’ve always had things from afar to discuss and debate about so what I’m discussing here is nothing new really. 

Focusing closer to home, both Ulster and more national politics have gripped us and the sports and entertainments we follow most are there because of geographical, socio-political, technological and even trendy factors. 

Even through all this of course, it’s not be forgotten that we always have time to bring up the one thing we simply can’t control and that of course is the weather. Born from our tradition of agriculture, where weather plays an utmost important role, there’s always time to bring how ‘that day would clean founder ye!’ 

Having said that however, here’s hoping that as the month of March edges closer, we’ll soon be seeing a ‘grand stretch in the evenings, hiy!’

BEING A DONEGAL FAN: ALWAYS AN ADVENTURE.

SUPPORTING DONEGAL: ALWAYS AN ADVENTURE.

Originally published in February 2019

Just short of my eighth birthday in 1992, Donegal famously lifted the Sam Maguire for the first time in our history. I’m glad I was the age that I was back then, because it meant I was old enough to appreciate and to be inspired by the local heroes that won it.

There’s certainly been a lot of ups and downs since that time, but nevertheless, it’s never been short of an adventure.

By Jonathan Foley

One of the best things about supporting Donegal is that although it’s not always easy, joyous or full of success, it’s still always interesting and never dull whatsoever. The power that gaelic football has, particularly in this county, should never be underestimated. What else has ever produced such as a sense of collectivism and community in a ‘remote’ region such as this one?

And for me, one of the most enjoyable sights you can ever wish to see comes along when the Ulster and All-Ireland series start up at the dawn of summer.

The toots of foghorns and the traffic cones been placed out on the roads as you wander up and over the bridge where you get to see MacCumhaill Park filling up its stand and terraces in the distance. Pure quality, lad!

Something that we’ve often got to enjoy this past few years is being a part of the festivities on Ulster Final day experience in Clones.

Even if the result didn’t always go our way in those finals, there’s still something so iconic about being part of the craic along the narrow streets of over-spilled pubs as thousands of of people in green and gold jerseys mingle about the place.

To an outsider, Ulster Final day probably resembles something like the time of a forgotten Ireland; an old-looking small town on a harvest day in the 1950s celebration perhaps.

A place where country and trad music bellows out of public houses and on the streets where men, women and children of all ages discuss and debate the day’s football.

Trips to Dublin have also become fairly commonplace for Donegal fans these past few years as well. This is where we swap the more rural surroundings for those of city buses, Luas lines and a stadium that’s a beautiful ‘house of steal’ located in the Drumcondra region; gradually getting engulfed with the flags and banners of Tír Chonáill … and whoever else is playing, of course. 

Mind you, anyone who’s ever stayed down the night of a game will tell you they still very much keep it ‘Dunnygawl’ as they fill up the dancefloors of Copper-Faced-Jacks and D2.

It’s cherished moments like these where we all partake in the behaviour that we may not do as much at home. Basically, ‘Wagon Wheel’ and ‘the Hills of Donegal’ go down just fine in these clubs, so they do.

It goes without saying that the most exciting period to be a Donegal fan was the Jim McGuinness era between 2011 and 2014.

Not only for the successes in Ulster and on the All-Ireland stage, but for how it brought about a wonderful sense of positivity and hope to a county which – let’s not kid ourselves – was suffering greatly from recession and emigration at the time. Even more than now, if that’s possible.

Those years granted supporters like us an ample opportunity to share in the adventure and success. It brought friends and families together in a spirit of community and song and thankfully, it didn’t stop when the man from Glenties resigned his position as manager. That legacy still lives on in, particularly with younger players and fans ever since.

Winning back the 2018 Ulster Championship, as well as a series of notable achievements by minor teams and local clubs sides since exemplifies this theory. 

Sure, we’re no Dublin in the way we win titles year after year, but we’re certainly no Carlow either.

Maybe that’s what makes being a Donegal fan so special.

Not always glamorous, not always dull and gloom, but always an adventure and, like many of you, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

H’up Donegal!

‘Celtic Minded 5: Donegal.’

Celtic Football Club and the emotional and spiritual connection to County Donegal.

Jonathan Foley

As modern changes have taken a firm grasp of football, it’s perhaps been no major surprise to see so many of the world’s most famous and well-known clubs cash in on spreading their name to more global markets. And yet, while Celtic Football Club are no exception to this trend, they still exist dearly in the hearts and minds of their support who are from, or at least connected to, the county of Donegal.

Even with the array of choices on people for ways to spend their disposable income nowadays, a huge quantity of them are still regularly seen boarding supporters buses in the likes of Dungloe, Gweedore, Gortahork, The Rosses and Letterkenny every morning a match day comes around. A regular flocking exodus to Glasgow that has stood the test of time. Groups of men, women and children still make these day-trip or weekend journeys to Celtic Park – and sometimes away games as well. In doing so, this generates a feeling that they are not merely going to support a football team – but that they are carrying a sense of tradition of local migrancy with them; something that has gone for many generations before them.

It’s been heartening for the fans to see the likes of Cloughglass-native, Packie Bonner, and Kilmacrennan-born, Patsy Gallacher, become club heroes and legends in their own right. In addition, Donegal’s historical links to the west of Scotland, which are greatly influenced by socio-economic as well as cultural factors, has seen such Scottish-born players of Donegal descent, as Jimmy McGrory, Charlie Gallagher and Aiden McGeady become further testament to how strong that bond has been. Not forgetting of course that, Donegal’s own All-Ireland and three-time Ulster Championship winning manager, Jim McGuinness (Glenties) was employed by the club both during and after what is generally perceived as the celebrated part of his career so far.  

County Donegal’s link to Scottish west central belt and south west dates back at least a half-century before the club even played their first game in May 1888. Seasonal harvesting in parts of Ayrshire and Renfrewshire were a common means of survival for the ‘tattie-hoakers’ as lasting employment in the county at this time was virtually non-existent. Huddled sleeping in crowded cowsheds and harsh climates had to be endured for months at a time just to raise a few bob to take back to the family at home: survival was the name of the game for many in one of Ireland’s economically poorest counties. The development of Britain’s industrial age coincided in time with the tragedy of An Gorta Mór and this resulted in a more forceful migration of the financially poorer-Irish, with a huge quantity from Donegal, choosing Glasgow as their new home.

Living in the most deplorable of conditions in and around Glasgow and Lanarkshire, etching our meagre existences from any work to be found Irish immigrants to Scotland were rejected, alienated and discriminated against.  Even now, Donegal people can often be heard to recite that the surroundings their predecessors found themselves in were not that much better than those that they’d fled from in their homeland. For many, Celtic FC became a wonderful form of solace. The steady and notable rise of leisure time and recreation, not forgetting the attractive style of football that Celtic become renowned for playing, meant that Brother Walfrid’s promise to raise funds for the poor of the East End parishes could be fulfilled. Although hardships still remained, the club could – and perhaps should – be held responsible for saving people’s lives. A patch of Donegal turf from a rural field in Annagry was ceremoniously laid on the playing surface in 1892 by the Irish National League’s founder, Michael Davitt, who then became an honorary patron of the club. All that, along with the colour of the team’s jerseys, the Irish flag flying above the stand and the general sense of community that it created, Celtic became an intricate part of the lives of so many people.

Further on into the twentieth century, the connections remained and in some cases, strengthened. The development of the Clyde tunnels in the early 1960s drew a new generation of migrants across the Straits of Moyle; often working in unsafe and dangerous conditions. But, like those who preceded them, they were carrying a sense of family legacy and of course, many of them keeping their chins up by looking forward to going to see Celtic on a Saturday.

As education become more accessible towards the end of the 20th century and into the new millennium, Donegal’s population grew tremendously in both skilled-labour and academia. Scotland’s no-tuition-fee system and its geographical closeness to the northwest of Ireland has often saw young and highly-driven workers and scholars happily choose Scotland over places like Dublin or London. Partly because such cities demanded high costs, were seen by many as further away. However, as many have stated, their sense of linkage to Celtic was also a huge pull-factor for pulling them towards Scotland. Celtic in particular, has done so much for the financial, spiritual and the emotional wellbeing of so many Donegal natives and to their descendants as well. Not only supporters’ buses or the sheer volume of flights out of Carrickfinn prove this but the fact that so many great stories that can be told of people travelling over and back between the two places for holidays or work, or whatever, can still be heard by those who make the journey today. Celtic’s cohesive influence on charity is also witnessed every year now by the annual ‘Huddle Up Errigal’ event, whereby supporters pull on their Celtic colours and brave the incline of the county’s tallest mountain so as to raise vital funds for Donegal Down Syndrome. A wonderful kaleidoscope of club colours is there for all to see when this weekend comes around.

In conclusion, from the rural and green surroundings of Donegal’s land and coast to the urbanised and bustling city street lights of Glasgow, Celtic Football Club has been at the core of this connection for a very long time. For many people, Celtic is of course a representation of Ireland abroad, a vehicle for the non-Irish born Irish in Scotland and elsewhere around the globe, and in particular, for many from Ireland most northerly county, Donegal.