Monday 19 February 2018

Fallon gifts lifted Celts on and off the pitch

The word 'legend' gets bandied about a bit these days but there's no more appropriate way to describe the way Sean Fallon, who died last week at the age of 90, was regarded in his native Sligo and at Celtic, the club he served for almost three decades as player and assistant manager.

Fallon played in the League of Ireland for his home-town Rovers and in the Irish League for Glenavon before joining Celtic in 1950. He would go on to play 254 games for the club over the following eight seasons, mainly at right-back but sometimes as centre-forward. In an unusually competitive period in Scottish football, Fallon picked up two Scottish Cup final winner's medals, one league winner's medal and a League Cup winner's medal, the latter after perhaps the most famous domestic game in Celtic history, a 7-1 final victory over Rangers.

But his contribution off the field was arguably even greater. Fallon was assistant to Jock Stein from 1962-1975, a period during which the club won a record nine league titles on the trot and also became the first British team to win the European Cup in 1967.

Fallon was renowned above all as a shrewd judge of talent. Over half of the players on the all-time Celtic team selected by fans in 2002 had been brought in by the Sligoman. Fallon spotted Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain and Lou Macari and two of his final signings for the club were Paul McStay and Packie Bonner.

They'll never forget him at Parkhead. Or at the Showgrounds where he was a guest of honour last season at a Setanta Cup match between Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers.

Lou Macari said it best. "Every club in Britain should employ a man of Sean Fallon's calibre."

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It's hard to imagine top-level GAA stars doing much more than playing football or hurling. The games are so demanding now that they don't leave much time for other hobbies. So when we learned that All Star Clare hurler Brendan Bugler was an accomplished musician it came as a bit of a surprise. He plays both the accordion and the piano and even features on a cd with his father Seamus called The Luck Penny. Now we knew we had good hands but we didn't realise they were that good.

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Last Wednesday, LeBron James, at 28, became the youngest player to score 20,000 points in NBA history. By the time the first period ended in the game against Golden State Warriors, he had scored 13 points and needed just five more to hit the 20k mark. By the end of the second quarter, he'd done it to get people asking if he will break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's career record of 38,387 points.

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BY his own admission, being Michael O'Leary's head of PR at Ryanair is the "worst job in PR," so no surprise that recent incumbents have moved on.

However, the news that present incumbent, Stephen McNamara, is to head up the IRFU's operation is a reminder that one of his predecessors, Peter Sherrard, also chose to go the sports route, moving to the FAI.

With both sports bodies facing massive Aviva Stadium debt on narrow income streams, it will take all their experience to put a good spin on that millstone. Especially if their international teams underperform as badly as they did in 2012.

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THE FAI's third Pro Licence course concludes on March 26, when the 14 participants – all Irish-based – will attend the World Cup tie against Austria and then make a presentation based on the game.

Already, though, seven of the 14 have had successful club seasons while on the 18-month course. Gerry Carr was assistant manager of the Sligo team that won the League; Mick Cooke saw Drogheda win the League Cup, Paul Scully guided Limerick to the First Division, Declan Devine won the FAI Cup with Derry, Paul O'Brien led Waterford United to the First Division play-offs, Trevor Croly was appointed manager of Shamrock Rovers, and Shane Keegan helped Wexford Youths achieve their highest position in the First Division.

This year it is only necessary to be on a Pro Licence course to manage a League of Ireland team, but next year all managers will have to be graduates of the course.

Seán Ryan, Eamonn Sweeney, and Marie Crowe

Sunday Indo Sport

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