Friday 27 April 2018

Fond memories of day Irish green was to the fore at Ibrox

Sean Diffley

Keeping tabs on Rangers FC used to be easy. All you had to do was look up Celtic on the internet and bob was yer uncle.

Remember Mo Johnston, who in 1989 was rumoured to be joining Rangers from French club Nantes, rather than returning to Celtic?

"Rangers don't sign Catholics," said Mo, and "anyway I don't want to go to Ibrox."

But, sensationally, he did, which back in those days brought this wry line from a fan magazine: "The world of Scottish football was rocked to its pre-cast concrete foundations when Rangers finally broke with over 100 years of tradition and bought a player from FC Nantes for the first time in their history."

Keeping tabs, did I say? Celtic's reaction to Rangers' financial predicaments is that the integrity of Scottish football will be best served if Rangers are dispatched from Shangri la to Dante's Inferno of the minor leagues.

Which, of course, poses a question: what about the Old Firm games, the events that provide the cash for the two participants and also keep Scottish football in the black?

Celtic say that the financial "ramifications" of losing their traditional rivals will be "significant", but they can survive. Integrity, with Celtic Park is foremost, I gather.

I've never been to Celtic Park, nor have I had the courage to watch the pair in their regular Jihads, but moons ago, I went to Ibrox -- not for football, but in high summer for an international athletics event.

Eamonn Kinsella, resplendent in his green Irish singlet, won the 120-yard hurdles that afternoon, beating the noted English pair Peter Hildreth and Jack Parker, an occurrence which prompted the headline in a Glasgow paper the next day of 'Irish Green to the Fore at Ibrox'.

Not that the spectators in the packed ground were all that interested in the athletics.

High jumper Alan Patterson, in the process of setting a new British all-comers record, was virtually ignored in a remote corner of the stadium while the crowd enthused at the five-a-side football.

And this week we had the decent spectacle of the Irish Olympic team, splendid in their official outfits, all 65 of them, plus the large back-up staff, all a vast advance on the old days.

Ronnie Delany was steeped back in 1956 that the Olympic Council managed to find the money to send him to Melbourne and, remember, only the casting vote of Lord Killanin approved of sending him.

And Brendan O'Reilly, the outstanding high jumper, was not sent, because of lack of funds.

We have a recession now but the harbingers of doom and gloom might ponder or chew the cud and recall that things were worse in the old days.

I remember athletics officials back in the '40s and '50s arming themselves with buckets and appealing for funds from the line of bookies at the greyhound racing at Shelbourne and Harold's Cross.

And let it be recorded that the turf accountants in assembly didn't let them down.

Irish Independent

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