Wednesday 22 November 2017

In memory of Celtic's legendary Protestant

The Last Word

Tommy Gemmell. Photo: PA
Tommy Gemmell. Photo: PA

Indepedent.ie newsdesk

Tommy Gemmell, who died last week at the age of 73, scored one of the most famous, and one of the best, European Cup final goals of all time. It came in the 63rd minute of the 1967 final as Celtic trailed Inter Milan 1-0 and struggled to break down the notoriously mean defence of the Italian champions. Gemmell's thunderous shot from outside the box stunned the favourites and it is his goal, rather than the winner scored late in the game by Steve Chalmers, which springs to mind when that final is mentioned.

The brilliant left-back scored with a similar effort in the 1970 European Cup final against Feyenoord, though on this occasion it was Celtic who lost by the odd goal in three. One of only two Protestants on the Celtic team when he joined, Gemmell had to deal with bigotry - not just from Rangers fans, who called him a 'turncoat bastard', but from some team-mates who, he revealed in his autobiography, would call him 'an Orange bastard' when things went wrong. So celebrate his memory but maybe give the IRA songs a miss.

*****

Being against the Super 8 concept isn't the only thing the GPA and the Club Players' Association (CPA) had in common last week. Both suffered criticism which bordered on the ludicrous.

The implication that a more vigorous campaign against the motion by the GPA might have led to its defeat seems wrong-headed. Congress delegates knew the GPA's position and chose to ignore it. The idea that more extensive consultation with the membership might have disclosed some killer argument to put the kibosh on the Super 8 is nonsense. Delegates who have voted in the past to put an ever-increasing number of matches on a TV channel which hardly any GAA fans watch are not particularly amenable to logic.

Even sillier were suggestions that the CPA shouldn't have opposed the motion once they knew it was likely to win and that this will damage their position in the long term. You know what would really damage the CPA? Pretending they believed in something for the sake of a short-term advantage. They're here to stay. Get used to it.

*****

The injury which put Barry Geraghty out of Cheltenham underlines once more the precipitous nature of the jockey's calling. After suffering five fractured ribs and a collapsed lung from being trampled at Kempton, he declared he was "hopeful" before bowing to inevitability.

It's 2001 since there was a Cheltenham without a Geraghty winner and, in recent weeks, he had been even fancied to give Ruby Walsh a run for his money in the leading jockey category. He has now been relieved of the choice between the JP McManus-owned top two in the Champion Hurdle betting, Buveur D'Air and Yanworth. Now Noel Fehily, Aidan Coleman and Richard Johnson are in the frame. Geraghty's injury could also open the door for the hugely under-rated Mark Walsh to have a big festival.

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