Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Belfast Celtic F.C.

Belfast Celtic Football Club was a football club in Northern Ireland that was founded in 1891,[1] and was one of the most successful teams in Ireland until forced to withdraw from the Irish League in 1949.

The club was named after Celtic Football Club, and was founded on the same principle of charity. Their home was Celtic Park on Donegall Road in west Belfast, known to the fans as Paradise.[1] Celtic won their first league title in 1900 after beating fierce rivals Linfield by a single goal. The team was affectionately referred to as The Mighty Belfast Celtic by its support.

The political violence that engulfed Ireland in the 1920s spilled on to the terraces of the Irish League and Celtic was forced to withdraw in 1920 despite winning the title that season, and did not rejoin until 1924. Celtic's support base was strongly Irish nationalist.

Despite this, the club went from strength to strength and the inter-war years proved to be Celtic's strongest: they were league champions four years running after their return. The club also produced some of the greatest players of their generation and at one stage had five international goalkeepers in their squad. The famous Charlie Tully, a legend at Celtic, learned how to kick a ball with Belfast Celtic.
The end came on Boxing Day 1948 at the annual Linfield-Celtic game at Windsor Park. Celtic were winning for most of the match but Linfield equalised in the last minute. Linfield fans invaded the pitch and attacked several Celtic players including centre-forward Jimmy Jones who suffered a broken leg.[2] Soon after the club decided to withdraw from the league.

After the 1948/49 season The Mighty Belfast Celtic went on a tour of America from which they returned midst internal wrangling over flags and financial issues.[citation needed] At a meeting of the board it was decided that Celtic would temporarily leave the league until such matters had been resolved.[citation needed] They were not and the internal wrangling at boardroom level continued until Celtic Park was sold to developers.[citation needed] The club would never again play a competitive match but played several friendlies including an historic victory over Scotland in the United States in 1949 and a match at home to Celtic on May 17, 1952. A final match was played away to Coleraine on June 24, 1960.
The ground continued to function as a greyhound stadium until the 1980s when it was bulldozed and replaced by The Park Centre, a small shopping mall.[1] Today, a small plaque reminds shoppers of the glory days. A small museum has since been opened in the Park Centre.

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