On the day when Celtic supporters are trying every conceivable angle to access the stadium for tonight’s Europa League match in Budapest, here’s another wonderful example of why those who follow our club really are a support like no other.
As a tour guide at Celtic Park, I am blessed to have the opportunity of meeting the best of folk. Some of those are visitors to Glasgow who have marked the stadium down as a ‘must see,’ but the vast majority are those with Celtic very much in their heart who are taking some time to mark a special occasion with generations of family or simply just to get their Celtic fix.
In October 2019, the morning after the thrilling victory over Lazio, I met Pat McLoughlin on the stadium tour. We struck up a conversation about Willie Maley and it turns out that Pat is from Newry, not far from where my own Irish branch of the family are based and a town which I visited several times as a kid whilst on holiday over there. Of course, Newry just happens to be the birthplace of Willie Maley.
Pat is the chairman of the Newry Willie Maley Memorial Group and he shared his hopes and dreams that a statue of the great man would be erected in his hometown. I was delighted when he got back in touch in the summer to let me know that their objective was very close to becoming a reality, with over £35,000 raised for the cause and two fabulous murals already unveiled.
We did manage to meet up before the Bayer Leverkusen game where Pat presented me with a beautiful lapel badge then again before the home tie with Ferencvaros, where I was delighted to donate signed copies of all three Celtic Star published books to be raffled at their fundraising night taking place this Saturday, 6 November 2021 in the Irish National Foresters Club in Newry. It’s truly fitting that the event to honour the Celtic legend takes place exactly 134 years to the day the club to which he devoted his life was established.
Ahead of the big night on Saturday, Pat now advises that the event is a complete sell-out, with over £40,000 in the kitty and a range of fantastic raffle prizes on offer which should see that sum raised still higher. The dream of Maley’s statue gazing proudly across Newry draws ever closer, and the streets of his town are already bedecked in green and white to celebrate that fact.
Wonderful people doing wonderful things to ensure our long, unbroken history is treasured.
A support like no other, indeed.
Follow Matt on Twitter @HarryHoodBook