Football Without Fans – Orlando CSC

Orlando CSC

Dominic Keane’s brother, Eddie, lives in Palm Coast, Florida, and he and John Howley met in 1995. Eddie had helped run the Bermuda CSC and was desperate to get something started in Central Florida. They started making inquiries about the possibility and requirements of seeing some games and what it would entail.

Native bearers were sent out to find a suitable venue with a satellite dish, and they duly assembled at Scruffy Murphy’s in Downtown Orlando. They managed to get a few games on a pay-per-game basis, with Eddie and John having to split the cost on occasion, but the owner was not keen at that time on the idea of sponsoring a regular club.

Stevie Clark then talked the owner of the Fox & Hounds in Kissimmee into taking the SPL package from the broadcast agents, Setanta, and showing the games there on a regular basis. This worked fine for a couple of seasons, and although it meant a 200-mile roundtrip for some to watch a game, it was still great to be able to see the Bhoys in action.

Stevie Clark, Gary Bishop, and John Howley had thrown about the idea of setting up a proper CSC and again started looking for suitable premises. They met with Johnny McCarron of Tampa CSC, and he gave them a few pointers. They still needed a suitable venue and had meetings with bar owners in Daytona, Orlando, and Kissimmee, but trying to talk owners into spending close to $10,000 was a difficult prospect.

In 1998, Fox Sports World had the broadcasting rights for the United States, which allowed most of them to watch the games at home. This, of course, took the edge off the need for a club, but the following season, it was back to looking for a pub with satellite facilities.

At the end of 1999, their prayers were answered in the form of Friday’s Front Row Sports Bar. It had 108 large-screen televisions and a host of satellite dishes on the roof that would put the CIA to shame. They contacted the NAFCSC, who in turn contacted Eddie Keane, and they all had a meeting with Friday’s management in Orlando.

Thus, on 2nd January, 2000, they formed the Orlando CSC with five founding members: Stevie Clark, Gary Bishop, Eddie Keane, John Howley, and honorary member Willie Haughey. The first few games saw only a handful of people there, but they soon put the word out on the jungle drums.

They managed to get a little blurb in The Celtic View, and slowly, members and visitors began to trickle in. By the beginning of the 2000-2001 season, they had adopted a constitution and became affiliated with the NAFCSC. John Howley was elected president; Stevie was vice president; Gary Bishop was secretary; Neil Sneyd was treasurer; and Uncle Jim Glennon was sergeant-at-arms. They appointed Willie Haughey as honorary president and Eddie Keane as Celtic liaison officer. They were very lucky to have such influential Celtic men associated with their club.

Eddie Keane called and asked to have a meeting with them. He told them it looked like Celtic would be making their first American trip in 22 years during the winter break in January, and the place they wanted to come to was Orlando.

Eddie wanted them to take charge of organising a golf tournament and an official reception dinner. He also needed assistance in setting up a couple of games against suitable opposition when they were there. They went through a series of enquiries with Brazilian, Uruguayan, German, and Norwegian teams, but nothing could be worked out to everyone’s convenience.

Martin O’Neill indicated that he didn’t want to play any team that would take things too seriously or ‘kick lumps out of the team,’ so they eventually arranged a bounce game against University of South Florida and a friendly against Tampa Bay Mutiny. John McCarron of Tampa CSC was instrumental in arranging these games.

The golf tournament was a great success. Every team of three was joined by a Celtic player, and John had the honour of playing with Henrik Larsson. Facing a particularly dangerous approach shot over water on a par 5, Henrik meant to play safe but completely mishit the ball, which sailed over the water and landed on the green. He dropped his club and started laughing, saying, ‘It doesn’t matter whether it is football, golf, or life in general; take all the luck you can get.’

They have had feature-length articles about their club published in The Glasgow Herald and The Orlando Sentinel. They moved premises in August 2004 to Lucky Leprechaun Irish Pub, on International Drive, and they are still there today.

An extract from Football Without Fans – The History of Celtic Supporters Clubs by David McIntyre ( Celtic Bars). Football Without Fans – The History of Celtic Supporters Clubs is out now and available in print and kindle versions HERE.

More from Football Without Fans this week on The Celtic Star, the Celtic supporters website. Will it be your CSC that’s featured?

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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