Football Without Fans – Vancouver Shamrock CSC

Vancouver Shamrock CSC…

Founded in late 2000, this was Martin O’Neill’s first season in charge. It was started by a group of supporters who were all members of Vancouver No.1 CSC. At that point in time, the Vancouver No.1 CSC was showing Celtic games out of the Canadian Legion in Port Moody, a 20-kilometre drive from Downtown Vancouver.

With the club being a bit of a hike for some of them travelling from the Downtown area and even as far away as Squamish (an 85-km drive), a few of them realised that there was a need to establish a CSC in a more central area of Vancouver for both the local and visiting Celtic fans. After canvassing a few more Bhoys, they felt that there were enough of them to make a go of a club.

Initially, they found an establishment in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver, the Sunset Grill on York Avenue. Everything was looking good until they started to plan for the first game. At this time, there were a few Sunday morning 10.05 a.m. kick-offs in the SPL. The restaurant then said that it would not be possible for them to show these games live as they clashed with their regular Sunday brunch as well as NFL coverage. They were now quickly looking for a new establishment without a ball having been kicked.

Through word of mouth, they then found out that the Croatian Centre on Commercial Drive had the necessary satellite dish that they required to watch the games, and they didn’t mind them using their facilities to watch Celtic games. Although not in the Downtown Vancouver area, it was only a 10-minute drive and well served by public transport.

After meeting with them and sorting things out, they finally showed their first game on 21 October, 2000, Celtic vs. Dundee United. About a month later, they had their first official meeting where Robert Dick became their first president and John Ward became treasurer and secretary. Founding members also included Graeme Dempsey, Peter Devine, David Donoghue, Hugh Holtz, Arnold Lucks, Mick Madden, Jim Mathieson, John McKinnon, Michael O’Sullivan, Mark Russell, and Mick Walsh.

They were finally up and running and the Vancouver Shamrock CSC was born. They were now in the market for a logo and their first one was designed by a local Aussie lad, Andy. Their subsequent logo with the mountain background, symbolising Vancouver’s close proximity to the Coast mountain range, was designed by Stephen Holmes.

They stayed in the Croatian Centre for five seasons, where they had some great times. By this time, the Old Firm games had become 4 a.m. kick-offs. This resulted in a few memorable ‘all-nighters’ in some local bars before heading up to the Centre, where the celebrations would continue.

Many a local Canadian would join them at the Croatian Centre with the thought of being able to have a few more refreshments while witnessing a room full of Celtic supporters going crazy while watching a football match being played 7,000 kilometres away. The Croatian Centre even introduced Guinness and Tennent’s lager to their beer tap line-up, which was even more of an incentive to be in there early for a game. And if, by chance, after a memorable win, they still hadn’t yet had enough celebratory libations, they could always rely on Irish Joe to escort them to one of his preferred shebeens in East Vancouver.

Many a midweek European game (11.45 a.m. KO.) which they would record and show both live and delayed at night, would have supporters doing the ‘full shift’ while watching the game continuously during the day. The Liverpool game at Anfield in 2003 comes to mind, with three or four members being a little worse for wear as a few of the guys came in to watch the replay.

Between the game still showing on the TV and their big grins on their faces and a good few empty pint tumblers on their table, they had a good idea that Celtic had achieved a memorable result that day without having to watch the replay.

Similarly, the final score written on the video tape that the game was recorded on that day was also a bit of a setback for the person receiving the tape from the barman to place in the VCR for the replay at night.

The location was ideal, but then at the start of the 2002-03 season, the Croatian Centre decided to start charging them an hourly rate for opening up outside business hours. This was something they had not budgeted for, and along with their game fees payable to the NAFCSC, they had no choice but to raise the membership fees. They lost a few members over the next few seasons, and so it was decided that they had to find another location.

Their thanks will always go out to their Croatian barman, Thomas, who took care of them. He would be there to open up for most games, and he had no qualms about going up on the roof to readjust the satellite dish and point it in the direction of Celtic Park.

One of their members, Craig Robinson, was friendly with a local pub management team, The Donnelly Group. They had a few drinking establishments around town, and they were happy to place them in their Library Square location. The bar manager there, Steve Jennings, couldn’t be more accommodating.

So, they had new premises for the 2005–06 season, where they have been ever since. Over the years, they have had a few celebrities in to watch some games, including Rod Stewart, David O’Hara (Braveheart) Tony Curran (Outlaw King) Paul Riley (Still Game) and legendary Vancouver Canucks ice hockey goaltender Kirk McLean.

At the moment, one of their members is the creative artist Punk Duck Warlord (Liam Greenlaw,) who has now become a regular on the ‘Bhoycie Bus’ YouTube channel. Liam is a resident of the historic Gastown area of Vancouver, where coming to a 4.30 a.m. kick-off can be challenging. Club members have also been very fortunate to have been able to attend three Celtic games in Seattle and NAFCSC conventions in Las Vegas and San Francisco in the US. Victoria and Windsor in Canada have also been attended by members of their clubs over the years.

A few years ago, Library Square was sold by The Donnelly Group, and they were concerned about their future. The new owner was jokingly informed that the CSC were ‘part of the sale,’ and to their relief, Justin, the new owner, accepted them into his establishment.

Vancouver pubs have accommodated many English and Scottish supporters clubs on their premises who have come and gone but they have managed to survive. With the introduction of numerous streaming platforms available, the luxury of being able to watch Celtic and other football games in your home as early as 4.30 a.m. has become very appealing to some supporters.

This has made it tough for many clubs to maintain a healthy membership, hence their demise. Taking all this into account, it is heartwarming to realise that the VSCSC has survived for more than twenty years. This is a credit to everyone who has been involved with the club over this time, whether they were part of the Celtic Family before or after the club was formed.

At the moment, they have a dedicated group of members who continue to battle the elements on those cold, dark, rainy mornings to watch and enjoy the games in the company of their fellow Celtic supporters.

Long may it continue!

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 tomorrow on The Celtic Star, the Celtic supporters website. Will it be your CSC that’s featured?

.You can order a copy in print or kindle from Amazon where ever you are in the world. Order your copy HERE

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who 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

1 Comment

  1. I was in Vancouver and the Croatian club made me very welcome to watch the hoops