Unmentioned significance of Celtic winning the Glasgow Derby on Saturday

As the Bhoys lined up against theRangers on Saturday afternoon, they did so on a notable anniversary for Celtic Football Club. 135 years ago before, Celtic won their first ever trophy: the Glasgow North Eastern Cup. It was the first step on a journey of huge success.

Brendan Rodgers steps off the coach prior to the Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and theRangers at Celtic Park  on May 11, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

In Celtic’s first season, they reached the finals of the Glasgow Exhibition Cup and Scottish Cup, and also competed in the Glasgow Charity Cup. The final contest was the North Eastern Cup, a competition open to sides from north and east of Glasgow (including Rutherglen).

Celtic’s opening North Eastern Cup tie was held on 28 December 1888. The Bhoys went to Rutherglen to play Clydesdale at Southcroft Park. A huge crowd – “the largest … that ever lined the Clydesdales’ ropes” – watched as the Celts had an easy 5-1 victory.

In the other first round fixtures, Northern and Shettleston won their matches. However the other tie was more controversial. Cowlairs beat Thistle but violence during the game meant a replay was ordered which ended in a draw. Cowlairs eventually got through after the third game.

In the semi-finals, Cowlairs faced Shettleston and the Celts were drawn to play Northern. Cowlairs had an especially easy task, winning 7-1 against the east Glasgow men.

Celtic’s game was held on St Patrick’s Day weekend. One newspaper later referred to this and one Celtic player by stating: “socks, pawn tickets and shamrocks were kicking about the Celtic’s pavilion on Saturday, in commemoration of Pat Gallagher’s day.”

On 16 March 1889, Northern (from the Springburn area) came to the original Celtic Park. The north Glasgow team went home disappointed. Newspapers later praised Celtic’s “exceedingly beautiful … passing” and this helped the Bhoys win 4-1 to reach their third final of their maiden season.

11 May 1889 would prove to be an historic day in Celtic’s history. The Bhoys made the short journey to Barrowfield Park, Clyde’s home ground, only around a mile from the modern day Celtic Park. 8000 fans crammed into the ground “and many had to turn home” too.

At 4pm, the match kicked off. One reporter stated that “the Celts at the very outset showed that they were determined to take the cup from the Cowlairs” and within 15 minutes, Celtic went ahead. They added two further goals to make it 3-0, but Cowlairs pulled one back just before the break.

The second half went the same way as the first; three more Celtic goals ensured an emphatic 6-1 win for the green-and-white stripes. The Bhoys’ six goals came from: Johnny Coleman (2), Willie Maley, Peter Dowds and Willie Groves. The first goal came from a corner and is often credited to Gallagher who took the kick.

Post-match newspaper reports from the game provided some humour. One criticised a Cowlairs player’s fitness, saying he was “the fattest back on the football field.” And another noted that a Celtic fan bemoaned the match officials, saying: “Go on Celts, you can bate the referee an a’.”

Callum McGregor  and Brendan Rodgers embrace following the 2-1 victory over theRangers in the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and theRangers at Celtic Park on May 11, 2024 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Three weeks later, the Celts received their ‘badges’ (medals) for winning. Celtic’s first trophy winning XI – who wrote their name into club legend – was:

James McLaughlin
Pat Dowling
Mick McKeown
Willie Maley
James Kelly
James McLaren
Pat or Hugh Gallagher (reports vary)
Peter Dowds
Willie Groves
Johnny Coleman
Mick Dunbar

So on the 135th anniversary of the Bould Bhoys winning their first trophy; Brendan’s Bhoys took a giant step towards another title, which can be secured this evening if theRangers fail to beat Dundee, or more enjoyably tomorrow at Rugby Park when Celtic take on Kilmarnock, just needing a point. Another 6-1 Celtic win would be ideal – but any sort of result is all that will be needed.

C’mon Celtic! Champions again! Champions again!…

Matt Marr

Follow Matthew on Twitter @hailhailhistory

Click on cover to order hardback copy.

Matthew’s debut Celtic book titled ‘The Bould Bhoys – Glory to their name’ is published by Celtic Star Books. And as our Father’s Day promotion has now started, if you order The Bould Bhoys, Glory To Their Name or any of our Celtic books you will also receive a complimentary copy of Matt Corr’s INVINCIBLE which celebrates Brendan’s first title win as Celtic manager.  So you get two books for the price of one!  Father’s Day is on Sunday 16 June. Order HERE.

About Author

Matthew Marr first started going to see Celtic in the 1980s and has had a season ticket since 1992. His main Celtic interest is the club's history, especially the early years. In 2023, Matthew published his first Celtic book, telling the story of the Bhoys' first league title. He also runs Celtic history walking tours.

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