LURGAN native and Celtic manager Neil Lennon took time out to personally entertain a group of young people from Clann Eireann during a trip of a lifetime to Glasgow.
The youths were treated to a pre-game tour as well as a talk on the history of Celtic by the top man himself.
The group were part of a new extended youth provision at Clann Eireann Youth Club. Supported by the SELB, youth leader Marty Magennis set out to work with young people from the north Lurgan area and bring them into the Youth Club fold.
Marty told the Mail there had been concern about the rise in alcohol and drug abuse and anti-social behaviour in the area and an outreach programme was set up.
Marty spoke to a number of young people about joining the club and have a place to hang out and let off a bit steam.
“Most importantly it was somewhere safe to come away from the drug and antisocial scene. After a number of weeks the numbers rose from just a few to well over 40,” said Marty.
And then he decided to introduce soccer to the young men. They spent around six weeks meeting at weekends to watch live soccer, mostly Celtic and Manchester United games.
Marty then contacted Glasgow Celtic for possible match tickets for an upcoming game. And after correspondence with the club, Celtic agreed to provide the group 32 tickets for a game on January 2 against Motherwell. The Youth Leader said the youths were ‘ecstatic’.
And the excitement grew when Liz Gilmore, head of Celtic’s Learning Centre revealed that they would offer the group, not just 32 tickets, but a pre-game tour.
It was an early start for the group and after arriving at the stadium that morning, the group were ‘in awe’ during the tour around the stadium, taking photos of the statues of the famous men who made it all happen at Celtic, Brother Warfield, Jock Stein and the legend Jimmy (Jinky) Johnston.
“The group were welcomed with refreshments before being entertained by Lurgan’s own Neil Lennon who gave the group an overview of the history of Celtic,” said Marty.
They also witnessed Celtic TV being recorded live. And they travelled up to the director’s box and watched the first team train before getting photos taken in the seats of Rod Stewart, Billy Connolly and the top directors of Celtic.
“By this stage the stadium had filled to capacity for the game, and the ‘buzz’ was electric as 60,000 supporters cheered on the bhoys in green. Before kick-off the group were introduced to Scot Brown (team captain) who gave the group words of advice and happily posed for photos with all the young members,” said Marty who, as a token of appreciation, presented the Glasgow club a DVD and book of the History of Clann Eireann.
“The group took to their seats in the famous Lisbon Lions stand and cheered the bhoys to victory, in a tough 1-0 win,” he said.
“It was a great experience for the young people in the area and one that was respected by each and every member who attended.
“I would like to thank Liz Gilmore of Glasgow Celtic, Peter Bunting of Lurgan’s Glasgow Celtic supporters club for transport and also Clann Eireann youth club for backing and supporting me in the run up to match day and finally but not least, to all the young members and their families for attending our trip to Celtic Park as I am sure everyone will always remember the day.”