To hear 30,000 non-Athenry people singing ‘The Fields of Athenry’ at the top of their voices on a Saturday afternoon is indeed a sight to behold. This was the sight that greeted myself, Michael Morrissey, and Michael ‘Doc’ Doherty recently when we went over to the Scottish Cup final between Glasgow Celtic and Airdrie. Tickets were obtained through our good friends John and Maria Daly who hail from Glasgow and who have settled in Athenry (indeed Maria’s parents fell in love with Athenry after a few visits and they too have made Athenry their new home). John and Maria invited us over to the game and we gladly accepted.
‘The Fields of Athenry’
The Glasgow Celtic Supporters have in the the past few years adopted ‘The Fields of Athenry’ as their theme song, so this added another interest to our trip to Glasgow. We set off early on Friday moming to drive to Larne and catch the ferry to Stranraer. A two hour drive from Stranraer and we were in Glasgow. On Friday evening we had time to visit another link with the Athenry area ie: the village of Croy. Croy is a small mining village about fifteen miles from Glasgow. The Monivea boxing club take part in an annual boxing tournament with the Croy Miners boxing club, while the Athenry soccer club play an annual game with the Croy soccer club.
Saturday, match day, started with a visit to the already packed Irish pubs; there was green, white and gold everywhere. After suitably quenching our thirst we headed for the stadium where the atmosphere was electric. The sea of Tricolours when the team arrived on the pitch cast my mind back to June ’94 when I was lucky enough to be in the Giants stadium in New York, when Ireland beat Italy in the world cup finals. I would honestly say that the atmosphere at this game was superior to that of the Italian game. Celtic ended their six year trophy famine through a first half goal from Pieree Van Hooijdonk, which was the only goal scored. To hear and be among 30,000 Celtic fans singing their adopted theme song ‘The Fields of Athenry’ was a feeling that I will never forget. The final whistle sparked off tremendous celebrations that went into the early hours of Sunday morning.
These people know how to celebrate. The Irish pubs were full of fans singing and generally having a good time. Sunday saw a continuation of the celebrations after we had visited Celtic’s Stadium, ‘Parkhead’, which is currently undergoing development. Before we departed on Monday, we visited Billy McNeill’s pub in Glasgow. Billy captained Celtic to win the European cup in 1967. He took us behind the counter for a photograph and we talked about his experiences of Ireland. He let us have (as a momento) an Irish £5 note which had ended up in his till over the weekend.
Opportunity for Tourism
Something that struck us all during our trip is that there is a tremendous opportunity for Athenry to become a major attraction for Celtic supporters. There are over one million Celtic supporters worldwide and they all know ‘The Fields of Athenry’; if only one per cent of them could be attracted to visit the home of the song, imagine the benefit this would have on Athenry’s economy. Very few of those supporters would know where Athenry is or that such a place exists. Why not a couple of billboards in Glasgow promoting Athenry or an advertisement in Celtic’s match programmes? This could be an ideal opportunity to boost our town. ‘Let us capitalise on the Celtic connection’.
Written by Martin Morrissey
Published here 09 Feb 2021 and originally published August 1995
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