In the latter days of that famous “Cheerio to 10-in-a-row” season, an idea that had been floating about for some time among the faithful in this Emerald Isle eventually began to become a reality. The challenge of drawing together all the Celtic Supporters’ Clubs in Ireland had been tackled before but a dedicated band of supporters decided that the time was now right to give it another go. The rejuvenation of Celtic F.C. in the aftermath of the regime of the Kellys et al and the increasing amount of televised Scottish football had boosted interest once more in Celtic. The Irish were travelling to Glasgow in increased numbers and the need was also felt to band together in order to protect Irish interests in the face of the much-trumpeted “Bhoys against Bigotry” campaign which many had seen – fairly or unfairly – as an attempt to dilute Celtic’s Irishness.
The time was ripe to stand up for ourselves as no-one else seemed to be prepared to do it for us and in April 1998, on the same day that Ally Mitchell sunk the Huns at Ibrox, the A.I.C.S.C. was born.
One of the first decisions made by the member clubs was the policy of rotating meetings on a province-by-province basis. The association would go to the clubs rather than expect everyone to come to it and this has meant that regular meetings have been held in almost every corner of the country and, while not every club will be able to make every meeting (although many do), they will at least be able to make the majority of them.
The delegates’ meetings have proved the heartbeat of the A.I.C.S.C. for it is at those meetings where members of our various clubs get the chance to meet fellow Celts from other parts of the country – something that, by and large, was not happening before. Apart from that, clubs get the chance to question the committee and put forward their ideas, problems, queries and so on for general discussion – a problem shared is a problem halved as they say.
Another vital ingredient to the A.I.C.S.C. success story has, without doubt, been our official magazine, “The View from the 32″. Our first issue was launched in a blaze of glory with greetings from An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Fergus McCann as well as Celtic and Irish legend Mick McCarthy. From there, it has improved leaps and bounds and now boasts some quality writing, a focus on our member clubs and the unique feature of being the voice of the Irish support. It has been another way of drawing the Irish clubs together and giving them a forum to express themselves.
Later, we branched out into an official calendar, the latest of which has recently been launched and which has become a huge favorite with many Tims at home and abroad.
The formation of the A.I.C.S.C. also opened up the possibility of taking in away matches to many clubs that had not been able to do so. We have had many successful and inexpensive trips to the likes of Rugby Park, Fir Park, Tanadise, East End Park and – yes – Ibrox. This is a fine example of Irish clubs helping each other out and pooling their resources for the common good – surely what the association should be about.
From domestic away games, we then branched out to make an assault on Europe. In particular during the O’Neill era, A.I.C.S.C. charters all over the continent were a common occurrence, with the trip to Seville for the UEFA Cup Final in May 2003 being one of the most memorable.
The outstanding memories of the past few years, however, must be the fourteen Annual Charity Dinners we have organised. All occasions have seen hundreds of us descend on the capital city for a night of fine food, fine drink, fine music and mighty fine craic! The first event, in April 1999, saw us welcome the legendary Sean Fallon, who later became our Honorary President with three of his Lisbon Lions namely the late Bobby Murdoch, Steve Chalmers and Ronnie Simpson. We also had the pleasure of the company of David Hay, Danny McGrain, Murdo McLeod, Peter Latchford and Packie Bonner.
What a night we had! If anyone thought we couldn’t top that then they were made to think again and it is possibly fair to say that each subsequent event has superseded the previous year in terms of attendances, atmosphere and the quality of guests. In particular, we are grateful that Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan, Neil Lennon, Ronny Delia and a substantial number of first team players have attended the last few dinners and long may that continue. We are also grateful that the board of directors and other staff from the club have attended this annual celebration of the story of Celtic and Ireland.
Now in our eighteenth year, we can look back and be thoroughly satisfied with the huge steps we have taken on behalf of the Irish Celtic supporters. An efficient merchandise operation and our first steps into cyberspace have reinforced our position of strength and we won’t be standing still in our determination to provide a high quality service for our member clubs.
If you represent an Irish club which wishes to be a part of the A.I.C.S.C. then please get in touch with our Secretary, Neville Carolan at the following e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org