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President tells fans 'please don't worry' as GAA teams up with Glasgow Celtic

Liam O’Neill insists that society has moved on in recent decades and believes the GAA can learn from a club with global appeal.

Donegal manager and Celtic performance consultant Jim McGuinness and GAA President Liam O'Neill.
Donegal manager and Celtic performance consultant Jim McGuinness and GAA President Liam O'Neill.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

GLASGOW CELTIC ARE making their presence felt in Ireland this summer thanks to their Dublin Decider friendly with Liverpool and the launch of youth development camps that they hope will be expanded nationwide in future years.

There is also the small/large [depending on your viewpoint] matter of Donegal manager Jim McGuinness’ regular trips over to Glasgow in his role as performance consultant with the Premier Division champions.

GAA President Liam O’Neill posed with McGuinness at the launch of a joint association and Celtic FC Foundation Let’s Go initiative, at Croke Park. He urged Gaelic supporters to back the positive strides he feels the association has made but, in the same breath, assured them that teaming up with a soccer club was no cause for concern.

O’Neill told TheScore.ie, “I’d say to [fans] ‘Please don’t worry’. We’re involved with a charitable foundation here, the Celtic FC Foundation. If we are going to move things on in this island we have to continue to reach out and I hope they would understand that this is being done for the best motives possible.

Sport is the hook here, only the hook to get these young people in. It’s not about any advantage for either Celtic FC or the GAA. In fact, in some of the cases some of the teenagers involved might never reach either organisation. We don’t mind that. This is about us stepping outside. There’s a bit of social responsibility here and we don’t mind doing it.

“We’d hope that people would understand even people who would have a much different history than I would have. Sometimes they have to take a chance.”

Global reach

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has close links to GAA in Armagh – one of the locations for the pilot initiatives – and McGuinness spoke of the powerful reach both Gaelic Games and soccer have in disadvantaged communities. O’Neill echoed those words and set lofty ambitions for outreach projects.

He commented, “I am standing here today in a world that has moved on a good bit from the world in which I was born in the mid 50s.

I could stand here smugly and say isn’t it great that the GAA is such a great organisation and things like that. The fact of the matter is that people in the past were prisoners of history and of the society in which they lived. We are fortunate that we live in a much more open society, the GAA is a much more outward looking organisation, we are reaching out to community groups, to government agencies and health programmes.”

The link-up with Celtic FC Foundation, a separate arm of the soccer club, gives the GAA an insight into ‘how an organisation that is global reaches out and they will see how an organisation that is community-based and local does’.

- Additional reporting by Fintan O’Toole

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Patrick McCarry

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