Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Donegal…this would have been the appropriate theme tune and rallying call for Australian Celts as we gathered together for the annual Celtic Supporters Convention down under.
We were guests this year of the Sydney City Celtic Supporters Club. Presided over by the evergreen and loyal Brian McAvoy, aided and abetted by MaryAnne Rennie and the outrageous Paul Lygate, it was a fitting venue for this year’s festivities.
I was fortunate to have participated in the inception of this club in 1997 and was delighted to see it has gone from strength to strength.
Cheers Bar in the city centre was the focal point of the gathering and co-inciding with the World Cup openers meant that it was truly a global phenomena. I’m not sure the fans of the cup participants were ready for the sight of so may raucous and enthusiastic Celtic fans descending on their party. Celtic don’t do World Cups but the untrained eye would never have guessed.
Sean Fitzgerald brought his troops up from Melbourne in the south and the Bhoys (and Ghirls) who adopted the name of Jock Stein for their club did not let the big man down.
Jim Carruthers and his members made the relatively short jaunt from Canberra to add their eager voices to the mix.
Davie Barclay and his gallant band flew the length of the continent- a five hour flight from Perth !! – and this observer observed them making their journey worthwhile as they danced and sang like it was 1999.
There were representations from Christchurch, a stunningly beautiful city in the South Island of New Zealand. Again, when such a distance is travelled, compensation is required. It was duly given and gratefully received. The celebrations were well and truly underway.
As I mingled and chatted to some erstwhile members, I felt quite pleased with myself in recalling my journey from Brisbane. Only one hour away and not enough time to finish the second chapter of my book- but I had made the effort to get down there.
My smugness quickly evaporated when the smiling recipients of my idling told me of their little sojourn- from Manila in the Philippines no less! Those particular drinks were on me after that little humbling.
Entertainer Gary Og gave the faithful the impression that they could levitate. Security were still unhinging them from chandeliers, well after Og had retired for the night. That was for starters. The night had just begun…
We watched the World Cup opener and at 6.00am, we retired for some well earned shut eye- saving our energy for the real deal you see. It was to be a long weekend!
The Orient Hotel in the ancient Rocks region kindly hosted us for the Saturday night party. Again, no stone was left unturned as locals and others stood gawping at the sight of non participants in the footballing city doing what we do best- taking the name of Celtic to anyone who has an ear to listen. We did, and loved every minute of it.
As we watched England struggle to a draw with the mighty USA, we afforded ourselves a muffled chuckle and it was a strange sight to see some Celtic fans drape themselves with flags bearing an uncanny resemblance to Star Spangled Banners!
Another night of madness and mayhem but friends were being made and the word was being spread – if you want to party, then do it the Celtic way. It was a wonderful time for all involved and even the local constabulary joined in the fun.
The Sunday was a relatively sedate affair – until we got up. Cheers Bar emptied and we made our way to the event which is widely regarded as the focal point of the weekend. The question on every-one’s lips at some point in the lead up days would be – ‘Are you going on the Sydney Harbour boat trip?
We went. So did half of the population of Sydney by the look of it as we boarded. We were no sooner underway, when Brian McAvoy’s Celtic i-pod was attached to the sound system – and it was ‘goodnight Vienna!’
Carnage ensued as the final voyage in our togetherness elevated our singing and dancing talents to new heights. Euphoria was embraced and we ensured that next year’s event would be preceded by enthusiastic discussions about this year.
We talk of Celtic and their extraordinary fans as the ” Celtic Family.” This was acutely highlighted and exemplified by Andy Martin and his mother Maureen.
You see, Andy runs a Supporters Club with a membership of six hardy souls. In Australia, this would be considered ok -it’s Australia after all. However, Martin runs his Club from his hometown of Port Moresby- Papua New Guinea!! Yes, Celtic have a Supporters Club in PNG.
Andy brought his 76 year old mother Maureen to the Convention. He travelled through the jungle -I kid you not- for 4 hours, before boarding an Indiana Jones style plane to the mainland.
From Darwin, he flew the rest of the journey and after 12 hours start to finish, he met up in Sydney with his brother whom I spoke about earlier who had flown in from the Philippines. I am the proud owner of a Celtic top bearing his Papua New Guinea Club emblem.
Next year, there’s talk of the event being staged in New Zealand- I’m saving for it already. These events are legendary and growing year on year. Thank you to all the organisers and participants -next year will have to go some to beat this one for sheer adrenalin and excitement. But…we’ll try!! Hail Hail.